On September 29, 1988, the space shuttle Discovery was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its STS-26 mission. This was a significant milestone for NASA as it marked the first shuttle flight since the Challenger disaster in 1986. The successful launch of Discovery signaled a new era in space exploration and restored confidence in the United States space program.
The mission was commanded by Richard Covey, a former Air Force test pilot who had flown on two previous shuttle missions. The other crew members included pilot John Casper and mission specialists George Nelson, Mike Lounge, and Dave Hilmers. The mission’s primary objective was to deploy the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-C), which would provide continuous communication between the ground and orbiting spacecraft.
The launch of Discovery was not without its challenges. As the shuttle lifted off the launch pad, one of its main engines experienced an unexpected pressure drop. However, the engine’s backup systems kicked in, and the shuttle was able to continue on its mission without incident. Additionally, the crew had to deal with a faulty fuel cell and a minor issue with the shuttle’s cooling system. Despite these setbacks, the mission was a success.
One of the most significant achievements of the STS-26 mission was the successful deployment of the TDRS-C satellite. This satellite was part of a network of satellites that provided uninterrupted communication between the ground and orbiting spacecraft. Before TDRS, communications with spacecraft were limited to when they were within range of ground-based tracking stations. The deployment of TDRS-C marked a significant advancement in space communication and allowed for more efficient and effective space missions.
In addition to deploying the TDRS-C satellite, the Discovery crew conducted several experiments and observations during their time in space. They used the shuttle’s remote manipulator arm to deploy a variety of small satellites, and they tested new materials and equipment in the shuttle’s cargo bay. The crew also conducted several Earth observations, including studying the effects of solar radiation on the ozone layer and monitoring the growth of tropical storms.
Overall, the successful launch and mission of the Discovery on September 29, 1988, was a significant milestone for NASA and the United States’ space program. It demonstrated the resilience and determination of the space agency in the face of tragedy and helped to restore public confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the shuttle program. The deployment of the TDRS-C satellite was a particularly significant achievement, opening up new possibilities for space communication and paving the way for future space missions.