IMAGE: This image of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory following deployment from the Space Shuttle Columbia was taken from High Definition Television (HDTV) shot by Columbia Astronaut Mission Specialist Cady Coleman, during the STS-93 mission. Chandra, the world’s most powerful x-ray telescope, was developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. CREDIT: Cady Coleman/NASA
This week in rocket history, we have a groundbreaking mission in x-ray astronomy involving the Space Shuttle Columbia.
STS-93 launched from Kennedy Space Center pad 39B on July 23, 1999, at 16:31 UTC, with shuttle Columbia carrying the Chandra X-ray Observatory. It was the third Great Observatory to launch, after the Hubble Space Telescope and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. Originally called the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility, it was renamed after Indian-American physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who contributed to the knowledge of white dwarfs and other aspects of stellar evolution. Chandra, which also means “moon” in Sanskrit, was chosen by a student essay contest in April 1998 which received 6,000 entries.
Counting the spacecraft, its Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), and support equipment, the payload weighed 22.75 metric tons, the heaviest ever payload launched on the shuttle.
Columbia landed back at KSC on July 28, 1999, at 02:20 ...