When the delay-pestered space shuttle Columbia finally blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, it will soar with the thrust of the 11th set of solid rocket boosters built by the Thiokol rocket plant, 25 miles west of Brigham City.
"Utah products and people will be making a major contribution to the science of space astronomy," said Robert E. Lindstrom, Thiokol's senior vice president and manager of space operations.Columbia was scheduled to lift off May 17, but the flight of a $150 million astronomy package has been delayed because of liquid hydrogen leak and repairs needed to the cooling system. The liftoff has been delayed until August.
However, it still should go at nighttime, as originally planned. The glare from the two Thiokol solid fuel boosters is expected to be so intense that a person could read by their light more than five miles away from the launch pad.
Not that anybody will be reading; they'll be far too interested in watching the launch.
Each pair of booster motors consists of eight propellant-filled segments and two exhaust nozzles. Two additional sets of boosters built by Thiokol are expected to fly on shuttle missions later this summer.
Under another portion of a NASA production contract, Thiokol will produce 142 more shuttle motors to be delivered over the next six years. "Follow-on portions beyond that time are anticipated, which will extend Thiokol's motor production well into the late 1990s," Lindstrom said.
For each flight, up to 10 Thiokol managers and workers travel to Cape Kennedy and NASA's Huntsville Spaceflight Center in Alabama to provide support. In addition, Thiokol has 580 workers permanently stationed in Florida who assemble the shuttle's boosters and vehicle, then retrieve the boosters from the ocean after the launch.
Columbia's nine-day mission, identified as STS-35, is the first in five years devoted strictly to science. Its Astro-1 instrument package has four ultraviolet and one X-ray telescope.
According to NASA, once Columbia is above the atmosphere, Astro-1 "will observe and measure ultraviolet radiation from celestial objects" - such things as planets, quasars, supernovas, stars and galaxies.
An instrument called the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, consisting of a telescope and two image intensifiers, will "investigate the present stellar content and history and star formation in galaxies, the nature of spiral structure and non-thermal sources in galaxies," the NASA spokesman added.