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Shuttle Launches Third Satellite Perfectly : Astronauts Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinners, Prepare for Space Walk

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From Times Wire Services

Atlantis’ astronauts, celebrating “one of the best” Thanksgiving days ever, flawlessly launched an uninsured $50-million satellite Thursday and prepared for a two-day, space-walking construction job.

The RCA Satcom K-2, the most powerful domestic communications satellite ever built, spun out of Atlantis’ cargo bay precisely as planned and rocketed itself toward its permanent orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth.

Satellites for Mexico and Australia were released from Atlantis on Wednesday. NASA officials said they were functioning well.

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Perfect Satellite Record

“Three for three,” Jim Weatherbee in Mission Control told the astronauts. “Now, we can look forward to some ground-breaking activities with your new construction techniques tomorrow.”

The final satellite launch cleared the way for two six-hour space walks by astronauts Jerry Ross and Sherwood Spring today and Sunday. They are to test the complex techniques of assembling large structures in orbit by hand.

Satcom K-2 is the first uninsured satellite released by a shuttle. RCA said it was not buying insurance for the craft because rates have steeply increased as a result of seven satellite failures in the last two years.

RCA officials said insurance rates for shuttle-launched satellites now are more than 20% of the cost of the craft, compared with rates of 6% to 8% two years ago. The 4,246-pound RCA satellite has 16 channels already leased for television transmissions.

Message From Home

Mission Control awoke the crew of six men and one woman with a recording of “America, The Beautiful” and then relayed a message from Kathleen Shaw, wife of mission commander Brewster Shaw. “Your families on Earth wish their loved ones aboard Atlantis a happy Thanksgiving,” the message said.

Shaw responded quickly: “This is one of the best Thanksgivings all of us have spent. We hope the same is true for all of you down there, including our loved ones and friends.”

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For the holiday meal, Atlantis’ pantry had a space-age version of a feast. The menu included chicken consomme, sliced turkey, a mixture of corn, beans and pasta, cranberry sauce, pumpkin cake, butter cookies and a beverage.

The turkey was exposed to gamma rays to prevent spoilage and warmed in a heating tray. The vegetables were freeze dried and rehydrated with hot water. The cranberry sauce was thermostabilized and elegantly served in an aluminum tin.

Prepare for Space Walk

Cabin pressure in Atlantis was reduced to prepare Spring and Ross for their space walks. The pair will spend six hours each assembling and disassembling 99 metal rods that snap together.

They are to build a 45-foot beam, rising straight out from Atlantis’ cargo bay. They also will construct an inverted pyramid and demonstrate how well they can move it about by hand.

The construction work is part of a study to help engineers decide how to design a permanent space station that can be assembled by space-walking astronauts. NASA hopes to have the station in orbit by the 1990s.

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