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Space

The Cape, Chapter 2, Section 9

TITAN and Shuttle Military Space Operations

Space Shuttle Military Missions

This chapter would not be complete without a summary of all the major military missions carried out aboard the Space Shuttle in the 1980s and early 90s. A short review of Shuttle payload processing procedures and range support responsibilities is pertinent to this discussion, but the Test Group's role in setting up military Shuttle operations in the 1970s and early 80s really needs to be mentioned first. As we noted earlier, the 6555th Aerospace Test Group established its Space Transportation System (STS) Division on 1 July 1974. The Division was created to ensure that Defense Department requirements were included in plans for future Shuttle operations at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). As two of its earliest accomplishments, the Division got NASA to agree to the Defense Department's requirement for vertical payload installations at the Shuttle launch pad and a secure conference area in the Firing Room of the Shuttle Launch Control Center (LCC). Under the direction of Lt. Colonel George L. Rosenhauer, the Division continued to serve as an intermediary between KSC and the Defense Department payload community. The Division not only gave the payload community a better understanding of schedule and contractual constraints affecting KSC ground operations, it also gathered a more detailed set of requirements from military payload programs to help NASA support those programs. The Division also helped the 6595th Space Test Group develop requirements for a Shuttle Launch Processing System at Vandenberg Air Force Base.78

On 8 June 1977, Lt. Colonel Warren G. Green (Chief, Space Launch Vehicle Systems Division) succeeded Lt. Colonel Rosenhauer as Chief of the STS Division. By that time, the Division was actively engaged in planning IUS ground support operations including IUS processing operations at the SMAB. In October 1977, three IUS officer positions were transferred from the Space Launch Vehicle Systems Division to the STS Division to help support the growing IUS workload. In December, the Division participated in the 90 Percent Design Review for the Payload Ground Handling Mechanism (PGHM). The PGHM would be used to support and install all payloads destined for vertical integration at the Shuttle's two launch pads. The Division also provided selection criteria and background information to help the Space and Missile Systems Organization select its Shuttle payload integration contractor. Martin Marietta was awarded the Shuttle payload integration contract on 15 September 1977.79

As preparations for military Shuttle operations continued, the STS Division identified and analyzed many problems associated with "factory-to-pad" processing of military payloads. The Division's findings helped justify the need for an off-line Shuttle Payload Integration Facility (SPIF), and they convinced the AFSC Commander to approve the SMAB's west bay as the site for the SPIF in January 1979. Pooling their expertise, the STS Division and the Space Launch Vehicle Systems Division conducted a comprehensive review of the SPIF's requirements in July 1979. As work on the SPIF got underway, the 6555th Aerospace Test Group formed the STS/IUS Site Activation Team in September 1981 to address problems associated with the first IUS processed aboard the Shuttle. The new team reinforced rather than diminished the STS Division's role in STS operations, and a new branch was added to the Division in August 1982 to take advantage of "lessons learned" from the first military payload processed aboard the Shuttle. The new branch provided officers to NASA's Space Vehicle Operations Directorate to help streamline military payload processing at the launch base. As we noted earlier, the STS Division and the Satellite Systems Division were consolidated to form the Spacecraft Division on 1 November 1983.80

The first military Shuttle mission was launched from Pad 39A at 1500Z on 27 June 1982. Military space missions also accounted for part or all of 14 out of 37 Shuttle flights launched from the Cape between August 1984 and July 1992. While many details of those missions are not releasable, some features of Shuttle payload ground processing operations and range support requirements can be summarized for what might be termed a "typical" military space mission. One process common to many military Shuttle missions was the preparation of the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS). Though the ultimate destination of the IUS was mission-specific, the IUS was processed in one of two basic assembly/checkout flows (i.e., one for military payloads and the other for NASA spacecraft). Before either process began, the Inertial Upper Stage's structural assemblies, avionics and flight batteries were received at hangars E and H and placed in various storage areas at the Cape. At the appropriate time, all vehicle elements were transferred to the SMAB, where they were assembled and checked out. Following power up checks and functional testing, the military IUS was cleaned and transferred to the SPIF. For civilian missions, IUSs entered a different assembly/checkout flow at this point in the process. They were sent directly to NASA's Vertical Processing Facility on Merritt Island.81

