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STS-115's rock, knob and third solar array (Official Flight Kit)

September 11, 2006

— The upcoming deployment of two wing-like solar arrays outside the space station has been the focus of astronauts and flight controllers, but there is one more power-producing array on-board Atlantis that lies hidden — for now — from the public's view.

This third array is stowed inside a shuttle middeck locker, along with thousands of other items flown on behalf of, for and with the STS-115 crew when they launched Saturday.

"We're taking a little mini-solar array up there," pilot Chris Ferguson told collectSPACE during a pre-flight interview. "We're taking it [among] our personal items. We're going to make a video — all below the radar-scope — for education purposes."

The hidden payload is a much smaller, but still functional version of the arrays attached to the 17.5 ton, 45 foot-long P3/P4 integrated truss segment that Atlantis delivered to the International Space Station earlier today and which the STS-115 astronauts used both shuttle and station robotic arms to hand-off between spacecraft.

Once installed and switched on during a later mission, the new arrays will double the electricity available to the ISS.

The mini-array, one of several, was put together by the crew using spare solar cells donated by the company that built the full-size versions.

"What we've done is made several little packages that we've wired four cells together and distributed them to schools throughout the country," said Ferguson. "We'll be doing some work up there, just a demonstration-type thing, to show the kids what you really can do with solar power."

In a separate interview with a newspaper, Ferguson said they would be powering a CD player with the mini-array.

"I figured it was really quite fitting considering what it was we were doing," said Ferguson, relating the demo to the STS-115 mission objectives.

Though Ferguson will access the mini-array during flight, most of the crew's personal items will remain untouched until Atlantis lands, now scheduled for September 20.

"We're allowed to fly some personal items, they have to be very small and they have to basically fit inside a small zip lock bag. And then of course, we don't even have access to those items during the mission. They're put away safely and then returned [post-flight]," commander Brent Jett told collectSPACE.

"What I decided to do, as this was my fourth flight, I offered most of those slots to our training team. I asked them if they had anything personal that they would like me to fly for them," said Jett. "I don't want to get into details as to what those items are but they are basically small trinkets and jewelry, that type of things. For me, those folks put so much into our space flight, those... who run the mission from the ground or train us to get ready to go, it's a small thing for us to do that for them."

Others on Jett's crew chose to fly items for their families.

"I'm taking two items — I'm allowed two — one of them is the gear-shift knob off of my son's 1969 Camaro that he and I did as a restoration project," said mission specialist Joe Tanner. "So, I am taking that as a tribute to the work that he and I did together. And the other item is a key fob for my other son's car — he's got a Subaru WRX — and I gave him this key fob for Christmas."

"I think most of what I am taking up is pictures," said Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, also a mission specialist, about what she was flying for family. "They can't come with me but I figure if I have their likenesses, they're there with me."

"I am taking something for Eric, my one brother who won't be at the launch because [in August] he deployed with the Marine Corps. And so I am taking something up for him," Piper said.

For Dan Burbank, who with Ferguson performs in the all astronaut band Max Q, one of the personal items he might have taken is already on-board the station.

"I'm certainly bringing up some music with me. There's a guitar up there, or that's what I hear. I am looking forward to a chance to play it. But I am not looking forward to the chance to play it on the downlink, so you may have to look hard to see me do that," joked Burbank. "But it will be really neat to do."

"And we don't have a drum set [on-board] unfortunately. Chris Ferguson is our Max Q drummer and a dynamite one at that. I'm not sure if we have drumsticks up, but he may be able to make due with some [thing]."

That he may.

"Unfortunately, we are limited in the number of personal items we can take, and I had one more left and they said that a 'pair of drumsticks' is two items. So I had to leave the drumsticks back," said Ferguson.

In addition to their items stowed in "personal preference kits," the STS-115 astronauts are also flying thousands of items for presentation to their co-workers and supporters, both professional and personal.

"I have a couple of items for my high school. I went to Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is now part of Cretin-Derham Hall, and I'm taking some stuff up for them. I've got a banner for my ROTC unit that I am [taking] up," said Piper.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Steven MacLean had packed aboard several items he thought were "neat".

