May 20, 1996 in Nation/World

Shuttle Prepares To Launch Antenna

Compiled From Wire Services

Space shuttle Endeavour and its crew rocketed into orbit Sunday morning and quickly began preparing for the big event: release of an inflatable antenna that will swell to the size of a tennis court.

The six astronauts will deploy the experimental antenna this morning, their first major task 177 miles up. Once free of Endeavour, the antenna will be filled with nitrogen gas, becoming the largest inflatable structure in space since the 1960s.

The antenna, mounted on three inflatable struts, will resemble a parachute once it pops out of a box the size of a kitchen table and is fully inflated.

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