|Launch:||April 28, 1991,7:33:14 a.m. EDT.|
|Landing:||May 6, 1991, 2:55:35 p.m. EDT, Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, Fla.|
|Duration:||8 d 7 h 22 min 23 s|
|Orbit altitude:||140 nautical miles (259 km)|
|Orbit inclination:||57.0 degrees|
|Distance traveled:||3,470,000 miles (5,584,423 km)|
- L. Blaine Hammond, Jr. (flew on STS-39 & STS-64), Pilot
- Guion S. Bluford, Jr. (flew on STS-8, STS-61-A, STS-39 & STS-53), Mission Specialist 1
- Gregory J. Harbaugh (flew on STS-39, STS-54, STS-71 & STS-82), Mission Specialist 2
- Richard J. Hieb (flew on STS-39, STS-49 & STS-65), Mission Specialist 3
- Donald R. McMonagle (flew on STS-39, STS-54 & STS-66), Mission Specialist 4
- Charles L. Veach (flew on STS-39 & STS-52), Mission Specialist 5
- Orbiter landing with payload: 95,846 kg
- Payload: 5,663 kg
- Perigee: 248 km
- Apogee: 263 km
- Inclination: 57.0°
- Period: 89.6 min
April 28, 1991, 7:33:14 a.m. EDT. Launch originally scheduled for March 9, but during processing work at Pad A, significant cracks found on all four lug hinges on the two external tank umbilical door drive mechanisms. NASA managers opted to roll back the vehicle to the VAB on March 7, and then to OPF for repair. Hinges replaced with units taken from orbiter Columbia, and reinforced. Discovery returned to pad on April 1, launch re-set for April 23. Mission again postponed when, during prelaunch external tank loading, a transducer on high-pressure oxidizer turbopump for main engine number three showed readings out of specification. Transducer and its cable harness were replaced and tested. Launch was rescheduled for April 28. Launch weight: 247,373 lb (112,207 kg).
Dedicated Department of Defense mission. Unclassified payload included Air Force Program-675 (AFP675); Infrared Background Signature Survey (IBSS) with Critical Ionization Velocity (CIV), Chemical Release Observation (CRO) and Shuttle Pallet Satellite-II (SPAS-II) experiments; and Space Test Payload-1 (STP-1). Classified payload consisted of Multi-Purpose Release Canister (MPEC). Also on board was Radiation Monitoring Equip- ment III (RME III) and Cloud Logic to Optimize Use of Defense Systems-IA (CLOUDS-I).
STS-39 was the first unclassified Department of Defense (DoD)-dedicated Space Shuttle mission. There had previously been seven Shuttle missions dedicated to the DoD, but those were considered classified and information about the operation or success of the payloads or experiments was not released. For STS-39, only the payload in the Multi-Purpose Experiment Canister (MPEC) was listed as classified.
The crew was divided into two teams for around-the-clock operations. Among other activities, the crew made observations of the atmosphere and gas releases, Discovery's orbital environment, and firings of the orbiter's engines, in wavelengths ranging from infrared to far ultraviolet. As part of the sophisticated experiments, five spacecraft or satellites were deployed from the payload bay, and one was retrieved later during the mission.
Carried in the orbiter's cargo bay were: Air Force Program-675 (AFP-675); Infrared Background Signature Survey (IBSS); Space Test Program-01 (STP-01); and the MPEC. Inside the crew cabin were the Cloud Logic to Optimize the Use of Defense Systems-1A (CLOUDS 1-A) experiment and the Radiation Monitoring Equipment-III (RME-III).
The Remote Manipulator System arm in the payload bay was used to deploy the Shuttle Pallet Satellite-II (SPAS-II) on which the IBSS was mounted. Among other observations, the SPAS-II/IBSS watched Discovery as it performed some aerial maneuvers including the "Malarkey Milkshake." The deployment of IBSS was delayed a day, until Flight Day Four, to give priority to the completion of the CIRRIS (Cryogenic Infrared Radiance Instrumentation for Shuttle) experiment which was depleting its liquid helium coolant supply faster than expected while making observations of auroral and airglow emissions.
As usual, crew members faced some unexpected challenges during the mission. After working only about four hours, two tape recorders could not be reactivated. The tape recorders were designed to record observations made by three instruments on AFP-675. In a complicated two-hour bypass repair operation, the astronauts had to route wires and attach a splice wire to a Ku-band antenna system so the data could be sent directly to a ground station.
The high orbital inclination of the mission, 57 degrees with respect to the equator, allowed the crew to fly over most of Earth's large land masses and observe and record environmental resources and problem areas.
May 6, 1991, 2:55:35 p.m. EDT, Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, FL. Rollout distance: 9,235 ft, rollout time: 56 s. Landing diverted to KSC because of unacceptably high winds at planned landing site, Edwards. Landing weight: 211,512 lb (95,940 kg).
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