Following its arrival at the SPIF, the military IUS was placed in an integration cell. The IUS was mated to a military spacecraft at that time, and the IUS and spacecraft interfaces were checked to ensure everything matched up correctly. During the next major step in the process, the Orbiter Functional Simulator (OFS) was used to verify the upcoming mate with the Shuttle orbiter, and the Vertical Integration Building's Checkout Station (VIB/COS) controlled the IUS during that procedure. Once that step was completed, the spacecraft and IUS were placed in a NASA canister and moved from the SPIF to the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) at the launch pad on Merritt Island. The payload was attached to the Payload Ground Handling Mechanism, the active Safe and Arm mechanism was installed (but not connected electrically), and ordnance circuits were completed on the destruct mechanism. After those tasks were completed, the payload was placed in the orbiter for IUS and payload/orbiter launch readiness testing. Following the launch readiness tests, the Safe and Arm mechanism got its electrical connections, and the safing pins on the destruct mechanism were removed. Final IUS preparations were accomplished just before the Shuttle's terminal countdown sequence. The VIB/COS continued to monitor the IUS' functions at the launch pad through Shuttle lift-off.82

The Defense Department's range support for Shuttle flights was extensive, and it applied to civilian as well as military missions. The 45th Weather Squadron provided around-the-clock weather forecasts as the launch drew near. Missile Flight Control (45 SPW/SEO) provided the officers responsible for the moment-to-moment safety of the Shuttle's flight from lift-off to orbit. The Eastern Range acted as "lead range" for Shuttle missions, and it provided the lion's share of instrumentation coverage for the Shuttle during the critical boost phase of the mission. Worldwide instrumentation coverage was also provided by the Kwajalein Missile Range, the Western Range, the Pacific Missile Test Center, the Air Force Flight Test Center and the White Sands Missile Range. The DOD Manager for Space Transportation System Contingency Operations maintained a support office (DDMS) at Patrick Air Force Base to serve as a single point of contact for all Shuttle contingency support operations. During Shuttle missions, DDMS staffed a Support Operations Center (SOC) at the Cape to maintain contact with contingency support forces worldwide. Military rescue forces were stationed at Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) sites in Africa and Spain. Shuttle contingency forces at Patrick placed three military HH-3E helicopters (complete with aircrews, medical personnel and pararescue specialists) on alert at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at KSC for every Shuttle mission. Forces from the Air Force Reserve, the National Guard, U.S. European Command, U.S. Air Forces Europe, the Coast Guard and the Navy were positioned to support an astronaut bailout during the launch phase of each Shuttle mission. More rescue forces stood ready at White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico to help with launch or landing emergencies. Put simply, Shuttle operations would have been impossible without the Defense Department's multi-faceted support.83

Figure 90: Shuttle Pads on Merritt Island
1985

All Shuttle missions had basic flight events in common. At lift-off, the orbiter's three main engines fired in concert with two solid rocket boosters to produce approximately 6,500,000 pounds of thrust at lift-off. The vehicle rolled over into its flight trajectory shortly after lift-off, and it retained its launch configuration until the solid rocket boosters separated approximately two minutes into the flight. At about T plus 520 seconds, the orbiter's main engines shut down, and the Shuttle separated from its external tank. The Shuttle crew prepared for orbital insertion, and the vehicle's Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) fired two engines to accelerate the Shuttle into an initial, elliptical orbit. Once the OMS engines circularized the Shuttle's orbit, the orbiter's Reaction Control System (RCS) maintained it. The RCS thrusters also allowed the Shuttle to maneuver in all directions while it orbited Earth.84

