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From April 1981 through January 1986, 25 Space Shuttle launches were conducted. All four orbiters in the fleet -- Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis -- were flown. However, 1 minute, 13 seconds after liftoff -- during the 25th launch --on Jan. 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle exploded. The orbiter Challenger was destroyed and its crew of seven killed. The accident had a far-reaching impact on the Space Shuttle program. Launchings were suspended for more than 2 years, while recommendations of a Presidential Commission which investigated the accident were implemented, along with changes called for by NASA itself.


The first launch of the Space Shuttle occurred on April 12, l98l, when the orbiter Columbia, with two crew members, astronauts John W. Young, commander, and Robert L. Crippen, pilot, lifted off from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, at the Kennedy Space Center -- the first of 24 launches from Pad A. It was exactly 7 a.m. EST. A launch attempt, 2 days before, was scrubbed because of a timing problem in one of the Columbia's general purpose computers.

Not only was this the first launch of the Space Shuttle, but it marked the first time that solid fuel rockets were used for a U.S. manned launch. The STS-l orbiter, Columbia, also holds the record for the amount of time spent in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) before launch -- 610 days, time needed for replacement of many of its heat shield tiles.

Primary mission objectives of the maiden flight were to check out the overall Shuttle system, accomplish a safe ascent into orbit and to return to Earth for a safe landing. All of these objectives were met successfully and the Shuttle's worthiness as a space vehicle was verified.

The only payload carried on the mission was a Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) package which contained sensors and measuring devices to record orbiter performance and the stresses that occurred during launch, ascent, orbital flight, descent and landing.

The 36-orbit, 933,757-mile-long flight lasted 2 days, 6 hours, 20 minutes and 32 seconds. Landing took place on Runway 23 at Edwards AFB, Calif., on April 14, 1981, at 10:21 a.m. PST. Post-flight inspection of the Columbia revealed that an overpressure wave which occurred when the SRB ignited resulted in the loss of 16 heat shield tiles and damage to 148 others. In all other respects, however, Columbia came through the flight with flying colors, and it was to fly the next four Shuttle missions.

Columbia was returned to Kennedy Space Center from California on April 28 atop its 747 carrier aircraft.


Launch of the second Space Shuttle took place 7 months later, on Nov. 12, 1981, with liftoff at 10:10 a.m. EST. The planned launch time of 7:30 a.m. was delayed while a faulty data transmitting unit on Columbia was replaced. Originally the launch had been set for Oct. 9, but it was delayed by a nitrogen tetroxide spill during loading of the forward Reaction Control System (RCS) tanks. It was next scheduled for Nov. 4, but was again scrubbed when high oil pressures were discovered in two of the three Auxiliary Power Units (APU) that control the orbiter's hydraulic system. Prior to launch Columbia had spent 103 days in the OPF.

The flight marked the first time a manned space vehicle had been reflown with a second crew: Joseph H. Engle, commander, and Richard H. Truly, pilot. It again carried the DFI package, as well as the OSTA-l payload -- named for the NASA Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications -- which consisted of a number of remote sensing instruments mounted on a Spacelab pallet in the payload bay. These instruments, including the Shuttle Imaging Radar-A (SIR-1), successfully carried out remote sensing of Earth resources, environmental quality, ocean and weather conditions. In addition, the Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System (RMS) arm was successfully operated in all its various operating modes for the first time.

Although the STS-2 mission had been planned for 5 days, the flight was cut short when one of the three fuel cells that produce electricity and drinking water failed.

Landing took place on Runway 23, at Edwards AFB, at 1:23 p.m. PST, Nov. 14, after a 36-orbit, 933,757-mile flight that lasted 2 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes, 13 seconds.

Despite the truncated flight, more than 90 percent of the mission's objectives were achieved. Moreover, modifications of the water sound suppression system at the pad to absorb the solid rocket booster overpressure wave during launch were effective -- no tiles were lost and only 12 were damaged. The Columbia was flown back to KSC on Nov. 25, 1981.


    Columbia was launched on its third flight at 11:00 a.m. EST, on March 22, l982, the planned launch date. The launch was delayed 1 hour because of the failure of a heater on a nitrogen gas ground support line. Columbia had spent only 70 days in the Orbiter Processing Facility -- a record checkout time. The two-man crew included Jack R. Lousma, commander, and Charles G. Fullerton, pilot.

    Major objectives of the flight were to continue testing the RMS arm, and to carry out extensive thermal testing of the Columbia by exposing its tail, nose and top to the sun for varying periods of time.

    In addition, in its payload bay, Columbia again carried the DFI package, and OSS-l -- named for the NASA Office of Space Science and Applications -- which consisted of a number of instruments mounted on a Spacelab pallet to obtain data on the near-Earth environment and the extent of contamination caused by the orbiter itself. A test cannister for the Small Self-Contained Payload program -- also known as the Getaway Special (GAS) -- was mounted on a side of the payload bay.

    For the first time a number of experiments were carried in the middeck lockers. These included a Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System experiment to study separation of biological components and a Monodisperse Latex Reactor experiment to produce uniform micron-sized latex particles. The first Shuttle Student Involvement Project (SSIP) -- the study of insect motion -- also was carried in a middeck locker.

    During the flight, both crew members experienced some space sickness, the toilet malfunctioned, one Auxiliary Pacer Unit overheated (but worked properly during descent), and three communications links were lost on March 26.

    STS-3 was planned as a 7-day flight. However, it was extended an extra day because of high winds at the backup landing site, Northrup Strip, White Sands, N.M., since the planned landing site at Edwards AFB was too wet for a safe landing.

    Touchdown finally took place at 9:05 a.m. MST, March 30, l982, at Northrup Strip (later renamed White Sands Space Harbor). Columbia had made 129 orbits and traveled 3.3 million miles, during its 8-day, 4-minute, 45-second flight. A total of 36 tiles were lost and 19 were damaged. It was returned to KSC on April 6, l982.


