Testing Tethers in Space History

Twenty years ago today — July 31, 1992 — the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched from the Kennedy Space Center on an international science mission.

(Tethered Satellite System. The tether itself is partly in shadow in this NASA image.)

STS-46 included U.S. astronauts Loren J. Shriver, Andrew M. Allen, Marsha S. Ivins, Jeffrey A. Hoffman and Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, and Italian astronaut Franco Malerba.

Though technical problems delayed operations, the crew successfully deployed the European Space Agency’s European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA), an experiment-filled platform that stayed in orbit almost a year before being retrieved by the shuttle Endeavour. The Tethered Satellite System (TSS), a joint NASA/Italian Space Agency venture to test the behavior of tethers in space, did not deploy as planned; however, as a test, it proved that extending tethers in space is a more difficult and delicate task than anticipated.

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