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Astro Observatory (ASTRO 1 & 2)

Astro Observatory (ASTRO 1 & 2) mission graphic

Astro Observatory

Phase: Past

Launch Date: December 02, 1990

Mission Project Home Page - http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/masterCatalog.do?sc=ASTRO

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The "Astro Observatory" was developed as a system of telescopes that could fly multiple times on the space shuttle. The instrumentation included: (1) the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT) which gathered imagery in the spectral range 1200 to 3100 Å; (2) Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT) which did spectrophotometry in the spectral range 425 to 1850 Å; (3) the Wisconsin Ultraviolet Photopolarimetry Experiment (WUPPE) a spectrapolarimeter ranging from 1250 to 3200 Å; and (4) the Broad Band X-ray Telescope (BBXRT) which took X-ray data in the bandpass between 0.3 and 12 keV.

Astro-1

Astro-1 consisted of the four instruments described above flown in the shuttle payload bay during the STS-35 shuttle mission. The Astro-1 mission was launched December 2, 1990, and returned to Earth December 11, 1990.

The telescopes were mounted on a Spacelab pallet in the payload bay of the shuttle. The Spacelab Instrument Pointing System, pallets, and avionics were utilized for attachment to the Shuttle and for control and data handling. Astro-1 required both mission specialists and payload specialists to control its operations from the Shuttle aft flight deck. Instrument monitoring and quick-look data analysis were performed for real-time ground operations. During the flight both on-board Digital Display Units malfunctioned, and the star guidance system calibration was not possible. The observing sequences were rescheduled during the flight, and instrument pointing was done by hand by the astronauts, and from the ground. Since many science objectives and selected astronomical targets of the instrument teams were inter-related, simultaneous observations by all four instruments were performed.

As a result of the numerous technical glitches, the returned data volume was less than half of that originally planned, and the scientific return was about 67% of the stated goals of the mission. However, the mission was very successful in that 231 observations of 130 unique astronomical targets were made.

Astro-2

Following the scientific success of the Astro-1 mission, Astro-2 was approved as a follow-up flight. Astro-2 consisted of only three instruments, the UIT, HUT and the WUPPE. The HUT was significantly upgraded for this second flight, with a new optical coating which enhanced the performance by more than a factor of two. The mission was launched on March 2, 1995 and remained aloft for 16-days during the STS-67 shuttle mission.

Again the telescopes were mounted on a Spacelab pallet in the payload bay of the shuttle. The Spacelab Instrument Pointing System, pallets, and avionics were utilized for attachment to the Shuttle and for control and data handling. Astro-2 also required the mission specialists and payload specialists to control its operations. A Guest Observer Program was also included as part of Astro-2.

The mission was highly successful with the telescopes observing more than 250 astronomical objects and explored 23 different science programs.

Last Updated Date: March 16, 2012

Related Links
  • Astro-1 Mission - http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/masterCatalog.do?sc=ASTRO-1
  • Astro-2 Mission - http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/masterCatalog.do?sc=ASTRO-2
  • STS-35 info - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/archives/sts-35.html
  • More HUT info - http://praxis.pha.jhu.edu/astro2/astro2_mission.html
  • STS-67 info - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/archives/sts-67.html