    This mission marked the first time the Space Shuttle was launched precisely at its scheduled launch time. It also was the last research and development flight in the program. Liftoff took place on June 27, l982, at ll:00 a.m. EST, with Thomas K. Mattingly as commander, and Henry W. Hartsfield as pilot. Its cargo consisted of the first Getaway Special payloads which included nine scientific experiments provided by students from Utah State University, and a classified Air Force payload.

    In the middeck, a Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System and the Monodisperse Latex Reactor were flown for the second time. The crew conducted a lightning survey with handheld cameras, and performed medical experiments on themselves for two student projects. They also operated the RMS with an instrument called the Induced Environment Contamination Monitor mounted on its end designed to obtain information on gases or particles being released by the orbiter in flight.

    STS-4 was a planned 7-day mission and landing occurred on July 4, l982, at 9:10 a.m. PDT, on the 15,000-ft. concrete Runway 22 at Edwards AFB -- the first Shuttle landing on a concrete runway.

    The flight lasted 7 days, 1 hour, 9 minutes, 40 seconds. Distance traveled was 2.9 million miles in 112 complete orbits. All mission objectives were achieved, although the two SRBs were lost when their main parachutes failed causing the empty casings to hit the water at high speeds and sink. The Columbia was returned to KSC on July 15.


    STS-5, the first operational mission, also carried the largest crew up to that time -- four astronauts -- and the first two commercial communications satellites to be flown.

    The fifth launch of the orbiter Columbia took place at 7:19 a.m. EST, Nov. ll, l982. It was the second on-schedule launch. The crew included Vance Brand, commander; Robert F. Overmyer, pilot; and the first mission specialists to fly the Shuttle -- Joseph P. Allen and William B. Lenoir.

    The two communications satellites were deployed successfully and subsequently propelled into their operational geosynchronous orbits by booster rockets. Both were Hughes-built HS-376 series satellites -- SBS-3 owned by Satellite Business Systems, and Anik owned by Telesat of Canada. In addition to the first commercial satellite cargo, the flight carried a West German-sponsored microgravity GAS experiment canister in the payload bay. The crew also conducted three student experiments during the flight.

    A planned spacewalk by the two mission specialists had to be cancelled -- it would have been the first for the Shuttle program -- when the two space suits that were to be used developed problems.

    Columbia landed on Runway 22, at Edwards AFB, on Nov. 16, l982, at 6:33 a.m. PST, having traveled 2 million miles in 8l orbits during a mission that lasted 5 days, 2 hours, 14 minutes and 26 seconds. Columbia was returned to KSC on Nov. 22.


    On April 4, 1983, STS-6, the first Challenger mission, lifted off at 1:30 p.m. EST. It was the first use of a new lightweight external tank and lightweight SRB casings.

    The mission originally had been scheduled for launch on Jan. 30, 1983. However, a hydrogen leak in one of the main engines was discovered. Later, after a flight readiness firing of the main engines on Jan. 25, 1983, fuel line cracks were found in the other two engines. A spare engine replaced the engine with the hydrogen leak and the other two engines were removed, repaired and reinstalled.

    Meanwhile, as the engine repairs were underway, a severe storm caused contamination of the primary cargo for the mission, the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS), while it was in the Payload Changeout Room on the Rotating Service Structure at the launch pad. This meant the satellite had to be taken back to its checkout facility where it was cleaned and rechecked. The Payload Changeout Room and the payload bay also had to be cleaned.

    STS-6 carried a crew of four -- Paul J. Weitz, commander; Karol J. Bobko, pilot; Donald H. Peterson and Story Musgrave, both mission specialists. Using new space suits designed specifically for the Space Shuttle, Peterson and Musgrave successfully accomplished the program's first extravehicular activity (EVA), performing various tests in the payload bay. Their space walk lasted for 4 hours, 17 minutes.

    Although the 5,000-lb. TDRS was successfully deployed from the Challenger, its two-stage booster rocket, the Interim Upper Stage (IUS), shut down early, placing the satellite into a low elliptical orbit. Fortunately, the satellite contained extra propellant beyond what was needed for its attitude control system thrusters, and during the next several months the thrusters were fired at carefully planned intervals gradually moving TDRS-l into its geosynchronous operating orbit thus saving the $100-million satellite.

    Other STS-6 cargo included three GAS canisters and continuation of the Monodisperse Latex Reactor and the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis experiments.

    Challenger returned to Earth on April 9, 1983, at 10:53 a.m. PST, landing on Runway 22 at Edwards AFB. It completed 80 orbits, traveling 2 million miles in 5 days, 24 minutes, 32 seconds. It was flown back to KSC on April 16.


    The Challenger's second flight began at 7:33 a.m. EST, June 18, 1983, with another on-time liftoff. It was the first flight of an American woman in space -- Sally K. Ride -- and also the largest crew to fly in a single spacecraft up to that time, five persons.

    Crew members included Robert L. Crippen, commander, making his second Shuttle flight; Frederick C. Hauck, pilot; Ride, John M. Fabian and Norman Thagard, all mission specialists. Thagard conducted medical tests of the Space Adaptation Syndrome nausea and sickness frequently experienced by astronauts during the early phase of a space flight.

    Two communications satellites -- Anik C-2 for Telesat of Canada, and Palapa B-l for Indonesia -- were successfully deployed during the first 2 days of the mission. The mission also carried the first Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS-l) built by Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm, a West German aerospace firm. SPAS-l was unique in that it was designed to operate in the payload bay or be deployed by the RMS as a free-flying satellite. It carried 10 experiments to study formation of metal alloys in microgravity, the operation of heat pipes, instruments for remote sensing observations, and a mass spectrometer to identify various gases in the payload bay. It was deployed by the RMS and flew alongside and over Challenger for several hours while a U.S.-supplied camera took pictures from the SPAS-1 of the orbiter performing various maneuvers. The RMS later grappled the pallet and returned it to the payload bay.

    This mission also carried seven GAS canisters which contained a wide variety of experiments, as well as the OSTA-2 payload, a joint U.S.-West German scientific pallet payload. Finally, the orbiter's Ku-band antenna was able to relay data through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite to a ground terminal for the first time.