"A friend of mine has climbed all seven mountains, the highest mountains on all seven continents, so I have a small stone off of Mount Everest that I am carrying in what is called an Official Flight Kit."

"Also we have some apple seeds that are unique — you know Sir Isaac Newton 'found' gravity with an apple falling on his head, well the university in Europe kept that tree going over the generations. And York University up in Canada recently got a sapling, a cutting off of that tree and planted that tree in Toronto. And I have the first seeds from that tree," MacLean told collectSPACE.

"I don't know if that's really important but its kind of neat."


Atlantis' truss and collapsed solar arrays can be seen in this photo taken from the International Space Station. A third array, as well as Newton's apple seed descendants and a rock from the summit of Mt. Everest remains out of view inside the crew cabin. (NASA)

Example: An International Space Station solar cell. (collectSPACE)

The STS-115 Official Flight Kit Manifest

The following is the STS-115 Official Flight Kit manifest, as provided by NASA. Inventory numbers that are missing indicate items that were removed prior to launch.

No.   Description   Sponsor/Purpose




625 STS-115 Crew Patches


Agency Presentation




600 Small United States Flags


Agency Presentation




3 Sets U.S. States & Territories Flags


Agency Presentation




3 Sets United Nations Members Flags


Agency Presentation




  1. 20 Small Texas Flags

  2. 20 Small NASA Flags

  3. 5 NASA Patches

  4. 5 Small U.S.~Canada Friendship Pins

  5. 2 Large Pewter NASA Medallions

  6. 2 Large Bronze NASA Medallions


Agency Presentation



Small Flags of the Following States:

  1. 5 Florida

  2. 5 Texas

  3. 10 Pennsylvania

  4. 10 Minnesota

  5. 5 Colorado

  6. 5 Illinois

  7. 8 Massachusetts

  8. 2 Connecticut


Agency Presentation



Small Flags of the Following Country and one each of 13 Canadian Provinces:

  1. 100 Canada

  2. Northwest Territories

  3. Nova Scotia

  4. Newfoundland

  5. Alberta

  6. Manitoba

  7. Yukon

  8. New Brunswick

  9. Ontario

  10. British Columbia

  11. Saskatchewan

  12. Quebec

  13. Prince Edward Island

  14. Nunavut


Agency Presentation



Small Military Flags:

  1. 20 U.S. Air Force

  2. 40 U.S. Navy

  3. 20 U.S. Marine Corps

  4. 20 U.S. Army

  5. 20 U.S. Coast Guard


Agency Presentation



  1. 10 Small United States Flags

  2. 10 Small Alabama State Flags


Marshall Space Flight Center Presentation



  1. 2 Small United States Flags

  2. 7 Worcester Firefighter Patches


Kennedy Space Center Presentation



  1. 10 Small Louisiana State Flags

  2. 10 Small Mississippi State Flags

  3. 5 Small NASA Flags

  4. 5 Small United States Flags


Stennis Space Center Presentation



  1. 200 Silver Snoopy Pins

  2. 100 Small Atlantis Flags

  3. 100 Small ISS Flags


Space Flight Awareness Presentation




50 EVA Patches


Agency Presentation



50 MOD Patches


Agency Presentation



25 Center Operations Patches


Agency Presentation




  1. 10 STS-115 Crew Patches

  2. 31 Small U.S. Flags

  3. 1 First Navy Jack Shoulder Patch

  4. 2 0-4 Military Grade Insignia


DoD Presentation

Items 17 through 67 are manifested at the request of the STS-115 crewmembers.




