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CGRO is grappled by Atlantis' RMS
Mission type Satellite deployment
Operator NASA
COSPAR ID 1991-027A
SATCAT № 21224
Mission duration 5 days, 23 hours, 32 minutes, 44 seconds
Distance travelled 4,002,559 kilometres (2,487,075 mi)
Orbits completed 93
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft Space Shuttle Atlantis
Landing mass 86,651 kilograms (191,033 lb)
Payload mass 17,204 kilograms (37,928 lb)
Crew size 5
Members Steven R. Nagel
Kenneth D. Cameron
Linda M. Godwin
Jerry L. Ross
Jay Apt
Start of mission
Launch date 5 April 1991, 14:22:45 (1991-04-05T14:22:45Z) UTC
Launch site Kennedy LC-39B
End of mission
Landing date Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. UTC
Landing site Edwards Runway 33
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 450 kilometres (280 mi)
Apogee 462 kilometres (287 mi)
Inclination 28.45 degrees
Period 93.7 minutes

Left to right: Cameron, Apt, Nagel, Ross, Godwin

Space Shuttle program
← STS-35 STS-39

STS-37, the eighth flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, was a six-day mission with the primary objective of launching the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), the second of the Great Observatories program which included the visible-spectrum Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope.[1] The mission also featured two spacewalks, the first since 1985.


  • Crew 1
    • Spacewalks 1.1
    • Crew seating arrangements 1.2
  • Preparations and Launch 2
  • Compton Gamma Ray Observatory 3
  • Spacewalks 4
  • Additional Payloads and Experiments 5
  • Landing 6
  • Mission insignia 7
  • See also 8
  • External links 9
  • Notes 10


Position Astronaut
Commander Steven R. Nagel
Third spaceflight
Pilot Kenneth D. Cameron
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 Linda M. Godwin
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 Jerry L. Ross
Third spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 Jay Apt
First spaceflight


  • Ross and Apt – EVA 1
  • EVA 1 Start: 7 April 1991
  • EVA 1 End: 7 April 1991
  • Duration: 4 hours, 26 minutes
  • Ross and Apt – EVA 2
  • EVA 2 Start: 8 April 1991
  • EVA 2 End: 8 April 1991
  • Duration: 5 hours, 47 minutes

Crew seating arrangements

Seat[2] Launch Landing
Seats 1–4 are on the Flight Deck. Seats 5–7 are on the Middeck.
S1 Nagel Nagel
S2 Cameron Cameron
S3 Godwin Apt
S4 Ross Ross
S5 Apt Godwin

Preparations and Launch

Launch of Atlantis on STS-37.

The STS-37 mission was successfully launched from launch pad 39B at 9:22:44AM EST on April 5, 1991 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Resumption of the countdown after the T-9 minute hold was delayed about 4 minutes 45 seconds because of two possible weather-condition violations of the launch commit criteria (LCC). The first concerned the cloud ceiling being 500 feet less than the minimum of 8000 feet for a return-to-launch-site (RTLS) abort, and the second concerned the possible weather-condition (wind) effects on blast propagation. Both conditions were found acceptable and the launch countdown proceeded to a satisfactory launch to an inclination of 28.45 degrees.[3] Launch weight: 116,040 kilograms (255,820 lb).

Compton Gamma Ray Observatory

The primary payload, the Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), was deployed on flight day 3. GRO's high-gain antenna failed to deploy on command; it was finally freed and manually deployed by Ross and Apt during an unscheduled contingency space walk, the first since April 1985. The following day, the two astronauts performed the first scheduled space walk since November 1985 to test means for astronauts to move themselves and equipment about while maintaining the then-planned Space Station Freedom. GRO science instruments were Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE), Imaging Compton Telescope (COMPTEL), Energetic Gamma Ray Experiment Telescope (EGRET) and Oriented Scintillation Spectrometer Experiment (OSSE). GRO was the second of NASA's four Great Observatories. The Hubble Space Telescope, deployed during Mission STS-31 in April 1990, was the first. GRO was launched on a two-year mission to search for the high-energy celestial gamma ray emissions, which cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere. At about 35,000 pounds, GRO was the heaviest satellite to be deployed into low-Earth orbit from the Shuttle. It was also designed to be the first satellite that could be refueled in orbit by Shuttle crews. Five months after deployment, NASA renamed the satellite the Arthur Holly Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, or Compton Observatory, after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who did important work in gamma ray astronomy.