    STS-7 was scheduled to make the first Shuttle landing at the Kennedy Space Center.s Shuttle Landing Facility. However, unacceptable weather forced a change to Runway 23 at Edwards AFB. The landing took place June 24, 1983, at 6:57 a.m. PDT. The mission lasted 6 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes, 59 seconds. It covered about 2.2 million miles during 97 orbits of the Earth. Challenger was returned to KSC on June 29.


    Challenger was back in space on Aug. 30, 1983, after it lifted off at 2:32 a.m. EDT, following a 17-minute delay due to bad weather. It was the first night launch in the Space Shuttle program. A night launch required for tracking requirements for the primary payload, the Indian National Satellite, INSAT 1B, a multipurpose satellite owned by India that was deployed successfully on the second day of the flight.

    The 5-member crew, included the first black American to fly in space, mission specialist Guion S. Bluford Jr. The commander was Richard H. Truly, making his second Shuttle flight; Daniel C. Brandenstein, was the pilot, while Bluford, Dale A. Gardner and William Thornton served as mission specialists.

    In addition to INSAT, the payload bay carried 12 GAS canisters. Four contained experiments while the remaining eight canisters contained special STS-8 postal covers. Two other boxes of covers were mounted on an instrument panel, bringing the total number of the special philatelic covers on board to 260,000. These were later sold to collectors by the Postal Service.

    The fourth Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System experiment was flown, using live human cells from a pancreas, kidney and pituitary gland. Also, six live rats were carried in an enclosure module being tested for the first time.

    Other activities during the mission included a test of the RMS arm, using a special 7,460-lb. Development Flight Instrumentation Pallet. Numerous tests of the orbiter's S-band and Ku-band antenna systems were performed with the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. Thornton carried out biomedical experiments on himself and other members of the crew in a continuation of the Space Adaptation Syndrome studies begun by Thagard during the STS-7 mission.

    STS-8 also conducted the first night landing in the program at 12:40 a.m. PDT, Sept. 5, 1983, on Runway 22 at Edwards AFB. The mission lasted 6 days, 1 hour, 8 minutes, 43 seconds. Challenger had traveled 2.2 million miles and orbited the Earth 97 times. It was back at KSC in the record-breaking time of 4 days after its California landing.


    For the STS-9mission Columbia was once again back in orbit.The launch occurred at ll a.m. EST, Nov. 28, 1983, after a 2-month delay because of a nozzle problem with one of the SRBs. This necessitated moving the vehicle back to the Vehicle Assembly Building where the nozzle was replaced.

    The 6-member crew -- a manned space flight record at the time -- included John W. Young, commander, on his second Shuttle flight; Brewster H. Shaw, pilot; Owen Garriott and Robert A. Parker, both mission specialists; and Byron K. Lichtenberg and Ulf Merbold payload specialists -- the first two non-astronauts to fly on the Shuttle. Merbold, a citizen of West Germany, also was the first foreign citizen to participate in a Shuttle flight. Lichtenberg was a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    The mission was devoted entirely to Spacelab l, a joint NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) program designed to demonstrate the ability to conduct advanced scientific research in space, with astronauts and payload specialists working in the Spacelab module and coordinating their efforts with scientists at the Marshall Payload Operations Control Center (POCC) then located at the Johnson Space Center. Funding for Spacelab l was provided by ESA.

    The crew was divided into two teams, each working 12-hour shifts for the duration of the mission. Young, Parker and Merbold formed the Red Team, while Shaw, Garriott and Lichtenberg made up the Blue Team. Usually, the commander and the pilot team members were assigned to the flight deck, while the mission and payload specialists worked inside the Spacelab.

    Seventy-two scientific experiments were carried out in the fields of atmospheric and plasma physics, astronomy, solar physics, material sciences, technology, life sciences and Earth observations. The effort went so well that the mission was extended an additional day to 10 days, making it the longest duration Shuttle flight to date.

    The Spacelab l mission was highly successful, having proved the feasibility of the concept of carrying out complex experiments in space using non-NASA persons trained as payload specialists in collaboration with a POCC. Moreover, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, now fully operational, was able to relay vasts amounts of data through its ground terminal to the POCC.

    Columbia landed on Runway 17 at Edwards AFB, on Dec. 8, 1983, at 3:47 p.m. PST, completing 166 orbits and traveling 4.3 million miles. Columbia was ferried back to KSC on Dec. 15.

STS 41-B

    Following STS-9 the flight numbering system for Space Shuttle missions was changed. Thus, the next flight, instead of being designated STS-10, became STS 41-B. The new numbering system was designed to be more specific in that the first numeral stood for the fiscal year in which the launch was to take place, the "4" being 1984. The second numeral represented the launch site l for KSC and 2 for Vandenberg AFB, Calif. The letter represented the order of launch assignment, " B" was the second launch scheduled in that fiscal year. (Following the Challenger accident, NASA reestablished the original numerical numbering system. Thus the first flight following 51-L is STS-26.)

    The mission was the fourth flight of the Challenger. Liftoff occurred at 8 a.m. EST, on Feb. 3, 1984. Two communications satellites were one for Western Union (WESTAR) and the other for Indonesia (Palapa B-2) were deployed about 8 hours after launch. However, the Payload Assist Modules (PAM) for both satellites malfunctioned placing them into a lower than planned orbit. Both satellites were retrieved successfully the following November during STS 51-A, the 14th mission, by the orbiter Discovery.

    The STS 41-B crew included commander Vance D. Brand, making his second Shuttle flight; pilot Robert L. Gibson; and mission specialists, Bruce McCandless II, Ronald E. McNair and Robert L. Stewart.

    A highlight of the mission took place on the first day when astronauts McCandless and Stewart performed the first untethered space walk operating the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) for the first time. McCandless -- the first human Earth-orbiting satellite -- ventured out 320 feet from the orbiter, while Stewart tested the "work station" foot restraint at the end of the RMS. The seventh day of the mission, both astronauts performed an EVA to practice capture procedures for the Solar Maximum Mission satellite retrieval and repair operation planned for the next mission, STS 41-C.

