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EER SYSTEMS SADDENED BY DEATH OF MERCURY ASTRONAUT DONALD (DEKE) SLAYTON

 VIENNA, Va., June 13 /PRNewswire/ -- EER Systems officials were saddened today by the news of the death of one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts, Donald K. (Deke) Slayton. Slayton served in recent years as Director of EER Systems' Space Services Division. He died this morning at his home in a suburb of Houston, from a brain tumor. He was 69 years old.
 On learning of the news, Dr. Jai N. Gupta, EER's President, said, "Deke was a unique individual and a fine human being. He was an American hero and a man who devoted his life to America's space program. It was an honor and privilege for us to have been associated with him. Even while he was undergoing treatment he continued to play an active role in EER Systems' commercial space activities. Only a few months ago, he served as Launch Director for the suborbital launch of our Starfire rocket at White Sands Missile Range.
 "Deke knew space and envisioned its development in a way only those who have been there can. He was a pioneer in the world of commercial space and he had no equal. We will miss him."
 Deke Slayton devoted over 30 years to this nation's space program. He served as Director of Flight Crew Operations for the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs; led a government- industry team preparing the Space Shuttle for launch and flight operations; and served as manager of NASA's Space Shuttle Orbital Test Flight Program. He served as President of Space Services Inc. of America (SSI) prior to its acquisition by EER Systems.
 Slayton spent the last 10 years pursuing the commercial development of space. In 1982, his small Houston-based SSI made history by launching the first privately financed space vehicle. In 1989 they launched, Consort 1, the first payload licensed by the Department of Transportation's Office of Commerical Space for a consortium led by the Universtiy of Alabama in Huntsville.
 That launch led to a highly successful series of 15 minute Consort suborbital flights each providing a 200 mile-high ride into space for microgravity experiments from industry and academia. Slayton called this program, "the farm team for the space station." Every lift-off provides a brief journey into near-weightlessness and is a logical first step for many types of commercial investigations intended to fly on other modes of long-duration space transportation, such as the space shuttle and space station.
 In six Consort launches, "Deke was always on time and never lost a payload," according to Moffette Tharpe, EER Systems' Vice President for Space Products. "Deke was looking forward to the launch of our Conestoga rocket from NASA's Wallops Islands Flight Facility. It was his next step in a legacy of opening the frontier of space to commercial opportunities. He was the principal architect of the Conestoga, a modular space launch vehicle, and was an active participant in its design and development."
 The Conestoga will lift the NASA-sponsored Commerical Experiment Transporter (COMET) into a 300 mile orbit around the earth. COMET is a spacecraft filled with more than a dozen biomedical, materials and communication experiments. The section housing most of the experiments will reenter the atmosphere and return to earth via parachute after 30 days in orbit.
 -0- 6/13/93
 /CONTACT: Mike Bryant of EER Systems, 703-847-5750/


CO: EER Systems ST: Virginia IN: ARO SU: PER

MC -- NYON1 -- 1363 06/13/93 21:04 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jun 13, 1993
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