United States Flag (36"x22")


Navy Recruiting Command, Russellville, AR




411th Flight Test Squadron F-22 Patch


F-22 Combined Test Force, Edwards AFB, CA




Navy School Pennant (30"x11")


Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA




School Pennant (16"x7.5")


Archbishop Ryan High School, Philadelphia, PA






Police Athletic League, Philadelphia, PA






Falkirk Council, Falkirk, Scotland




Quilt with Student Signatures (50"x32")


Brookwood Elementary, Houston, TX




Small Cat Mascot


West Point Child Learning Center, North Wales, PA




Silver Shuttle Charm


St. Martha's Catholic Church, Philadelphia, PA




T-Shirt with Viking Logo


Danville High School, Danville, IL




Paper Banner with Student Signatures (4'x18")


Bismarck-Henning Elementary, Bismarck, IL




T-Shirt with Student Signatures


North Ridge Junior High, Danville, IL




Banner with Student Signatures (52"x35")


Bismarck-Henning Junior High, Bismarck, IL




Copper Colored Cylindrical Band (2" Diameter)


Vulcan Spring and Manufacturing Co., Telford, PA




School Pennant


Irving Elementary School




Eagle Patch


Air Land Emergency Resource Team, Big Sandy, TX






Traditional Tae Kwon Do School, Melbourne, FL




Crocheted Patch (4.5"x5.5")


Merion Elementary, Merion, PA




Medallion with Logo


Fast Plastic Wiffle Ball Club, Melbourne, FL






Crew of Research Vessel Atlantis, Woods Hole, MA






Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Woods Hole, MA






Cape Code Community College, Barnstable, MA




Troop 957 Flag (3'x5')


Boy Scouts of America Troop 957, Houston, TX






Seabrook Sailing Club, Seabrook, TX




Compact Disc


Deep Ocean Exploration Institute, Woods Hole, MA




Red Flag (13"x16")


Coast Guard Headquarters, Office of Aeronautical Engineering, Washington, DC




Gold Naval Aviator Wings


Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Aviation Forces, Washington, D.C.




Nurse's Aide Pin


Cape Code Community College Nursing Program, Barnstable, MA




Rubber Swim Cap


Clear Lake High School Water Polo and Swim Team, Houston, TX






Ridna Skola Ukranian School, Houston, TX




Command Medallion


Engineering Duty Officer School, Port Heuneme, CA




Insignia Enamel Pin


Seabrook Intermediate School, Seabrook, TX




Silver Fleur-de-lis Pin


Plast Ukranian Youth Organization, Minneapolis, MN




Polo Shirt


Seabrook Science Magnet Program, Seabrook, TX




Ball Cap


Cretin-Derham High School, St. Paul, MN




Apple Seed in Packet


York University, Toronto, Canada




Canadian Flag with Lettering (4"x6")


York University, Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, Toronto, Canada




Small Rock


Mount Everest Expedition, Canadian Space Agency, Quebec, Canada




Blue Cloth with Observatory Design (16"x11")


Astrolab du Mont Megantic, Notre Dame des Bois, Canada




Banner (16"x11")


Longueil, Saint-Lambert, Resolute Bay, Canadian Libraries, City of Longueil, Brossard, Canada




Enamel Pin


Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Ottawa, Canada




Crocheted Patch


Hamlet of Grise Fiord Nunavut, Grise Fiord, Canada




Banner (16"x10")


Gymnastics Canada, Ottawa, Canada




Enamel Pin


Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee, Vancouver, Canada




Refrigerator Magnet


University of Alberta, International Polar Year, Edmonton, Canada




Gold Air Crewman Wings


Agency Presentation Item




Gold Navy Aviator Wings


Agency Presentation Item




Gold Navy Aviator Wings


Agency Presentation Item




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation Item




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation Item




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation Item


Items 68 through 70 are manifested at the request of the STS-115 payload customers.




310 Sheets of STS-115 Bookmarks


Space Shuttle Program Presentation Items




  1. 200 12A Mission Patches

  2. 200 ISS Research Patches

  3. 25 ISS Pins

  4. 200 EMCS Decals

  5. 100 EMCS Flags (4"x5")

  6. 12 EMCS Flags (12"x16")


International Space Station Presentation Items



  1. 75 POEMS Patches

  2. 100 Canadian Flags

  3. 7 Arizona State University Patches
    2 Arizona State Sun Devils Patches

  4. 14 University of Colorado Buffalo Patches


Space Shuttle Program Presentation Items



IAAP Banner


Agency Presentation Item




United States Flag (5'x9.5')


Agency Presentation Item

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