    Another important "first" for STS 41-B was the reflight of the West German-sponsored SPAS-l pallet/satellite originally flown on STS-7. This time, however, it remained in the payload bay because of an electrical problem in the RMS. The mission also carried five GAS canisters, six live rats in the middeck area, a Cinema-360 camera and continuation of the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System and the Monodisperse Latex Reactor experiments.

    The 7-day, 23-hour, 15-minute, 55-second flight ended on Feb. ll, at 7:15 a.m. EST; at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility -- the first landing of a spacecraft at its launch site. Challenger completed 127 orbits and traveled 2.8 million miles.

STS 41-C

    The following April, Challenger was once again flying in space, this time on the STS 41-C mission. Liftoff took place at 8:58 a.m. EDT, on April 6, 1984. It marked the first direct ascent trajectory for the Shuttle which reached its 288-mile-high orbit using the Orbiter Maneuvering System engines only once -- to circularize its orbit.

    The flight had two primary objectives. The first was to deploy the huge Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), a passive, retrievable, 21,300-lb., 12-sided cylinder, 14 feet in diameter and 30 feet long carrying 57 experiments. The second objective was to capture, repair and redeploy the malfunctioning Solar Maximum Mission satellite -- "Solar Max" -- launched in 1980.

    The five-man crew included Robert L. Crippen, commander, on his third Shuttle flight; pilot Francis R. Scobee; and mission specialists, James D. van Hoften, Terry J. Hart and George D. Nelson.

    On the second day of the flight, the LDEF was grappled by the RMS arm and successfully released into orbit. Its 57 experiments, mounted in 86 removable trays were contributed by 200 researchers from eight countries. Retrieval of the passive LDEF had been scheduled during 1985, but schedule delays and the Challenger accident have postponed the retrieval effort.

    On the third day of the mission, Challenger's orbit was raised to about 300 miles, and it maneuvered to within 200 feet of Solar Max. Astronauts Nelson and van Hoften, wearing space suits, entered the payload bay. Nelson, using the MMU, flew out to the satellite and attempted to grasp it with a special capture tool called the Trunnion Pin Acquisition Device (TPAD). Three attempts to clamp the TPAD onto the satellite failed. It began tumbling when van Hoften attempted to grasp it with the RMS arm, and the effort was called off.

    During the night, the Solar Max POCC, at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., was able to establish control over the satellite by sending commands ordering the magnetic torque bars to stabilize the tumbling action. This was successful and the Solar Max went into a slow, regular spin.

    The next day, Nelson and van Hoften tried to capture it again. This time they succeeded on the first try. They placed Solar Max on a special cradle in the payload bay using the RMS. They then began the repair operation, replacing the satellite's attitude control mechanism and the main electronics system of the coronagraph instrument. The ultimately successful repair effort took two separate space walks. Solar Max was deployed back into orbit the next day, thus concluding one of the most unique rescue and repair missions in the history of the space program.

    After a 30-day checkout by the Goddard POCC, Solar Max resumed full operation.

    Other STS 41-C mission activities included a student experiment located; in a middeck locker to determine how honeybees make honeycomb cells in a microgravity environment. They did so successfully, just as on Earth.

    The 6-day, 23-hour, 40-minute, 7-second mission ended on April 13, at 5:38 a.m. PST, with Challenger landing on Runway 17, at Edwards AFB. It had completed 108 orbits and traveled 2.87 million miles. Challenger was returned to KSC on April 18.

STS 41-D

    The orbiter Discovery was launched on its maiden flight --the 12th in the program -- on Aug. 30, 1984. It was the third orbiter built and the lightest one thus far because of its lightweight thermal blanket material.

    The mission was originally planned for June 25, but because of a variety of technical problems, including rollback to the VAB to replace a main engine, the launch did not take place until 8:41 a.m. EDT, Aug. 30, after a 6-minute, 50-2nd delay when a private aircraft flew into the restricted air space near the launch pad. It was the fourth launch attempt for Discovery.

    Because of the 2-month delay, the STS 41-F mission was cancelled (STS 41-E had already been cancelled) and its primary payloads were included on the STS 41-D flight. The combined cargo weighed over 47,000 lb., a Space Shuttle record up to that time.

    The six-person flight crew consisted of Henry W. Hartsfield Jr., commander, making his second Shuttle mission; pilot Michael L. Coats; three mission specialists: -- Judith A. Resnik, Richard M. Mullane and Steven A. Hawley; and a payload specialist, Charles D. Walker, an employee of the McDonnell Douglas Corp. Walker was the first commercially-sponsored payload specialist to fly aboard the Shuttle.

    The primary cargo consisted of three communications satellites, SBS-D for Satellite Business Systems, Telstar 3-C for Telesat of Canada and SYNCOM IV-2, or Leasat-2, a Hughes-built satellite leased to the Navy. Leasat-2 was the first large communications satellite designed specifically to be deployed from the Space Shuttle. All three satellites were deployed successfully and became operational.

    Another payload was the OAST-l solar array, a device 13 feet wide, and 102 feet high, which folded into a package 7 inches deep. The wing carried a number of different types of experimental solar cells and was extended to its full height several times. It was the largest structure ever extended from a manned spacecraft and demonstrated the feasibility of large lightweight solar arrays for future application to large facilities in space such as the Space Station.

    The McDonnell Douglas-sponsored Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) experiment, using living cells, was more elaborate then the one flown previously and payload specialist Walker operated it for more than 100 hours during the flight. A student experiment to study crystal growth in microgravity was carried out, an the IMAX motion picture camera was operated during much of the flight.

    The mission lasted 6 days, 56 minutes, with landing on Runway 17 at Edwards AFB, at 6:37 a.m. PDT, on Sept. 5. It traveled 2.21 million miles and made 97 orbits. It was transported back to KSC on Sept. 10.

STS 41-G

    On Oct. 5, 1984, Challenger returned to flight with its launch at 7:03 a.m. EDT, marking the start of the STS 41-G mission. It was Challenger's sixth mission and the 13th liftoff in the Space Shuttle program.

