Everyone focused on the launch, but Endeavour is carrying a unique experiment that shouldn't be missed: tiny satellites that emulate space dust
When Endeavour lifted off the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center for the final time on Monday morning with Mark Kelly, husband to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, at the helm, tucked inside of the 156,000-pound, 122-foot-tall beast were three tiny satellites.
Endeavour, which was headed for the International Space Station (ISS) on this, STS-134, has launched satellites in the past. In fact, the first Space Shuttle mission for which Endeavour was deployed involved the capture and rerelease of the stranded INTELSAT VI communications satellite. STS-49, Endeavour's maiden flight, was a success. The crew, led by commander Daniel Brandenstein, retrieved INTELSAT from low earth orbit, which it had failed to leave two years earlier, and moved it into its intended geosynchronous orbit.
The satellites carried by the current Endeavour crew, who experienced lift off nearly two decades after that first batch of NASA astronauts led this Shuttle into space, are much different than anything INTELSAT, which controls the world's largest fleet of commercial satellites, currently owns and operates. The new satellites are each about the size of a postage stamp. The maker of the 2cm x 2cm chips, professor Mason Peck of Cornell University's Space Systems Design Studio, hopes that he has built a prototype for the future.