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  Space Shuttles - Space Station
  First shuttle mission to reach 300 nautical miles

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Author Topic:   First shuttle mission to reach 300 nautical miles
David C
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Posts: 713
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 02-26-2018 08:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Throughout the Space Shuttle Program, NASA never really made much of a fuss about the orbiter's "airplane type" records. By that I mean where it pressed on down the X-15's higher and faster trail. I've been pouring through NASA TM-2011-216142 the most recent edition of Robert Legler and Floyd Bennett's "Space Shuttle Missions Summary."

I imagine that it will come as no surprise to most people here to know that it contains a few errors and omissions.

STS-33, like the rest of the classified DOD missions has some omissions. Legler and Bennett have an intriguing reference to its deorbit parameters "302 x 126 nm." If correct, then I think this was the first orbiter flight to reach an altitude over 300 nautical miles (pretty much the domain of Hubble missions only, bar STS-33 and 95).

I'm trying to find some confirmation of this. The mission report lists no orbital parameters. A publically available copy of "A Brief History of the DOD Space Test Program" has them redacted. Michael Cassutt's excellent 2009 Air&Space article doesn't mention them either. Spacefacts.de quotes Aviation Week listing a 322 statute mile orbit which is considerably less than 300nm.

Anyone found any other references? I'm not interested in payload stuff, obviously that's classified.

LM-12
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From: Ontario, Canada
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 02-26-2018 08:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The NASA Mission Archives page for STS-33 mentions an orbit altitude of 302 nautical miles.

The page for STS-51J (also DOD) shows an orbit altitude of 319 nautical miles. The page for STS-41C (Solar Max repair) shows an orbit altitude of 313 nautical miles.

STS-41C seems to be the first shuttle flight to reach an altitude over 300 nautical miles.

David C
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Posts: 713
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 02-26-2018 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LM-12:
The page for STS-51J (also DOD) shows an orbit altitude of 319 nautical miles. The page for STS-41C (Solar Max repair) shows an orbit altitude of 313 nautical miles.

OK, those are very different to the Legler and Bennett (L&B) numbers.

The highest number for 41C in L&B is 268nm. The STS-41C press kit states an intended LDEF deployment altitude of 250nm circular. This reference states 275nm (a substantial discrepancy). The mission report mentions that Solar Max was left in a 270nm circular orbit. Also that the original plan to reboost SMM into a 285nm orbit was cancelled because "Orbiter propellant was becoming a critical consumable." So 313nm for 41C seems unlikely to me.

The highest numbers in L&B for 51J are 254nm x 254nm. The mission report omits any mention of orbital parameters. Hardly surprising for another classified mission.

I'm not sure I really trust the NASA mission archives web pages. The amount of variation seems incredible. I'd really like supporting documentary evidence.

Cozmosis22
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Posts: 808
From: Texas * Earth
Registered: Apr 2011

posted 02-26-2018 05:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This KSC shuttle mission summary page for 41-C in 1984 also indicates an orbital altitude of 313 as Challenger chased down the Solar Max satellite for repair.

Jim Behling
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From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 02-26-2018 07:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Solar Max Mission Delta launch press kit has insertion altitude at 355 miles, which is 308 nm as a start. The MPAD flight schedule card has the SMM at 268nm (308mi).

My sources have:

  • 268 nm/308 sm for 41-C
  • 277 nm/319 sm for 51-J
  • 302 nm/348 sm for 33
  • 334 nm/384 sm for 31

David C
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Posts: 713
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 02-27-2018 01:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Jim.

I agree with 41C first above 300 statute miles (there were no really high altitudes until they changed to direct insertion on 41C).

STS-33 first above 300 nautical miles.

Do your sources have numbers for STS-82 and STS-103?

For STS-82 I have 335.1 nm/385.6 sm and I reckon that was the highest ever for the program.

For STS-103, I have 330 nm/380 sm. Curt Brown mentioned to me once that he'd been told STS-103 was the highest orbiter flight up to that point, but I've not been able to find any confirmation.

David C
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Posts: 713
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 02-28-2018 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Cozmosis22:
This KSC shuttle mission summary page for 41-C in 1984 also indicates an orbital altitude of 313...
Yeah, suspect that's wrong. These web pages seem to feed off each other and propagate errors, rather than going back to original sources.

Jim Behling
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Posts: 1199
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 03-01-2018 07:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by David C:
Do your sources have numbers for STS-82 and STS-103?
STS-82: 335 nm/385 sm
STS-103: 330 nm/380 sm

David C
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Posts: 713
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 03-01-2018 04:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Jim.

kyra
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Posts: 571
From: Louisville CO US
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 03-04-2018 04:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kyra   Click Here to Email kyra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was the geophysical model used for orbital calculations consistent throughout the 30 years of STS flights? For normal folks this is irrelevant, but for establishing a record with certainty, it might make a difference.

David C
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Posts: 713
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 03-05-2018 07:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good question. I don't know, but to my knowledge the orbiter used M50 coordinates and Super G nav throughout its life. I can't really see why they would change the geophysical model but stick with M50 rather than change to J2000.

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