    On board were seven crew members -- the largest flight crew ever to fly on a single spacecraft at that time. They included commander Robert L. Crippen, making his fourth Shuttle flight; pilot Jon A. McBride; three mission specialists -- David C. Leestma, Sally K. Ride and Kathryn D. Sullivan -- (the first time two female astronauts had flown together); and two payload specialists, Paul Scully-Power and Marc Garneau, the first Canadian citizen to serve as a Shuttle crew member.

    Astronaut Sullivan became the first woman to walk in space when she and David C. Leestma performed a 3 hour EVA on Oct. ll demonstrating the Orbital Refueling System (ORS) and proving the feasibility of refueling satellites in orbit.

    Nine hours after liftoff, the 5,087-lb, Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) was deployed from the payload bay by the RMS arm, and its on-board thrusters boosted it into an orbit 350 miles above the Earth. ERBS was the first of three planned satellites designed to measure the amount of energy received from the sun and reradiated into space. It also studied the seasonal movement of energy from the tropics to the polar regions.

    Another major mission activity, operation of the Shuttle Imaging Radar-B (SIR-B) was conducted. SIR-B was part of the OSTA-3 experiment package in the payload bay, which also included the Large Format Camera (LFC) to photograph Earth, another camera called MAPS which measured air pollution, and a feature identification and location experiment called FILE which consisted of two TV cameras and two 70mm still cameras.

    The SIR-B effort was an improved version of a similar device flown on the OSTA-l package during STS-2. It had an eight-panel antenna array measuring 35 by 7 feet. It operated throughout the flight but problems were encountered with the Challenger's Ku-band antenna and therefore much of the data had to be recorded on board the orbiter rather than transmitted to Earth in real-time as originally planned.

    Payload Specialist Scully-Powers, an employee of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, performed a series of oceanography observations during the mission. Garneau conducted experiments sponsored by the Canadian government, called CANEX, which were related to medical, atmospheric, climatic, materials and robotic sciences. A number of GAS canisters covering a wide variety of materials testing and physics were also flown.

    STS 41-G was an 8-day, 5-hour, 23-minute, 33-second mission which traveled 4.3 million miles and completed 132 orbits. It landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC -- the second Shuttle landing there -- on Oct. 13, at 12:26 p.m. EDT.

STS 51-A

    Less than a month after the 41-G flight, the 14th Space Shuttle mission and the second for Discovery, STS 51-A was launched at 7:15 a.m. EST, Nov. 8, 1984. A launch attempt the day before was scrubbed at the T minus 20-minute built-in hold because of high shear winds in the upper atmosphere.

    The five-person flight crew consisted of Frederick H. Hauck, commander, on his second flight; pilot David M. Walker; and three mission specialists -- Anna L. Fisher, Dale A. Gardner and Joseph P. Allen. Both Gardner and Allen were making their second Shuttle flights.

    This mission was unique in that it marked the first time the Shuttle had deployed two communications satellites and then went about retrieving from orbit two other communications satellites. B-2 and 6 had been deployed during the STS 41-B mission earlier in the year and had been placed into improper orbits because their kick motors malfunctioned.

    The two communications satellites successfully deployed were the Canadian Anik D2 -- on the second day of the mission -- and IV-l, also known as Leasat l, on the third day.

    The orbiter then began a series of maneuvers to meet up with the first of the two satellites to be recovered, PALAPA B-2. (The orbits of both satellites had been lowered by ground commands from about 600 mile to 210 mile to facilitate recovery operations.) On day five, the Discovery rendezvoused with PALAPA. Mission specialists Allen and Gardner performed an EVA, capturing the satellite with a device known as a "Stinger," which was inserted into the apogee motor nozzle by Allen. The satellite's rotation was slowed to 1 RPM and Fisher, operating from a position on the end of the RMS, attempted unsuccessfully to grapple the satellite. However, was not lost, because Allen was able manually to maneuver the satellite into its cradle with Gardner's help and aided by the RMS which was operated by Fisher. The successful, improvised rescue effort took two hours.

    The recovery of Westar 6 was not as difficult and took place a day later. This time Gardner, using the same muscle power technique Allen had used for the rescue, captured the satellite. With Allen's help, he placed it in a cradle in the cargo bay.

    The STS 51-A mission also carried the Diffused Mixing of Organic Solutions (DMOS) experiment. It was the first of a series of comprehensive organic and polymer science experiments sponsored by the 3M Corp. This middeck experiment was successful and the proprietary results of the chemical mixes were turned over to 3M. One other experiment, the radiation monitoring experiment, was also performed.

    This second Discovery mission ended at 7 a.m. EST, Nov. 16, with landing on Runway 33, at KSC, after a 7-day, 23-hour, 45-minute flight, which covered 3.3 million miles during 126 complete orbits. It was the third Shuttle landing at KSC and the fifth and last Shuttle mission of 1984.

STS 51-C

    Discovery was to make its third flight in January 1985 to conduct the first mission totally dedicated to the Department of Defense. The classified payload was deployed successfully and boosted into its operating orbit by an Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster according to an Air Force announcement.

    The launch occurred on Jan. 24, 1985, at 2:40 p.m. EST -- the first of 10 Shuttle missions that year. It was originally scheduled for Jan. 23, but was delayed because of freezing weather conditions. Challenger had been scheduled for this flight, but Discovery was substituted when thermal tile problems were encountered with Challenger.

    The 51-C included Thomas K. Mattingly, commander; Loren J. Shriver, pilot; two mission specialists, James F. Buchli and Ellison S. Onizuka; and Gary E. Payton, a payload specialist.

    The mission lasted 3 days, 1 hour, 33 minutes. Discovery touched down on Runway 15 at KSC on Jan. 27 at 4:23 p.m. EST.

STS 51-D

    The 16th mission, officially designated STS 51-D, was launched at 8:59 a.m. EST, on April 12, 1985, just 55 seconds before the close of the launch window. It marked the fourth flight by Discovery.