Once on-orbit operations were completed, the crew prepared the Shuttle for reentry and landing. The RCS was used to turn the orbiter around and upside down. In that attitude, the OMS engines were fired to slow the vehicle and permit its safe reentry into Earth's atmosphere. Once the Shuttle's velocity was diminished sufficiently, the RCS was fired again to turn the vehicle around and put it in the typical "nose-up" position for reentry. As the Shuttle reentered the atmosphere, a communications blackout was produced by surface friction and heat ionization. The blackout lasted for about two minutes. Landing occurred about half an hour later at one of the runways at Edwards Air Force Base or the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC.85

With this background in mind, we are ready for a brief review of the Shuttle program's military space operations. While details concerning the nature of the first Shuttle/DOD payload remain classified, we may note that it arrived at the Cape in April 1982. It was processed by an Air Force/NASA/contractor team, and it was loaded aboard the Shuttle Columbia as the vehicle stood on Pad 39A. Following an 87-hour countdown, Columbia lifted off at 1500:00Z on 27 June 1982. Navy Captain Thomas K. Mattingly, II and Air Force Colonel Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr. conducted the military mission in addition to several civilian experiments while "on-orbit," and the long-term effects of temperature changes on Shuttle subsystems were studied along with a survey of orbiter-induced contamination in the Shuttle's payload bay. Columbia made a hard runway landing at Edwards Air Force Base at 1609:00Z on 4 July 1982.86

The first of five operational SYNCOM IV military communications satellites was launched on Discovery's maiden flight on 30 August 1984. The flight supported a mixed DOD/civilian mission, and Discovery's on-orbit agenda included the deployment of two civilian satellites (e.g., AT&T's TELSTAR 3-C and Satellite Business Systems' SBS-D) and a solar array experiment (OAST-1). Colonel Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr. commanded Discovery on the mission, and Navy Commander Michael L. Coats piloted the orbiter. Lt. Colonel Richard M. Mullane, Dr. Judith A. Resnick and Dr. Steven A. Hawley served as mission specialists. Mr. Charles D. Walker was the payload specialist. The launch from Pad 39A had been scrubbed on 25 June 1984 due to a Shuttle computer malfunction, and computer software problems pushed the rescheduled lift-off from August 29th to August 30th. The countdown on August 30th included one unscheduled hold for an unidentified aircraft that intruded into the launch area, but Discovery's lift-off at 1241:50Z was untroubled. All three satellites were deployed successfully during the flight, and Discovery landed on Runway 17 at Edwards Air Force Base at 1338:00Z on 5 September 1984.87

Mission 51-A was Discovery's second voyage into space, and it featured a military spacecraft among its payloads. The primary objectives of the mission were to: 1) deploy the second operational SYNCOM IV satellite and TELESAT CANADA's ANIK D2 commercial communications satellite, 2) retrieve two commercial satellites (e.g., PALAPA B2 and WESTAR VI) from useless orbits and 3) conduct a variety of biological experiments. Navy Captain Frederick H. Hauck commanded Discovery on the mission, and Navy Commander David M. Walker piloted the orbiter. The mission specialists were Dr. Joseph P. Allen, Dr. Anna L. Fisher and Navy Commander Dale A. Gardner. The lift-off was scheduled for 7 November 1984, but upper level wind shear delayed the launch until November 8th. Discovery was launched from Pad 39A at 1215:00Z on 8 November 1984. The ANIK D2 satellite was deployed successfully at 2104Z on November 9th, and the military payload-SYNCOM IV-was deployed successfully at 1256Z on November 10th. The rendezvous and satellite capture sequences were completed successfully over the next four days in space, and Discovery landed at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility at 1200:01Z on 16 November 1984.88

