Three "Star Wars" experiments involving Utah State University researchers have began working without a hitch aboard the space shuttle Discovery, officials said.

"We couldn't be happier," said Edward Vendell, a USU professor of aerospace engineering.And despite problems with two Lockheed research projects on Discovery, Vendell said, "Our Utah experiments are fine. We've been in contact with all three."

The biggest of the three is the Cryogenic Infrared Radiance Instrument for Shuttle package, or CIRRIS. It is a 9-foot-long, telescope-like device that will obtain information on the infrared character of the Earth's upper atmosphere, where the monitoring and engagement of ballistic missiles could occur.

Following commands from researchers at the Johnson Space Center, USU-built CIRRIS opened its lens cover "and gave us two really good blocks of data," Vendell said. CIRRIS will remain in Discovery's cargo bay during the flight.

About a dozen USU scientists were in Houston for Discovery's eight-day mission, collecting data from their Strategic Defense Initiative experiments.

The studies are to help the Pentagon develop sensors for tracking and intercepting missiles high above the Earth.

The other two packages with USU connections are the Shuttle Kinetic Infrared Test, or SKIRT, and the Infrared Background Signature Survey, or IBSS.

SKIRT was made by Space Systems Engineering, a USU spinoff company located in the campus Research and Technology Park. IBSS was built in Germany and calibrated by Utah State scientists.

SKIRT will observe the phenomenon called "shuttle glow," and how a space vehicle's light aura might affect surveillance systems.

IBSS will monitor plumes from Discovery's maneuvering rockets. That information also should help SDI develop sensors than can locate a ballistic missile against the background of the Earth's upper atmosphere.