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SPACE SHUTTLE EXPERIMENT MAY HELP PAVE THE WAY FOR FASTER COMPUTERS, BETTER MEDICINES

 SPACE SHUTTLE EXPERIMENT MAY HELP PAVE THE WAY
 FOR FASTER COMPUTERS, BETTER MEDICINES
 KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., Oct. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A crystal-growth experiment on board the space shuttle Columbia may help pave the way for producing faster computers and better medicines on Earth.
 Designers of the Crystal Vapor Transport Experiment (CVTE) hope to grow the largest, purest industrial space crystals ever. The mission offers a sneak preview of the more extensive experimentation that will take place aboard Space Station Freedom later this decade.
 "This particular experiment is important to the semiconductor industry, because the ability of semiconductors to process and store information depends on the quality of the crystals used," said Barbara Heizer, CVTE program manager for Boeing Defense & Space Group. "Large, more uniform crystals grown in space may lead to greater speed and capability in computers, sensors and other electronic devices."
 Columbia is scheduled to lift off from launch complex 39 on Thursday, Oct. 22, on a 10-day mission to deploy the LAGEOS-II satellite, and to conduct the CVTE and other experiments. The launch window for mission STS-52 opens at 11:10 a.m. Eastern Time.
 CVTE is a joint NASA-Boeing project, funded largely by private research dollars from Boeing. The company's Defense & Space Group is prime contractor for the living and laboratory modules of Space Station Freedom, which NASA will begin assembling in space a little more than three years from now.
 "CVTE gives us a tantalizing preview of some of the kinds of science we're going to be able to perform in much greater depth on Freedom," said Dr. Harvey Willenberg, Space Station chief scientist for Boeing. "The ability to form larger, more pure crystals may lead to important advances, not only in semiconductors, but in the technology of medicines and basic materials as well."
 STS-52 astronauts Bill Shepherd and Mike Baker went through extensive training with Boeing scientists to learn how to work the CVTE equipment.
 "We're trying to do something that people haven't done in space before," said Shepherd. "By having humans on the scene monitoring the crystal growth we can better interpret the data and ultimately help industry produce superior crystals."
 The CVTE system is in a rack the size of a telephone booth, installed in Columbia's mid-deck galley area. Shepherd and Baker will monitor the equipment, and NASA cameras will record the crystal growth every few minutes. Previously, such experiments have been confined to mid-deck lockers about twice the size of a shoebox.
 The experiment package will be activated about four days into the mission. CVTE will attempt to grow large, uniform crystals from a cadmium telluride compound using a process called vapor transport.
 "The compound is a solid, sealed in a glass tube inside the CVTE furnace, where it is heated to 850 degrees Celsius," explained CVTE chief scientist Bob Ruggeri. "The compound evaporates at one end of the tube, and crystallizes at the other. By manipulating the temperatures inside the tube, large crystals can be produced."
 "The CVTE, with its high temperature, will allow us to process samples as large in diameter as a dime," said CVTE chief engineer David Garman. "Previous crystal-growth facilities have been able to grow samples only about the size of a pencil eraser."
 The effects of gravity hamper scientists' ability to produce more advanced materials than, for example, the silicon found in today's computer chips. On Earth, temperature differences in heated materials cause a turbulence known as thermal convection, and the heavier atoms in gaseous materials tend to "sink" (a process called sedimentation). The resulting crystals are imperfect, and limit the capabilities of present- day semiconductors and medicines.
 -0- 10/21/92
 /EDITOR'S NOTE: Heizer, Willenberg, Ruggeri and Garman will be available for interviews in person or by phone at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) beginning two days before the launch of shuttle mission STS-52, and at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) during the mission. Contact: Elliot Pulham or Cindy Naucler at the Kennedy Space Center, 407-799-9304, 407-799-9305, or 407-639-3911; or Cindy Naucler or Kari Thornton at the Johnson Space Center, 713-480-1479 or 713-483-5111./
 /CONTACT: Cindy Naucler, 206-773-2816, or Elliot Pulham, 205-461-2803, both of Boeing Defense & Space Group, Missiles & Space Division/ CO: Boeing Defense & Space Group, Missiles & Space Division ST: Alabama IN: ARO SU: CO:


BR -- AT003 -- 2726 10/21/92 09:29 EDT
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Date:Oct 21, 1992
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