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‘Commander: Frederick H. Hauck
Pilot: David M. Walker
Mission Specialists: Joseph P. Allen, Anna L. Fisher, Dale A. Gardner
Dates: November 8-16, 1984
Vehicle: Discovery OV-103
Payloads: TELESAT-H/PAM-D (Anik-D2) , SYNCOM IV-1 (LEASAT-1), RME, and DMOS
EVA: (MMU/Tethered) retrieved WESTAR-VI and PALAPA-B2
Landing site: Runway 15 at Kennedy Space Center, FL
Originally a public domain film from NASA, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
STS-51-A was the 14th flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, and the second flight of Space Shuttle Discovery. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center on November 8, 1984, and landed just under eight days later on November 16.
STS-51-A marked the first time a shuttle deployed two communications satellites, and retrieved from orbit two other communications satellites. The Canadian Anik D2 and Syncom IV-1 satellites were both successfully deployed by the crew of Discovery. Palapa B2 and Westar 6, meanwhile, had been deployed during the STS-41-B mission earlier in the year, but had been placed into improper orbits due to the malfunctioning of their kick motors; they were both safely recovered and returned to Earth during STS-51-A…
STS-51-A was launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at 7:15 am EST, November 8, 1984, less than a month after the STS-41-G flight. A launch attempt the day before was scrubbed at T-minus 20 minutes due to high shear winds in the upper atmosphere.
The five-person flight crew consisted of Frederick H. Hauck, commander, on his second flight; pilot David M. Walker; and three mission specialists – Anna Lee Fisher, Dale A. Gardner and Joseph P. Allen. Both Gardner and Allen were making their second shuttle flights. STS-51-A marked the first flight of the space shuttle commanded by an astronaut from the 1978 class rather than the Apollo era.
The two communications satellites successfully deployed were Anik D2 (on the second day of the mission) and Syncom IV-1, also known as Leasat 1 (on the third day).
The orbiter then began a series of maneuvers to meet up with the first of the two satellites to be recovered, Palapa B2. The orbits of both satellites had been lowered by ground commands from about 600 miles (970 km) to 210 miles (340 km) to facilitate recovery operations. On day five of the mission, Discovery rendezvoused with Palapa. Mission specialists Allen and Gardner performed an EVA, capturing the satellite with a device known as a “Stinger” (Apogee Kick Motor Capture Device, ACD), which was inserted into the satellite’s apogee motor nozzle by Allen. The satellite’s rotation was slowed to 1 RPM, and Gardner, operating from a position on the end of the RMS, attempted unsuccessfully to grapple the satellite. Allen was able to manually maneuver the satellite into its cradle with Gardner’s help, further aided by the RMS, which was operated by Fisher. The successful, improvised rescue effort took two hours.
The recovery of Westar 6 was not as difficult, and took place a day later. This time, Gardner, using the same muscle-power technique Allen had used for Palapa B2’s rescue, easily captured the satellite. With Allen’s help, he placed it in a cradle in the cargo bay. Following Westar 6’s recovery, Gardner humorously held up a “For Sale” sign, as if trying to find someone to sell the malfunctioning satellites to, as a means to indicate the successful recovery and as a means to provide some comical relief for the troubled owners. The Westar satellite was, ironically enough, indeed later sold to Hong Kong-based AsiaSat.
The STS-51-A mission also carried the Diffused Mixing of Organic Solutions (DMOS) experiment…
The satellite recoveries on STS-51-A were the last untethered spacewalks until 1994, and marked the last use of the Manned Maneuvering Unit. In 1994, the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) was tested on STS-64. On all subsequent spacewalks conducted by both NASA and the Soviet/Russian space agencies, the astronauts were tethered to the craft by some means…