Though the first all-military Shuttle mission was originally scheduled for launch on 8 December 1984, it did not lift off until 24 January 1985. Captain Thomas K. Mattingly, II was selected to command Discovery on the highly classified mission. The orbiter was piloted by Air Force Colonel Loren J. Shriver, and the mission specialists were Air Force Major Ellison S. Onizuka and Marine Corps Lt. Colonel James F. Buchli. Air Force Major Gary E. Payton served as payload specialist. The launch was delayed on January 23rd due to weather, and cold weather held up cryogenic fueling operations for two hours on the 24th. Those delays aside, the last four hours of the countdown proceeded smoothly, and Discovery lifted off Pad 39A at 1950:00Z on 24 January 1985. Details of the mission are not releasable. Discovery landed at KSC at 2123:24Z on 27 January 1985.89

Figure 91: SYNCOM IV Satellite
Figure 92: DISCOVERY lift-off, Pad 39A
30 August 1984
Figure 93: DISCOVERY lifts off Pad 39A on the first all-military Shuttle mission
24 January 1985

The third SYNCOM IV spacecraft was deployed along with TELESAT CANADA's ANIK-C satellite during Discovery's mission in mid-April 1985. Air Force Colonel Karol J. Bobko served as Shuttle commander for the mission, and Navy Captain Donald E. Williams piloted the orbiter. The mission specialists were Dr. M. Rhea Seddon, Mr. S. David Griggs and Dr. Jeffrey A. Hoffman. The payload specialists were Mr. Charles D. Walker and Senator E. Jake Garn. There were two unscheduled holds during the countdown on April 12th, but the terminal count was uneventful, and Discovery lifted off Pad 39A at 1359:05Z on 12 April 1985. Discovery's crew deployed the ANIK-C satellite successfully on the first day of the mission, and the SYNCOM IV was deployed on Day 2. Unfortunately, the SYNCOM IV's perigee kick motor failed to fire, and two more days were added to the mission to allow a rendezvous and an improvised restart of the spacecraft. Two "flyswatter" devices were attached to the Shuttle's Remote Manipulating System (RMS) to allow the crew to depress the SYNCOM IV's timer switch. Despite a successful rendezvous and a switch reset on Day 6, the attempt failed. The SYNCOM IV spacecraft was left in orbit to be retrieved and redeployed in early September 1985. Discovery landed at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility at 1355:37Z on 19 April 1985.90

Discovery's sixth trip into space was launched in late August 1985. It was designed to: 1) deploy three communications satellites and 2) retrieve, repair and redeploy the SYNCOM IV communications satellite that had been stranded in a useless orbit since mid-April 1985. Air Force Colonel Joe H. Engle commanded Discovery on the mission, and Air Force Colonel Richard O. Covey piloted the orbiter. The mission specialists were Dr. James D. Van Hoften, Mr. John M. Lounge and Dr. William F. Fisher. One of the three satellites launched onboard Discovery in August was the fourth operational SYNCOM IV spacecraft. The other two spacecraft were Australia's AUSSAT-1, and the American Satellite Company's ASC-1. The mission was scrubbed for foul weather on August 24th, and another launch scrub was caused by a faulty backup flight system computer on August 25th. The countdown was started again at 0205Z on August 27th, and it proceeded smoothly except for a three-minute extension in a built-in hold to clear traffic in a solid rocket booster retrieval area. Discovery lifted off Pad 39A at 1058:01Z on 27 August 1985. The AUSSAT-1 spacecraft was ejected from the orbiter's cargo bay at 1733Z on the 27th, and the satellite's deployment and perigee kick motor burns were both successful. The ASC-1 deployment and boost were also successful on Day 1 of the mission. The SYNCOM IV-4 deployment went extremely well on Day 3, and Discovery's crew prepared for their rendezvous with the wayward SYNCOM IV-3 spacecraft on Day 5. The spacecraft was retrieved by Van Hoften and Fisher, and they completed their repairs on the satellite on Day 6 of the mission. SYNCOM IV-3 was redeployed at 1512Z on 1 September 1985. Unlike its earlier performance in April, the spacecraft began sending good telemetry data to ground stations shortly thereafter. Discovery landed on Edwards' Runway 23 at 1315Z on 3 September 1985.91