    Its seven-person crew included Karol J. Bobko, commander; Donald E. Williams, pilot; three mission specialists -- M. Rhea Seddon, S. David Griggs and Jeffrey A. Hoffman; and two payload specialists -- Charles D. Walker of McDonnell Douglas and E.J. "Jake" Garn, a U.S. senator from Utah -- the first elected official to fly on board the Space Shuttle. Garn was chairman of the Senate committee with oversight responsibilities for the NASA budget.

    The primary objective of the flight was deployment of two communications satellites, Anik C-l, third in a series of Canadian satellites, and IV-3, also known as Leasat 3. Anik's deployment was carried out successfully a few hours after launch and its booster kick motor propelled it into its operational orbit. The deployment took place the next day. However, its booster stage failed to fire as programmed because the satellite's sequence start lever had failed to open. A possible "fix" was attempted by placing two so-called flyswatter devices on the end of the RMS to snag and tug on the failed lever. The mission was extended 2 days and astronauts Griggs and Hoffman performed an EVA to attach the flyswatter devices to the end of the RMS. Astronaut Seddon then manipulated the RMS, attempting to activate the lever into its operating position. The attempt failed. However, during the STS 51-I mission in August, the lever was repaired and the satellite reached its geosynchronous orbit and became operational.

    Other activities during the flight included operation of a larger Continuous Flow Electrophoresis Experiment by payload specialist Charles Walker; two student experiments, one of which failed; and an informal science study of how mechanical toys operate in microgravity.

    Discovery landed on Runway 33 at KSC at 8:55 a.m. EST, April 19. Its right main gear tire blew out just as the orbiter was rolling to a stop. The mission lasted 6 days, 23 hours, 55 minutes. Distance traveled was 2 million miles during 109 complete orbits.

STS 51-B

    The second Spacelab mission, with the European-built Spacelab in its operational configuration, began on April 29, 1985, at 12:02 p.m. EDT, with the liftoff of Challenger on its seventh journey into space.

    The seven-man crew was headed by commander Robert F. Overmyer; Frederick D. Gregory, pilot; three mission specialists - Don L. Lind, Norman E. Thagard, William E. Thornton; and two payload specialists - Lodewijk van den Berg of EG&G Energy Management, Inc., and Taylor G. Wang of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    The crew was divided into two teams each working 12-hour shifts, as would be the case on all Spacelab missions.

    Spacelab 3 carried 15 primary experiments involving five basic scientific disciplines: materials and life sciences, fluid mechanics, atmospheric physics; and astronomy. All but one of the experiments provided good scientific data. The mission was supported around the clock by the Marshall POCC.

    In addition to the Spacelab effort, the flight carried two monkeys and 24 rodents in special cages for biomedical experimentation. Two GAS experiments were flown which, for the first time, required that payloads be deployed from the canisters. One of them, the Global Low Orbiting Message Relay Satellite, (GLOMAR) did not deploy and was returned to Earth. The other called NUSAT, for Northern Utah Satellite worked successfully.

    Challenger landed at Edwards AFB, Calif., at 9:ll a.m. PDT, on May 6, after completing 110 orbits during its 7-day, 8-minute, 46-second mission.

STS 51-G

    The 18th Space Shuttle mission was flown by Discovery following its liftoff at 7:33 a.m. EDT, on June 17, 1985. The cargo included three commercial communications satellites, a deployable/retrievable spacecraft called Spartan l, six GAS experiment canisters, a tracking experiment for the Defense Department's Strategic Defense Initiative, a materials processing furnace and a series of biomedical experiments sponsored by France.

    The seven-member STS 51-G crew included Daniel Brandenstein, commander; John Creighton, pilot; three mission specialists: Shannon Lucid, Steven Nagel and John Fabian; and two payload specialists Patrick Baudry of France and Prince Sultan Salman Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia.

    The three communications satellites were successfully deployed and their booster stages placed them into their planned operating orbits. They included Arabsat l-B, owned by the Arab Satellite Communications Organization; Morelos l, the first Mexican-operated communications satellite; and Telstar 3-D an American domestic communications satellite owned by American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T).

    The NASA-sponsored Spartan l carried a series of astronomy experiments and was the first in a planned series of short duration free flyers designed to extend the capabilities of sounding rocket type experiments. It weighed 2,223 pounds and was deployed and operated successfully, independent of the orbiter, before being retrieved by the RMS later in the mission.

    The materials furnace, the French biomedical experiments, and the six Getaway Specials all operated successfully although one GAS experiment shut down early.

    The Shuttle test of the Strategic Defense Imitative tracking experiment, called the High Precision Tracking Experiment (HPTE), failed during orbit 37 because the orbiter was in the wrong attitude. However, the test was successfully completed during orbit 64.

    The mission ended at 6:ll a.m. PDT, June 24 on Runway 23 at Edwards AFB, Calif. It traveled 2.9 million miles, and made 111 complete orbits during its 7-day, 1-hour, 38-minute, 52-second flight.

STS 51-F

    Challenger was to return to orbit on July 12, 1985, with its launch marking the 19th Space Shuttle mission. A launch attempt on July 12 was stopped at the T-3 second mark -- after main engine ignition had occurred -- because of a failed coolant valve in the number two engine and all three engines were shut down. The launch was delayed until July 29, when liftoff occurred at 5 p.m. EDT, after a 1-hour, 37-minute delay because of problems with the orbiter.

    Although liftoff was normal, at 5 minutes, 45 seconds after launch, the number one main engine shutdown prematurely and an abort-to-orbit was declared. An orbit of 124 by 165 mile was achieved, and later raised to an altitude of about 196 mile by a series of Orbital Maneuvering System burns.

    Despite this initial problem, the mission, a third Spacelab effort officially called Spacelab-2, was successful. (Spacelab-3 was flown out of sequence ahead of Spacelab-2 on STS 51-B as an operational mission, Spacelab-2 being the last Shuttle/Spacelab verification mission.)

    The seven-man crew included Charles G. Fullerton, commander; Roy D. Bridges, pilot; three mission specialists F. Story Musgrave, Anthony W. England and Karl G. Henize; and two payload specialists Loren W. Acton of Lockheed Corp., and John-David Bartoe from the Naval Research Laboratory.

