For the first time, space shuttle astronauts will carry
television viewers along for the initial ride into orbit. NASA
Television viewers should see a spectacular live view of the
orbiter when Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off Oct. 2.

A color video camera mounted to the top of Atlantis’ external
tank will offer a unique perspective as launch occurs. NASA TV
plans to provide a live feed from the camera as the shuttle
begins its ascent until it reaches near-orbital speed, about
56 miles above the Earth. The camera is expected to provide
video for approximately 30 minutes.

The camera, which will provide a view of the front and belly
of the orbiter and a portion of the solid rocket boosters
(SRBs) and external tank, will offer the STS-112 team an
opportunity to monitor the shuttle’s performance from a new

The camera is mounted to the external tank’s liquid oxygen
tank, one of two propellant tanks. The external tank — the
“gas tank” for the shuttle’s three main engines — carries
both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in two separate tanks.
Often referred to as the backbone of the shuttle because it
provides structural support during launch, the external tank
absorbs the 7.8 million pounds of thrust produced at liftoff
by the shuttle’s three main engines and the two reusable solid
rocket motors.

Located high on the external-tank liquid-oxygen-tank cable
tray, the camera is inside an aluminum fairing covered in
protective insulating foam. The battery pack and transmitter
are contained in an electronics box and mounted in the
intertank crossbeam inside the external tank.

The camera will be turned on fifteen minutes prior to launch
and will show the orbiter and solid rocket boosters on the
launch pad. The video will be downlinked from the external
tank during flight to several NASA data-receiving sites and
then relayed to the live television broadcast.

The camera is expected to operate for about 15 minutes
following liftoff. At liftoff, viewers will see the shuttle
clearing the launch tower and, at two minutes after liftoff,
see the right SRB separate from the external tank.

When the external tank separates from Atlantis about eight
minutes into the flight, the camera is expected to continue
its live feed for about six more minutes. However, NASA may be
unable to pick up the camera’s signal because the tank may
have moved out of range.

The camera, made by CrossLink, Inc. of Boulder, Colo., is six
inches long and resembles a short, thin flashlight. A similar
camera has been used by The Boeing Co. for video of Delta
rocket liftoffs and by Lockheed Martin Company on Atlas

Animation and still images from the camera’s viewpoint are
available on the Internet at: