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Science & Exploration

N° 15–1997: STS 84: Next Shuttle mission paves way for ESA and the International Space Station

15 March 1997

The sixth docking mission of the US Space Shuttle to the Russian space station Mir is set to be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, 15 May. Europe is playing a major part in the STS84 flight.

ESA astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy is onboard Atlantis along with important European Space Agency science facilities, experiments and technology development equipment.

Atlantis will dock with Mir on Day 3 of the nine day flight, spending five days unloading fresh supplies and equipment. NASA astronauts Mike Foale and Jerry Linenger will change places - Linenger has been living and working on Mir since February.

During the Shuttle's approach and departure from Mir, new ESA-developed technology that enables an automated rendezvous and docking will be tested. Two different navigation systems are used. A GPS receiver, used during the long range approach to Mir, and an optical rendezvous sensor, used at a closer range, are on board the Shuttle and, together with equipment already installed on Mir, will be evaluated for the first time in space. The systems are designed for the rendezvous and docking of a vehicle that is not manned, unlike the Shuttle which is guided by a pilot, with the International Space Station. ESA is developing such a craft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), to deliver supplies regularly to the Station, starting in 2003. The ATV will be launched by Ariane 5.

Atlantis is also carrying a Spacehab module in its cargo bay, housing ESA's Biorack and the MOMO experiment. Biorack, one of the most successful and versatile space facilities, is the main science payload and is making its sixth journey into space, carrying a series of experiments from scientists in France, Germany and the United States. They will look at how the reduced gravity and the radiation found in space affect plants, cells and materials.

ESA astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy, of France, is making his second space flight. He has a number of crucial tasks onboard including monitoring systems performance at lift off and during docking, activating Spacehab, coordinating the transfer of supplies to Mir and, if necessary, performing any work outside the station. Together with fellow Shuttle crewmember, the experienced Russian cosmonaut Elena Kondakova, he gives the flight a truly international flavour.

The mission is an important step in ESA's own technological development work and scientific research activities in preparation for the International Space Station. "Participation in missions such as STS 84 allows European astronauts to prepare for their future role in the International Space Station," stated Jorg Feustel-Buechl, ESA's Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity. "The practical experience gained by our engineers will also assist ESA and European industry in the development of the various hardware elements , which is now well underway.

Missiontimeline (given a launch on 15 May):


Event Time and day (Central European Time)
Launch 10:00, 15 May
Docking 04:38, 17 May
Hatch opening 06:28, 17 May
Undocking 06:04, 22 May
Landing 13:49, 24 May

For further information on the mission:

* On 13-15 May (two days preceding the launch and the day of the launch), contact the ESA Press Desk at Kennedy Space Center:
* Tel:(407) 638.3840 or (407) 638.0744

* As of 16 May and throughout the mission, contact the ESA Press Desk at Johnson Space Center:
* Tel:(281) 486.1446 Fax:(281) 486.1454

* Status reports will also be available through the ESA Public Relations Office in Paris:
Tel:(33) 1.5369.7155