    The Spacelab-2 payload consisted of an igloo and three pallets in the payload bay, containing scientific instruments dedicated to life sciences, plasma physics, astronomy, high-energy astrophysics, solar physics, atmospheric physics and technology research.

    A major objective of the mission was to verify the performance of the Spacelab systems with the orbiter as well as to measure the environment created by the vehicle in space.

    The flight marked the first time ESA Instrument Pointing System (IPS) was tested in orbit. This unique experiment pointing instrument was designed with an accuracy of one arc second. Initially, some problems were experienced when it was commanded to track the Sun. A series of software fixes were made and the problem was corrected. The flight crew and the experts on the ground in the Marshall POCC worked closely together and much valuable scientific data was acquired.

    Inside the pressurized orbiter cabin four other experiments were carried out. These included two dealing with Vitamin D metabolites and bone demineralization which involved, among other things, taking physiological measurements of crew members. A third experiment dealt with determining the effect of microgravity on lignification in plants. Finally, the fourth cabin experiment, which was added late in planning for the mission, was concerned with protein crystal growth. All four experiments were declared successful.

    The mission ended with Challenger landing at Edwards AFB, Calif., at 12:45 p.m. PDT, Aug. 6, on orbit 127. Mission duration was 7 days, 22 hours, 45 minutes, 26 seconds.

STS 51-I

    The orbiter Discovery flew the 20th Space Shuttle mission with its launch at 6:58 a.m. EDT, Aug. 27, 1985. Two earlier launch attempts, one on Aug. 24 and another on Aug. 25 were scrubbed -- the first because of poor weather and the second because the backup orbiter computer failed and had to be replaced. The successful Aug. 27 launch took place just before an approaching storm front reached the launch pad area.

    The five-man STS 51-I crew included Joe H. Engle, commander; Richard O. Covey, pilot; and three mission specialists James van Hoften, John M. Lounge and William F. Fisher. Their primary mission was to deploy three commercial communications satellites and retrieve and repair IV-3 which was deployed during the STS 51-D mission in April 1985 and had malfunctioned. In addition, a middeck materials processing experiment was flown.

    The three communications satellites included l, a multi-purpose spacecraft owned by Australia; the ASC-l owned and operated by the American Satellite Co.; and IV-4 leased to the Department of Defense by its builder, the Hughes Co. Both l and ASC-l were deployed on launch day, Aug. 27. IV-4, was deployed two days later. All three achieved proper geosynchronous orbits and became operational.

    On the fifth day of the mission, astronauts Fisher and van Hoften began repair efforts on the malfunctioning IV-3 following a successful rendezvous maneuver with Discovery. The effort was slowed because of a problem in the RMS elbow joint. In any event, after a second EVA by Fisher and van Hoften, the lever was repaired, permitting commands from the ground to activate the spacecraft's systems and eventually sending it into its proper geosynchronous orbit. The two EVAs took ll hours and 27 minutes.

    Discovery landed on Runway 23 at Edwards AFB at 6:16 a.m. PDT on Sept. 3. The flight took 7 days, 2 hours, 18 minutes, 42 seconds, completing 111 orbits of the Earth.

STS 51-J

    The first flight by the orbiter Atlantis occurred Oct. 3, 1985, its successful launch at ll:15 a.m. EDT. STS 51 was the second Space Shuttle mission totally dedicated to the Department of Defense. The cargo, orbital parameters and other details of the flight were classified. Its five-man crew included Karol L. Bobko, commander; Ronald J. Grabe, pilot; two mission specialists: Robert L. Steward and David Hilmers; and one payload specialist, William A. Pailes.

    Atlantis performed well on its maiden flight and the mission was declared successful. Landing took place at Edwards AFB at 10:00 a.m. PDT, Oct. 7. The flight duration was 4 days, 1 hour, 45 minutes.

STS 61-A

    The STS 61-A mission -- the first dedicated West German Spacelab -- saw the Challenger liftoff at 12 Noon EST, Oct. 30, 1985. The 22nd launch in the Shuttle program and the countdown and ascent to orbit went flawlessly.

    The eight-person crew was the largest ever to fly a sizeable spacecraft at one time. The crew included Henry W. Hartsfield, commander; Steven R. Nagel, pilot; Bonnie J. Dunbar, James F. Buchli and Guion S. Bluford, mission specialists, and three payload specialists Ernst Messerschmid and Reinhard Furrer of West Germany and Wubbo Ockels from the ESA, a citizen of The Netherlands.

    The primary objective of the mission, officially designated Spacelab D-1, was to conduct a series of experiments relating to materials processing. This fourth Spacelab mission was the first Shuttle flight to be largely financed and conducted by another nation. NASA was responsible for operation of the Shuttle and for safety and control functions, controlling the flight from the Mission Control Center in Houston. West Germany was responsible for the Spacelab scientific research. The flight crew, on 12-hour shifts, worked closely with ground controllers at the German Space Operations Center at Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich.

    Two other STS 61-A mission objectives included deployment of the Global Low Orbiting Message Relay (GLOMR) satellite -- its second flight -- which was to be deployed from a Getaway Special canister, and operation of five materials processing experiments mounted in the cargo bay on a structure called the German Unique Support Structure. The GLOMR deployment and the materials processing experiments were successful.

    The Spacelab D-l scientific research effort consisted of 75 separate experiments most of which were repeated several times during the mission. Since the effort was directed primarily at materials processing science, the primary experiments were related to fluid physics, solidification experiments, biological, and medical investigations. It was the most comprehensive investigation of materials processing in space and associated human activities ever undertaken.

    Challenger landed on Runway 17 at Edwards AFB at 9:45 a.m. PST, Nov. 6. The mission duration was 7 days, 44 minutes, 51 seconds.

STS 61-B

    Atlantis made its second voyage into space on Nov. 26, 1985, with its launch at 7:29 p.m. EST -- the second night launch in the program. Liftoff occurred on schedule and the countdown and ascent to orbit, as on the previous flight, went flawlessly.