Ross during the first EVA; CGRO in the background
Ross and Apt during the second EVA

The first U.S. extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk since 1985 was performed by Mission Specialists Jerry L. Ross and Jay Apt after six failed attempts to deploy the satellite's high-gain antenna. Repeated commands by ground controllers at the Payload Operations Control Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and maneuvering of Atlantis and its Remote Manipulator System (RMS) robot arm, as well as GRO's antenna dish, were to no avail in dislodging the boom. Ross and Apt were prepared for such a contingency, and Ross freed the antenna boom within 17 minutes after beginning the spacewalk. It was the first unscheduled contingency EVA since STS-51-D in April 1985. Deployment occurred about 18:35 EST, approximately 412 hours after it was scheduled.

The following day, on 8 April 1991, Ross and Apt made the first scheduled EVA since Mission STS-61-B in November 1985. The spacewalk was to test methods of moving crew members and equipment around the future Space Station Freedom. One of the experiments was to evaluate manual, mechanical and electrical power methods of moving carts around the outside of large structures in space. Although all three methods worked, the astronauts reported that propelling the cart manually or hand-over-hand worked best. With both EVAs, Ross and Apt logged 10 hours and 49 minutes walking in space during STS-37. Crew members also reported success with secondary experiments.

During one of the EVAs, a small rod from within the spacesuit punctured the seal of one of the astronauts' gloves. However, the astronaut's hand partially sealed the hole, resulting in no detectable depressurization. In fact, the puncture was not noticed until after the spacewalkers were safely back inside Atlantis.[4]

Additional Payloads and Experiments

Secondary payloads included Crew and Equipment Translation Aids (CETA), which involved scheduled six-hour space walk by astronauts Ross and Apt (see above); Ascent Particle Monitor (APM); Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment II (SAREX II); Protein Crystal Growth (PCG); Bioserve/Instrumentation Technology Associates Materials Dispersion Apparatus (BIMDA); Radiation Monitoring Equipment III (RME Ill); and Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) experiment. Among the other payloads flown was the first flight of the Bioserve/Instrumentation Technology Associates Materials Dispersion Apparatus (BIMDA) to explore the commercial potential of experiments in the biomedical, manufacturing processes and fluid sciences fields, and the Protein Crystal Growth experiment, which has flown eight times before in various forms. Astronaut Pilot Kenneth Cameron was the primary operator of the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), although all five crew members participated as amateur radio operators. It was arguably the first time that the astronauts received fast scan amateur television video from the ham radio club station (W5RRR) at JSC.


Atlantis touches down at Edwards.

11 April 1991, 06:55:29 PDT, Runway 33, Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Rollout distance: 6,364 feet. Rollout time: 56 seconds. Landing originally scheduled for 10 April 1991, but delayed one day due to weather conditions at Edwards and Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Orbiter returned to KSC 18 April 1991. Landing weight: 86,227 kilograms (190,098 lb).

Due to an incorrect call on winds aloft, Atlantis landed 623 feet short of the runway. This did not present a problem, since the orbiter landed on the dry lake bed of Edwards, and a problem was not obvious to most viewers. Had the landing been attempted at the Kennedy Space Center, the result would have been a touchdown on the paved underrun preceding the runway and would have been much more obvious.

Mission insignia

The three stars on the top and seven stars on the bottom of the insignia symbolize the flight's numerical designation in the Space Transportation System's mission sequence. The stars also represented the Amateur Radio term "73" or "Best regards", consistent with the fact that the entire crew had become licensed and operated the SAREX experiment while on orbit.

See also

External links

  • NASA mission summary
  • STS-37 Video Highlights


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ NASA (April 1991). "SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION STS-37 PRESS KIT" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "STS-37". Spacefacts. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  3. ^ STS-37 Mission Report,p.1,Robert W. Fricke,1991
  4. ^ Geoffrey A. Landis (7 August 2007). "Human Exposure To Vacuum". Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
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