The Shuttle Atlantis' maiden flight was completed in early October 1985, and it was dedicated to a highly classified military mission. Colonel Karol Bobko commanded Atlantis on the flight, and Air Force Lt. Colonel Ronald J. Grabe piloted the orbiter. The mission specialists were Army Colonel Robert L. Stewart and Marine Corps Major David C. Hilmers. Air Force Major William A. Pailes served as payload specialist. Details of the mission remain classified, but we may confirm that Atlantis was launched from Pad 39A at 1515:30Z on 3 October 1985. Atlantis landed on Edwards' Runway 23 at 1700Z on October 7th.92

The Shuttle's next military mission was put on hold after the Challenger disaster, but it was carried out by Atlantis between 2 and 7 December 1988. The mission was highly classified, so most details are not releasable. The mission was commanded by Navy Commander Robert L. Gibson, and the orbiter was piloted by Air Force Colonel Guy S. Gardner. The mission specialists were Air Force Colonel Richard M. Mullane, Air Force Lt. Colonel Jerry L. Ross and Navy Commander William M. Shepherd. Though the countdown was picked up at 0230Z on December 1st, upper level wind shear effects delayed the launch until December 2nd. The countdown was picked up again on December 2nd, but a problem with a ground feed liquid oxygen valve required a 50-minute unscheduled hold at T minus 180 minutes. Wind shear problems forced another delay at T minus nine minutes for an additional 99 minutes, but the final unscheduled hold (at T minus 31 seconds) only lasted 71 seconds. Atlantis lifted off Pad 39B at 1430:34Z on December 2nd. The Shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force Base at 2336:11Z on 6 December 1988.93

Figure 94: ATLANTIS lifts off Pad 39A on her maiden flight
3 October 1985

After a military furlough of seven years, Columbia was pressed into service to support her second military space mission in August 1989. Once again, the mission was highly classified, so only a few details are releasable. Air Force Colonel Brewster H. Shaw, Jr. commanded Columbia on this all-military mission. Navy Commander Richard N. Richards served as the pilot, and the mission specialists were Navy Commander David C. Leetsma, Army Lt. Colonel James C. Adamson and Air Force Major Mark N. Brown. The countdown got underway on 8 August 1989. A user data link problem delayed the countdown for approximately 70 minutes during a built-in hold, but the count proceeded normally after that incident. Columbia lifted off Pad 39B at 1237:00 on 8 August 1989. In addition to deploying their military payload successfully, Columbia's crew conducted several on-orbit experiments during the five-day mission. The Shuttle landed on Edwards' Runway 22 at 1337Z on 13 August 1989.94

Air Force Colonel Frederick D. Gregory commanded Discovery on her second all-military Shuttle mission in late November 1989. Air Force Colonel John E. Blaha was the pilot, and the mission specialists were Dr. F. Story Musgrave, Dr. Kathryn C. Thornton and Navy Captain Sonny Carter. The countdown on November 23rd proceeded uneventfully until T minus five minutes, when a three-minute and thirty-second hold was called to let the user complete checklist items. The countdown resumed, and Discovery lifted off Pad 39B at 0023:30Z on 23 November 1989. Though Discovery's landing was delayed until November 27th due to high winds over Edwards Air Force Base, the Shuttle made a successful landing on Runway 4 at 0030Z on 28 November 1989. Defense forces were released to their local commanders about 30 minutes later, and Discovery was ferried back to KSC via Eglin Air Force Base, Florida on 3 and 4 December 1989.95

