In February 1978, NASA issued an Announcement of Opportunity for instruments that could travel aboard the Space Shuttle and utilize the unique capabilities of Spacelab. Many teams responded, and over 40 proposals were selected for further study. Three telescopes, Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT), Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT) , and Wisconsin Ultraviolet Photo-Polarimeter Experiment (WUPPE), evolved as a single payload and the mission was assigned to Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Because the Instrument Pointing System (IPS) and other Spacelab facilities were needed for the mission, management of the payload was moved to Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in 1982, where it was given the name Astro.
Astro was manifested for a March 1986 flight on the Shuttle and the Wide Field Camera (WFC) was added to the payload to make detailed studies of Comet Halley, which was nearing its perihelion passage and approaching maximum brightness in the Spring of 1986.
By January, 1986, the Astro-1 instruments were designed, manufactured, and tested, and the observatory had completed Spacelab integration and Cargo Interface Test Equipment (CITE) testing. Astro-1 was ready for orbiter installation when the Challenger accident occurred.
After the accident, the instruments were removed from Spacelab and stored. Periodic checks were made on the instruments during storage, but because of the long interval, the decision was made to examine and recertify all of the Astro instruments.
Because Comet Halley was no longer in position for detailed observation, the Wide Field Camera was removed from the payload in the spring of 1987. In March, 1988, Broad-Band X-ray Telescope (BBXRT) was added to the Astro-1 payload. Originally proposed in response to the 1978 Announcement of Opportunity, BBXRT was an instrument on the Shuttle High-Energy Astrophysics Laboratory (SHEAL-2) and manifested for flight in 1992. When Supernova 1987A occurred, the decision was made by the Office of Space Science and Applications (OSSA) to add BBXRT to the original Astro-1 configuration. As a result of this decision, BBXRT development was accelerated by approximately two years. The combination of the UV and X-ray components added tremendous depth to the mission science objectives by permitting the first simultaneous UV and X-ray observations of astronomical targets from orbit.
The UV component of Astro-1 completed Level IV testing, in which instruments and command software were operated, in August, 1989. In Level III/II testing, the three UV telescopes, the IPS and the igloo containing the computer were integrated with the Spacelab pallet. Proper functioning of all components was confirmed, and this phase of testing was completed in December, 1989.
The UV telescopes, the IPS, and pallets were moved to the CITE stand where they were joined by BBXRT and the Two-Axis Pointing System (TAPS). CITE testing was completed at the end of February, 1990, and the Astro-1 payload was delivered to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) and installed in the orbiter Columbia on March 20, 1990. Payload to orbiter interface verification testing of the Astro-1 payload was completed March 27, 1990. The STS-35 end-to-end test was completed on March 28, 1990.
After many, many launch attempts Astro-1 was launched on December 2, 1990, 12:49:01 am., 21 minutes after the scheduled launch time due to a weather delay.
-Text taken from a NASA press release.