The astronauts aboard Discovery today successfully deployed the second of three communications satellites from the space shuttle's cargo bay.
"We spun it out and watched it for about 61 seconds after we saw ignition of the on-board kick motor," astronaut Richard M. Mullane said this morning after a SYNCOM satellite to be leased by the Navy was flipped from the cargo bay like a Frisbee. "At 61 seconds it tailed off into space, and we'd appreciate word on how it made out when you know . . . ," Mullane told ground controllers.
Later today, astronaut Ronald McNair at Mission Control in Houston told Discovery's six-member crew that SYNCOM's deployment and flight toward a higher orbit had proceeded without a hitch.
"The words on SYNCOM are great," McNair said. "It separated from the kick motor and it and the SBS satellite you put out yesterday continued to track toward apogee," the high point of the orbit. "We're looking forward to getting to work again tomorrow to turn the third bird loose."
On Thursday, the crew -- which includes Henry W. Hartsfield Jr., Michael L. Coats, Judith A. Resnik, Steven A. Hawley and Charles D. Walker -- deployed SBS4, a communications satellite owned by Satellite Business Systems of McLean, Va.
A third communications satellite, owned by American Telephone & Telegraph Co., is to be deployed Saturday.
Discovery carried more than 47,000 pounds in its cargo bay when it lifted off Thursday, close to the limit a shuttle can carry safely if a flight is aborted and the spacecraft forced to return to Earth with its cargo.
After three postponements for the maiden flight of Discovery, NASA's third shuttle, the first two days of this six-day mission have been almost flawless. Today's mishaps were minor: They included two cabin cameras that overheated; a special, 360-degree camera in the payload bay that jammed, and the astronauts reporting that they were unable to find their "personal hygiene hose," which is used to take showers.
"Everybody who has ever tried to find the personal hygiene hose has trouble," flight director Randy Stone said at Houston's Johnson Space Center. "It's always in the bottom of the bag."
Walker, an industry engineer, also had trouble beginning an experiment to produce a hormone in pure form, an extremely difficult task on Earth.
Walker replaced a device that removes gas from the hormone fluid as it circulates through a small pharmaceutical factory in the shuttle. But he was still having problems early tonight, though no one aboard the shuttle or on the ground seemed very concerned.
For proprietary reasons, the hormone has not been identified, but there is speculation that it is interleukin, which is being tested as an anti-cancer agent and as a treatment for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Though crew members seemed relaxed and delighted after deploying the 15,200-pound SYNCOM satellite, also called Leasat, they were unusually quiet for most of their second day in orbit. At one point as the shuttle passed over Africa, Hartsfield said on the craft's intercom: " . . . There are a goodly number of fires down there." There was no elaboration.
Leasat, the first satellite built exclusively for launch on a shuttle, was ejected with a maneuver like the wrist snap used in throwing a Frisbee. In fact, Hughes Communications Services Inc., which paid the National Aeronautics and Space Administration $17 million to carry the satellite into space, got permission from Wham-O Corp. to call this the "Frisbee launch," the Associated Press reported. "Frisbee" is a trademark.
Once the astronauts deploy the third satellite, they will prepare an experiment to be directed by Resnik, the nation's second woman in space.
She will erect a 102-foot-tall solar wing from the cargo bay directly overhead into space. The wing, built by Lockheed, is designed to provide enough auxiliary power to allow future shuttle missions to double their time in space, which is now about 10 days.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Federal Aviation Administration said the pilot of a private plane that flew into the shuttle's launch area Thursday, delaying liftoff, "tried to take evasive action" when chased.
The pilot, identified as Dr. William Clarke of Jacksonville, previously was cited three times for intruding on shuttle airspace before a launch.
Clarke was chased from the area Thursday by an Air Force C130 and followed to Cecil Field in Jacksonville by an FAA plane.
Sources said Clarke tried to elude his pursuers and that, once on the ground, he and his two passengers ran from the Piper Aztec toward their cars. They were stopped by police.
The FAA said Clarke could lose his pilot's license for 30 to 60 days and be fined up to $1,000.