February 4, 1999
KSC Contact: George H. Diller
KSC Release No. 10-99


The Chandra X-ray Observatory, scheduled to launch aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-93, arrived at 2:45 p.m. EST today at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility aboard an Air Force C-5 Galaxy airplane. The telescope was shipped from the TRW plant in Redondo Beach, CA, with departure from Los Angeles International Airport occurring earlier this morning. A second airplane also brought the necessary ground support equipment to KSC for the campaign of final prelaunch integration and testing.

The ground support equipment is being off loaded today. The Chandra Observatory is to be taken off the airplane early Friday morning and transported to the Vertical Processing Facility located in the KSC Industrial Area. There, the telescope will undergo final installation of associated electronic components, be tested, fueled, and mated with the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster. A set of integrated tests will follow.

A major milestone is the test using the Cargo Integrated Test Equipment (CITE) to verify that Chandra and the Inertial Upper Stage will have the ability to receive and reply to commands once aboard the Space Shuttle. Also, an end-to-end test will verify the communications systems of the payload and its ability to communicate through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system with Mission Control in Houston and the Chandra ground station located in Cambridge, MA. The Chandra/IUS combination will then be ready to go to the launch pad.

Once in the payload changeout room at Pad 39-B, the protective cocoon will be removed from around the telescope and it will be installed into Space Shuttle Columbia. An Integrated Verification Test will be conducted to check all of the electrical connections and the ability of the astronauts to send and receive commands from Columbia's flight deck. The end-to-end test will be repeated at the pad. Finally the IUS will go through a simulated countdown to verify its readiness for launch.

Chandra will use the world's most powerful X-ray telescope to allow scientists to monitor cosmic events that are invisible to conventional optical telescopes. Chandra's X-ray images will yield new insight into celestial phenomena such as the temperature and extent of gas clouds that comprise clusters of galaxies and the superheating of gas and dust particles as they swirl into black holes. Chandra, previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), is the third in NASA's family of Great Observatories that includes the Hubble Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

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