Re: ERBS Having Problems

Philip Chien (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 18:48:59 -0500

>At 11:35 19-01-99 -0500, Keith Stein wrote:
>>Hello all,
>>Anyone observer ERBS lately? Might want to keep an eye on this one, seems
>>to be having major problems;

Tristan Cools <> said:

>Was or is it still active ????   I believe it was released from a shuttle in
>1984.  So 15 years is certainly a long operational lifetime for a
>satellite.(non communications)
>I believe it had the facility to be retrieved by a shuttle but I'm not sure
>of this. I have observed it a lot of times but not recently however.

ERBS (15354 1984 108B) was launched in October 1984 on the 41-G shuttle
flight.  I seem to recall a planned lifetime of about 5 years or so.  After
it was released by the shuttle's robot arm it raised its orbit with its own
thrusters.  I do not believe it has any components which are designed to be
serviced in flight.  In theory it could be recovered by the shuttle if it
could reduce its altitude to a shuttle-compatible rendezvous altitude
because it has the proper mechanical fittings (grapple fixture, trunion
pins) but there are no plans to do so (no reason to spend so much money
just to take a spacecraft home for display in a museum).

each year, similar to UARS.

One of the scientists told me many years ago that the turnaround was the
biggest concern in terms of operations.  He added that there were a couple
of folks who were almost wishing that ERBS would fail during one of those
maneuvers so the difficult decision wouldn't have to be made to shut off a
functional spacecraft due to lack of budget.

In any case it's amazing that it's lasted as long as it has, and is still
returning useful data.  I would hardly categorize _ANYTHING_ which a
spacecraft lasting three times its planned lifetime does as "major
problems".  At this point it's amazing that it's still running at all.

The satellite's deploy from the shuttle was featured in the IMAX film "The
Dream is Alive".

Philip Chien, KC4YER
Earth News
world (in)famous writer, science fiction fan, ham radio operator,
all-around nice guy, etc.