Columbia's ninth space mission was a mixed military/civilian operation. It was commanded by Navy Captain Daniel C. Brandenstein and piloted by Navy Commander James D. Weatherbee. The mission specialists were Ms. Marsha S. Ivins, Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar and Dr. G. David Low. The mission had three main objectives: 1) deploy the fifth SYNCOM IV military satellite, 2) retrieve the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) deployed by the Shuttle Challenger in early April 1984, and 3) conduct a variety of experiments in the Shuttle's middeck area. A launch attempt on 8 January 1990 was scrubbed due to weather, but the countdown on January 9th proceeded smoothly, and Columbia was launched from Complex 39A at 1235:00Z on 9 January 1990. The SYNCOM IV-5 spacecraft was deployed successfully at 1318Z on January 10th, and Columbia rendezvoused with the LDEF on January 12th. All middeck experiments were underway by the end of Day 2 of the mission. Though the Shuttle's landing was delayed a day for weather, Columbia landed safely on Edwards' Runway 22 at 0935:38Z on 20 January 1990. Defense support forces were released to normal operational control about an hour later, and Columbia was ferried back to KSC (with an overnight stay at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas) on 25 and 26 January 1990.96

Under the command of Navy Captain John O. Creighton, Atlantis lifted off Pad 39A on another all-military Shuttle mission at 0750:22Z on 28 February 1990. The pilot for the flight was Air Force Colonel John H. Casper, and the mission specialists were Marine Corps Lt. Colonel David C. Hilmers, Colonel Richard M. Mullane, and Navy Commander Pierre J. Thout. Though details of the mission remain classified, the flight was successful. Atlantis landed on Edwards' Runway 23 at 1808:44Z on 4 March 1990. The Shuttle was ferried back to KSC on 10 and 11 March 1990.97

Colonel Richard O. Covey commanded Atlantis on another all-military Shuttle mission in November 1990. The pilot for that mission was Navy Commander Frank L. Culbertson, Jr., and the mission specialists were Marine Corps Colonel Robert C. Springer, Air Force Lt. Colonel Carl J. Meade and Army Captain Charles D. Gemar. The launch was originally planned for the summer of 1990, but it was delayed after hydrogen leaks were found in the Atlantis and Columbia orbiters. (Atlantis was rolled back to the VAB for repair toward the end of July 1990.) A new mission execution order (90-7) was implemented on 21 October 1990, and it announced a tentative launch date of 10 November 1990. The countdown was picked up on November 15th at 1340Z, and it proceeded smoothly to a built-in hold at T minus 9 minutes. That hold was extended two minutes and 34 seconds to allow the user to catch up on checklist items, and the countdown proceeded to lift-off at 2348:15Z on 15 November 1990. The mission was highly classified, so on-orbit details are not releasable. Atlantis' crew planned to land at Edwards Air Force Base on November 19th, but strong winds delayed the landing and forced NASA to divert the orbiter to KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility instead. Atlantis landed on KSC Runway 33 at 2142:43Z on 20 November 1990.98

Discovery supported a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) mission in the spring of 1991. Navy Captain Michael L. Coats commanded the mission, and Lt. Colonel L. Blaine Hammond, Jr. piloted the orbiter. The mission specialists were Mr. Gregory J. Harbaugh, Air Force Colonel Guion S. Bluford, Jr., Air Force Lt. Colonel Donald R. McMonagle, Charles L. Veach and Mr. Richard J. Hieb. The first mission execution order (91-1) was implemented on 13 February 1991, but the intended launch date of 9 March 1991 was abandoned after cracks were found on the hinges of the external tank's umbilical doors in late February 1991. A new mission execution order went into effect on April 1st, and the launch was carried out under that order. The countdown on 28 April 1991 was delayed at T minus 9 minutes for approximately half an hour to correct a flight recorder problem, but Atlantis lifted off Pad 39A safely at 1133:14Z on the 28th.99

