STS-51-J (29832422012).jpg
Maiden launch of Atlantis; in-flight photography on this Department of Defense mission is limited
Mission typeSatellite deployment
OperatorNASA, Department of Defense
COSPAR ID1985-092A
SATCAT no.16115
Mission duration4 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes, 38 seconds
Distance travelled2,707,948 kilometres (1,682,641 mi)
Orbits completed64
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftSpace Shuttle Atlantis
Landing mass86,400 kilograms (190,400 lb)
Payload mass19,968 kilograms (44,022 lb)
Crew size5
Start of mission
Launch date3 October 1985, 15:15:30 (1985-10-03UTC15:15:30Z) UTC
Launch siteKennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Landing date7 October 1985, 17:00:08 (1985-10-07UTC17:00:09Z) UTC
Landing siteEdwards Runway 23
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude475 kilometres (295 mi)
Apogee altitude484 kilometres (301 mi)
Inclination28.5 degrees
Period94.2 min
Sts-51-j-patch.png STS-51-J crew.jpg
L-R: Stewart, Hilmers, Bobko, Pailes, Grabe 

STS-51-J (formerly STS-28) was the 21st NASA Space Shuttle mission and the first flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis. It launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 3 October 1985, carrying a payload for the U.S. Department of Defense, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 7 October.


Position Astronaut
Commander Karol J. Bobko
Third and last spaceflight
Pilot Ronald J. Grabe
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 David C. Hilmers
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 Robert L. Stewart
Second and last spaceflight
Payload Specialist 1 William A. Pailes, MSE
Only spaceflight

Backup crew

Position Astronaut
Payload Specialist 1 Michael W. Booen, MSE
First spaceflight

Crew notes

All five astronauts on the secret mission were active-duty military officers.[1]

Before William Pailes was assigned to the STS-51-J flight, Richard M. Mullane was rumored to have been assigned as Mission Specialist 3 on his second trip to space.

Mission summary

STS-51-J launched on 3 October 1985, at 11:15 EDT, from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch was delayed by 22 minutes and 30 seconds due to a problem with a main engine liquid hydrogen prevalve close remote power controller; the controller was showing a faulty "on" indication.

The mission was the second shuttle flight totally dedicated to deploying a Department of Defense payload,[1] after STS-51-C. Its cargo was classified, but it was reported that two (USA-11 and USA-12) DSCS-III (Defense Satellite Communications System) satellites were launched into stationary orbits by an Inertial Upper Stage. The DSCS satellites used X-band frequencies (8/7 GHz). Each DSCS-III satellite had a design life of ten years, although several of the DSCS satellites have far exceeded their design life expectancy.

The mission was deemed successful. After a flight lasting 4 days, 1 hour and 45 minutes, Atlantis landed on Runway 23 at Edwards Air Force Base at 13:00 EDT on 7 October 1985. During STS-51-J, mission commander Karol Bobko became the first astronaut to fly on three different shuttle orbiters, and the only astronaut to fly on the maiden voyages of two different orbiters.

Attempt Planned Result Turnaround Reason Decision point Weather go (%) Notes
1 3 Oct 1985, 2:53:00 pm delayed technical faulty indication from main engine liquid hydrogen prevalve close remote power controller
2 3 Oct 1985, 3:15:30 pm success 0 days, 0 hours, 23 minutes

Mission Insignia

The 51-J mission insignia, designed by Atlantis's first crew, pays tribute to the Statue of Liberty and the ideas it symbolizes, but also as not to emphasize the 'classified' nature of the mission like the first one did. The historical gateway figure bears additional significance for Astronauts Karol J. Bobko, mission commander; and Ronald J. Grabe, pilot, both New York Natives.


See also


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ a b Blakeslee, Sandra; Times, Special To the New York (8 October 1985). "ASTRONAUTS RETURN FROM SECRET [sic]". The New York Times. p. C3. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  • Day, Dwayne (2010). "A lighter shade of black: the (non) mystery of STS-51J". The Space Review. Retrieved 4 January 2010.

External links

  • NASA mission summary