Vintage Videos of STS-9 Columbia Mission and Spacelab

Owen Garriott W5LFL with Motorola two meter FM ham radio on STS-9 Columbia

The first ham radio transmissions by an amateur radio operator in space were made by Owen K. Garriott W5LFL during the STS-9 Columbia mission in 1983. This led to many further space flights incorporating amateur radio as an educational and back-up communications tool.

Watch ARRL – Amateur Radio’s Newest Frontier (STS-9 Columbia) narrated by Roy Neal K6DUE

Narrated by the Commander and crew, the following video contains footage selected by the astronauts, as well as their comments on the mission. Footage includes launch, onboard crew activities, and landing.

Watch Space Shuttle STS-9 Columbia-Spacelab 1 pt1-2 Post Flight Press Conference Film 1983 NASA

Watch Space Shuttle STS-9 Columbia-Spacelab 1 pt2-2 Post Flight Press Conference Film 1983 NASA

STS-9 (also known as STS-41A and Spacelab 1) was a NASA Space Shuttle mission which carried the first Spacelab module into orbit to conduct space-based scientific experiments. It was the sixth mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and was Columbia’s last flight until STS-61-C in January 1986. It was also the last time the old STS numbering was used until STS-26 (in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster of STS-51-L). Under the new system, STS-9 would have been designated as STS-41-A.

STS-9 launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center at 11 am EST on 28 November 1983.

The shuttle’s crew was divided into two teams, each working 12-hour shifts for the duration of the mission. Young, Parker and Merbold formed the Red Team, while Shaw, Garriott and Lichtenberg made up the Blue Team. Usually, the commander and the pilot team members were assigned to the flight deck, while the mission and payload specialists worked inside the Spacelab.

Over the course of the mission, seventy-two scientific experiments were carried out, spanning the fields of atmospheric and plasma physics, astronomy, solar physics, material sciences, technology, life sciences and Earth observations. The Spacelab effort went so well that the mission was extended an additional day to 10 days, making it the longest-duration shuttle flight at that time.

The Spacelab 1 mission was highly successful, proving the feasibility of the concept of carrying out complex experiments in space using non-NASA persons trained as payload specialists in collaboration with a POCC. Moreover, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, now fully operational, was able to relay vasts amounts of data through its ground terminal to the POCC.

During orbiter orientation, four hours before re-entry, one of the flight control computers crashed when the RCS thrusters were fired. A few minutes later, a second crashed in a similar fashion, but was successfully rebooted. Young delayed the landing, letting the orbiter drift. He later testified: “Had we then activated the Backup Flight Software, loss of vehicle and crew would have resulted.” Post-flight analysis revealed the GPCs failed when the RCS thruster motion knocked a piece of solder loose and shorted out the CPU board.

Columbia landed on Runway 17 at Edwards Air Force Base on 8 December 1983, at 3:47 pm PST, having completed 166 orbits and travelled 4.3 million miles (6.9×106 km) over the course of its mission. Right before landing, two of the orbiter’s three auxiliary power units caught fire due to a hydrazine leak, but the orbiter nonetheless landed successfully. Columbia was ferried back to KSC on 15 December. The leak was later discovered after it had burned itself out and caused major damage to the compartment…

Commander: John W. Young
Pilot: Brewster H. Shaw, Jr.
Mission Specialists: Owen K. Garriott, Robert A. R. Parker
Payload Specialists: Byron K. Lichtenberg (MIT), Ulf Merbold (Germany)
Dates: November 28 to December 8, 1983
Vehicle: Columbia OV-102
Payloads: Spacelab-1
Landing site: Runway 17 dry lakebed at Edwards AFB, CASpace Shuttle