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EER SYSTEMS' STARFIRE 1 ROCKET FLAWLESS ON CONSORT 4 MISSION

    EER SYSTEMS' STARFIRE 1 ROCKET FLAWLESS ON CONSORT 4 MISSION
    VIENNA, Va., Nov. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- EER Systems Corporation issued the following:
    EER Systems' Starfire 1 rocket roared into a crystal clear southwestern sky Saturday carrying a payload of materials and microbiology experiments.  The "picture perfect" flight, dubbed Consort 4, carried a 1,000-pound cargo on a 15-minute suborbital mission to an altitude of 185 miles.
    Helicopters recovered the experiment module 50 miles north of the launch site at White Sands Missile Range after a parachute return to earth.
    The commercial launch provided scientists with seven minutes of a near-weightless environment in which to conduct research.  The flight was commissioned by the University of Alabama in Huntsville's Consortium for Materials Development in Space.  Funds for the project were provided under a grant from NASA's Office of Commercial Programs.  The Alabama group, which includes industry partners, is one of 17 NASA Centers for the Commercial Development of Space.
    At a post-launch news conference, Dr. Charles Lundquist, director of the consortium, thanked EER for "the great job and the great ride."
    "I hoped it looked as good to you as it felt," said former Mercury astronaut Donald "Deke" Slayton, who directs EER's Space Services Division.  "Our part of it is to provide the wheels, or transportation, if you will.  We did that, and that worked very well."
    Nine experiments were carried aloft by the 52-foot long Starfire, including an automated microbiology laboratory.  By studying the hormonal changes of animal cells in space, scientists hope to be able to understand why the immune systems of humans are less effective in space, officials said.
    "In space, we know that you have a loss of muscle tone and loss of muscle," said Dr. Roy Hammesstedt, professor of biochemistry at Penn State, one of dozens of researchers from two universities and seven companies involved with the payload.  With space flights like Consort 4, scientists hope to find new clues that will help the pharmaceutical industry.  They are trying to make drug capsules that take antibiotics directly to infections in the human body.
    Seven of the experiments used the microgravity to explore ways to make better and stronger building materials.  One created an ultra-sturdy polyurethane structural beam that could pave the way for future space construction.  Another included a Sony Minicam which recorded the development of a foam sphere in a vacuum.  Others focused on blending and binding metals, ceramic powders, fluids and other substances.
    This was the fourth in the Consort series conducted by EER's Space Services Division.  The rocket's liftoff was the smoothest of the launches at White Sands, said Mark Daniels, Consort program manager for EER Systems.  "The guidance control systems performed marvelously," Daniels said, "maneuvering the vehicle upwards through 150-mph atmospheric winds.  We were right on the money, as they say, within the flight parameters."
    The exploration of space is nothing new to EER Systems.  The Vienna-based firm has played an important role in America's space program for more than 12 years.  The company got its start with two contracts with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.  Over the years it has expanded to over 800 employees.  Annual revenues for its latest fiscal year were $84 million.  Today, the firm provides a broad range of system design and development services specializing in aerospace flight systems, information systems and training systems.
    In the past, the company stayed in a "behind-the-scenes" role while making increasingly significant contributions to many NASA programs.  These included the Cosmic Background Explorer, the Broad Band X-ray Telescope Experiment and the Gamma Ray Observatory.  With the acquisition of Space Services, Inc., in late 1990, the company expanded its aerospace capabilities into the launch services business.
    Early this year, the company was awarded a contract to provide the launch vehicle and services for the nation's first orbital commercial space launch and recovery system.  The firm's Conestoga rocket will be used for the NASA-sponsored Commercial Experiment Transporter (COMET) program, scheduled for launch in late 1992.
    -0-              11/18/91
    /NOTE:  Launch photo is available by calling the contact below./
    /CONTACT:  Michael Bryant of EER Systems, 703-847-5750/ CO:  EER Systems Corporation ST:  Virginia IN:  ARO SU: MH-SB -- DC023 -- 4523 11/18/91 13:52 EST
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Date:Nov 18, 1991
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