Ulysses Launched

Twenty years ago today — October 6, 1990 — the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from the Kennedy Space Center on its mission to deploy the Ulysses spacecraft.

(Ulysses spacecraft after its release from the shuttle cargo bay. NASA image.)

STS-41 astronauts Richard N. Richards, Robert O. Cabana, William M. Shepherd, Bruce E. Melnick, and Thomas Akers successfully released the joint NASA-European Space Agency payload and its two upper stage boosters. This mission was the first to require both an Inertial Upper Stage and a Payload Assist Module, because of the need to send the Ulysses craft out of the plane of the ecliptic.

Ulysses first traveled toward Jupiter, where a gravity-assist maneuver in February 1992 helped put the spacecraft into its final out-of-ecliptic solar orbit. Desiged to last only 5 years, Ulysses actually operated for over 18, studying the polar regions of the sun during both solar minimum and solar maximum conditions. Ulysses operations ended on June 30, 2009.

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