Discovery's SDI mission featured two deployable payloads, three orbiter bay payloads and two middeck experiments. The Infrared Background Signature Survey (IBSS) was onboard to help define SDI systems and gather infrared data on Shuttle exhaust plumes, Earthlimb and aurora phenomena, chemical/gas releases and celestial infrared sources. It consisted of two deployable hardware elements (e.g., the Shuttle Pallet Satellite II and a collection of three Chemical Release Observation sub-satellites) and a non-deployable Critical Ionization Velocity element. The Air Force Program 675 payload was included on the mission to gather infrared, ultraviolet and x-ray data on auroral, Earthlimb and celestial sources. It consisted of five experiments mounted on a pallet in the Shuttle payload bay. The Space Test Payload-1 (STP-1) was a secondary payload consisting of five experiments designed to gather data on: 1) fluid management in weightless conditions, 2) MILVAX computer and erasable optical disk performance in weightless conditions, 3) atomic oxygen glow effects, 4) free particles present in the Shuttle payload bay during flight ascent and 5) the upper atmosphere's composition. The Cloud Logic to Optimize Use of Defense Systems (CLOUDS) experiment used a 36-exposure camera to photograph clouds and correlate cloud characteristics with their impact on the efficiency of military surveillance systems. The hand-held Radiation Monitoring Equipment III (RME III) sensor was included on the mission in one of a continuing series of experiments to collect data on gamma radiation aboard the Shuttle.100

With Discovery safely in low-Earth orbit, the crew set about completing the mission. The SPAS II was deployed at 0928Z on 1 May 1991. Though problems with the onboard sun sensor forced cancellation of the first exhaust plume observation, other observations went well later in the day. NASA was reportedly "very pleased" with the results. The AFP-675 payload's experiments went well, and 31 of 33 individual experiments were completed by the time the Shuttle's Remote Manipulating System retrieved the SPAS II at 1445Z on May 3rd. Following another day of Earth observations, the SPAS II was returned to the payload bay and stowed. Discovery's deorbit burn occurred around 1750Z on May 6th, and the Shuttle landed at KSC's Runway 15 at 1855Z on the same day.101

The last military Shuttle mission before July 1992 was flown by Atlantis. It was commanded by Colonel Frederick D. Gregory and piloted by Air Force Colonel Terence T. Henricks. The mission specialists were Dr. F. Story Musgrave, Navy Lt. Commander Mario Runco, Jr. and Army Lt. Colonel James S. Voss. Mr. Thomas J. Hennen served as the payload specialist. The mission execution order (91-7) was implemented on 11 October 1991, but the scheduled launch was delayed for five days in mid-November due to a problem with the payload's IUS. A handful of optics, communications and weather instrumentation problems also cropped up during the countdown on November 24th, and the Range Safety Display System required a reload approximately half an hour before launch. Despite those problems, Atlantis' lift-off from Pad 39A went smoothly at 2344:00Z on 24 November 1991. The primary objective of the mission was to deploy a Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite approximately 6 hours and 18 minutes into the flight. The crew deployed the DSP spacecraft as scheduled at 0603Z on November 25th, but the mission was terminated three days early due to an Inertial Measurement Unit failure aboard the Shuttle. Though a landing at KSC was scheduled, Atlantis was ultimately diverted to Edwards Air Force Base for her landing. Following completion of the deorbit burn at 2131Z, Atlantis touched down on Runway 05 at 2234:42Z on 1 December 1991. The Shuttle was ferried back to KSC on 7 and 8 December 1991.102

Figure 95: Latest Generation Defense Support Program Satellite
1991

The Defense Department continued to support heavy military space operations at the Cape in the 1990s, but some of its most remarkable military payloads were boosted into space by light or medium launch vehicles. The first light/medium military space operations were conducted at the Cape before the end of 1959. In the decades that followed, some vehicles were launched under purely Air Force/contractor auspices. Others were contracted through NASA. In the next chapter, we will look at medium and light military space operations and the programs they supported after 1970. In the final chapter, we will review studies and proposals for future launch vehicles and facilities to support a whole new generation of military space operations at the Cape.103


The Cape: Miltary Space Operations 1971-1992
by Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian
45 Space Wing Office of History
1201 Minuteman Ave, Patrick AFB, FL 32925



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