    The seven-person crew was comprised of Brewster H. Shaw Jr., commander; Bryan D. O'Conner was the pilot; three mission specialists Mary L. Cleave, Sherwood C. Spring and Jerry L. Ross; and two payload specialists, Rodolfo Neri Vela from Mexico and Charles Walker of McDonnell Douglas on his second Shuttle flight.

    The primary objective of the mission was to deploy three communications satellites -- the Mexican-owned Morelos-B, 2 for Australia, and Ku-2, owned and operated by RCA American Communications (RCA Americom). All three satellites were deployed as planned and subsequently achieved their geosynchronous operating orbits.

    Two experiments designed to test the feasibility of assembling erectable structures in space were also carried out. These were the Experimental Assembly of Structures in Extravehicular Activity (EASE), a geometric structure composed of beams and nodes shaped like an inverted pyramid, and for the Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structures (ACCESS), which was a tall tower consisting of numerous small struts and nodes. The lightweight metal structures were assembled by astronauts Ross and Spring during two EVAs which lasted 5 hours, 32 minutes, and 6 hours, 38 minutes. These activities were captured on film by the large-screen motion picture camera, IMAX.

    During the flight, payload specialist Walker again operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System experiment which was designed to produce commercial pharmaceutical products in microgravity. Mexican payload specialist Rudolfo Neri Vela carried out a number of human physiology experiments. Another experiment, the 3M's Diffuse Mixing of Organic Solutions (DMOS) was successfully operated, growing large, pure single crystals in microgravity. A Canadian-sponsored GAS canister to fabricate mirrors in space was also conducted.

    STS 61-B was a 6-day, 21-hour, 4-minute, 49-second mission. Landing occurred at 1:33 p.m. PST, Dec. 3, on Runway 22, at Edwards AFB.

STS 61-C

    Mission 24 in the Space Shuttle program saw the orbiter Columbia returned to flight for the first time since the STS-9mission in November 1983, after having undergone major modifications by Rockwell International in California.

    The launch originally was scheduled for Dec. 18, but the closeout of an aft orbiter compartment was delayed and the mission was rescheduled for the next day on Dec. 19, the countdown was stopped at T-14 seconds because of a -- out-of-tolerance turbine reading on the right SRBs hydraulic system.

    Another launch attempt on Jan. 6, 1986, was terminated at T-31 seconds because a problem in a valve in the liquid oxygen system could not be fixed before the end of the launch window. Other launch attempts were made on Jan. 7, scrubbed because of bad weather at contingency landing sites at Dakar, Senegal, and Moron, Spain; on Jan. 9, delayed because of a problem with a main engine prevalve; and on Jan. 10 because of heavy rain in the launch area.

    The launch finally took place at 6:55 a.m. EST, on Jan. 12 without further problems.

    The flight crew included Robert L. Gibson, commander; Charles F. Bolden, pilot; three mission specialists Franklin Chang-Diaz, Steven A. Hawley and George D. Nelson; and two payload specialists Robert Cenker RCA Astro-Electronics and U.S. Congressman Bill Nelson.

    The primary objective of the mission was to deploy the Ku-l communications satellite, second in a planned series of geosynchronous satellites owned and operated by RCA Americom. The deployment was successful and the satellite eventually became operational. The flight also carried a large number of small experiments, including 13 GAS canisters devoted to investigations involving the effect of microgravity on materials processing, seed germination, chemical reactions, egg hatching, astronomy and atmospheric physics. Other cargo included a Materials Science Laboratory-2 structure for experiments involving liquid bubble suspension by sound waves, melting and resolidification of metallic samples and containerless melting and solidification of electrically conductive specimens. Another small experiment carrier located in the payload bay was the Hitchiker G-l (HHG-l) with three experiments to l) study film particles in the orbiter environment, 2) test a new heat transfer system and 3) determine the effects of contamination and atomic oxygen on ultraviolet optics materials. There were also four in-cabin experiments, three of them part of the Shuttle Student Involvement Program.

    Finally, an experiment called the Comet Halley Active Monitoring Program (CHAMP), consisting of a 35mm camera to photograph Comet Halley through the aft flight deck overhead window, was not successful because of battery problems.

    Not only was the STS 61-C mission difficult to get off the ground, it proved to be difficult getting it back to Earth. A landing attempt on Jan. 16 was cancelled because of unfavorable weather at Edwards AFB. Continued bad weather forced another wave-off the following day, Jan. 17. The flight was extended one more day to provide for a landing opportunity at KSC on the Jan. 18th -- this in order to avoid time lost in an Edwards AFB landing and turnaround. However, bad weather at the KSC landing site resulted in still another wave-off.

    Columbia finally landed at Edwards AFB at 5:59 a.m. PST, on Jan. 18. Mission elapsed time was 6 days, 2 hours, 3 minutes, 51 seconds.

STS 51-L

    The 25th mission in the Space Shuttle program -- flown by the Challenger -- ended tragically with the loss of its seven crew members and destruction of the vehicle when it exploded shortly after launch.

    The launch -- the first from Pad B at KSC's Launch Complex 39 -- occurred at ll:38 a.m. EST, on Jan. 28, 1986. The flight had been scheduled six times earlier, but was delayed because of technical problems and bad weather.

    One minute, 13 seconds after liftoff, the vehicle exploded and was destroyed.

    All seven members of the crew were killed. They were Francis R. Scobee, commander; Michael J. Smith, pilot; three mission specialists: Judith A. Resnik, Ellison Onizuka and Ronald E. McNair; one payload specialist, Gregory Jarvis of Hughes Aircraft, and S. Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire teacher -- the first Space Shuttle passenger/observer participating in the NASA Teacher in Space Program. She had planned to teach planned lessons during live television transmissions.

    The primary cargo was the second Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). Also on board was another Spartan free-flying module which was to observe Halley's Comet.

Table of Contents

Information content from the NSTS Shuttle Reference Manual (1988)
Last Hypertexed Wednesday October 11 17:53:14 EDT 1995
Jim Dumoulin (

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