Atlantis launches on STS-38
|Mission type||Satellite deployment|
|Mission duration||4 days, 21 hours, 54 minutes, 31 seconds|
|Distance travelled||3,291,199 kilometres (2,045,056 mi)|
|Spacecraft||Space Shuttle Atlantis|
|Members||Richard O. Covey
Frank L. Culbertson, Jr.
Carl J. Meade
Robert C. Springer
Charles D. Gemar
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||15 November 1990, 23:48:13UTC|
|Launch site||Kennedy LC-39A|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||20 November 1990, 21:42:42UTC|
|Landing site||Kennedy SLF Runway 33|
|Perigee||260 kilometres (160 mi)|
|Apogee||269 kilometres (167 mi)|
|Epoch||17 November 1990|
STS-38 was a space shuttle mission by NASA using the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It was the 37th shuttle mission, and carried a classified payload for the U.S. Department of Defense. It was the 7th flight for Atlantis and the 7th flight dedicated to the Department of Defense. The mission was a 4-day mission that traveled more than 2 million miles and completed 79 revolutions. Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility's runway 33. The launch was originally scheduled for July 1990, but was rescheduled due to a hydrogen leak found on Space Shuttle Columbia during the STS-35 countdown. During a rollback to the Orbiter Processing Facility Atlantis was damaged during a hail storm. The eventual launch date of 15 November 1990 was set due to a payload problem. The launch window was between 18:30 and 22:30 EST. The launch occurred at 18:48 EST.
|Commander||Richard O. Covey
|Pilot||Frank L. Culbertson, Jr.
|Mission Specialist 1||Carl J. Meade
|Mission Specialist 2||Robert C. Springer
Second and last spaceflight
|Mission Specialist 3||Charles D. Gemar
Preparations and Launch
Launch occurred 15 November 1990, 18:48:13 EST. Launch was originally scheduled for July 1990. However, a liquid hydrogen leak found on orbiter Columbia during STS-35 countdown prompted three precautionary tanking tests on Atlantis at pad 29 June, 13 July and 25 July 1990. Tests confirmed the hydrogen fuel leak on the external tank side of the external tank/orbiter 432 millimetres (17.0 in) quick disconnect umbilical. This could not be repaired at the pad and Atlantis rolled back to the VAB on 9 August 1990, was demated, then transferred to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). During rollback, the vehicle remained parked outside the VAB for about a day while the Columbia/STS-35 stack was transferred to the pad for launch. While outside, Atlantis suffered minor hail damage to its tiles during a thunderstorm. After repairs were made in the OPF, Atlantis was transferred to the VAB for mating on 2 October 1990. During hoisting operations, the platform beam that should have been removed from aft compartment fell and caused minor damage, which was repaired. The vehicle rolled out to Pad A on 12 October 1990. The fourth mini-tanking test was performed on 24 October 1990, with no excessive hydrogen or oxygen leakage detected. During the Flight Readiness Review, the launch date was set for 9 November 1990. Launch was reset for 15 November 1990 due to payload problems. Liftoff occurred during classified launch window lying within a launch period extending from 18:30 to 22:30 EST, 15 November 1990.
During STS-38, Atlantis deployed USA-67. According to Aviation Week, this was a secret Magnum ELINT (ELectronic INTtelligence) gathering satellite headed for geosynchronous orbit like those launched by STS-51-C and STS-33, launched to monitor the events during the first Gulf War in 1990. Also according to Aviation Week, the shuttle initially entered a 204 kilometres (127 mi) x 519 kilometres (322 mi) orbit at an inclination of 28.45° to the equator. It then executed three OMS (orbital maneuvering system) burns, the last on orbit #4. The first of these circularized the orbit at 519 kilometres (322 mi). Later observers have speculated that USA-67 was instead a secret SDS-2 military communications satellite, like those deployed on STS-28 and STS-53. A publicly released image of the vertical stabilizer and upper aft bulkhead, similar to the one released from STS-53, confirms that the ASE (Airborne Support Equipment) for the IUS was absent from this flight. The satellite was deployed on the 7th orbit and then ignited its rocket motor at the ascending node of the 8th orbit, to place it in a geo-synchronous transfer orbit. Rumours that now appear to have been substantiated by the identification of an "unknown" geostationary satellite by amateur observers  insist that a second secret payload was deployed: Prowler. Prowler is reportedly a stealth satellite intended to covertly inspect other nation's geostationary satellites. Landing occurred 20 November 1990, 16:42:42 EST, Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, FL. Rollout distance: 2,753 metres (9,032 ft). Rollout time: 57 seconds. Mission extended one day due to unacceptable crosswinds at original planned landing site, Edwards. Continued adverse conditions led to decision to shift landing to KSC. First KSC landing for Atlantis, first end-of-mission landing at KSC since April 1985. Landing Weight: 191,091 pounds (86,677 kg).
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- McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- NASA Space Data Center: NSSDC ID: 1990-097B USA-67 ELINT Program
- Satobs.org: USA-67 observations
- FAS.org: GEO SIGINT Satellite
- "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth". Eol.jsc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- Ted Molczan, satobs.org: Unknown GEO Object 2000-653A / 90007 Identified as Prowler
- Ted Molczan, satobs.org: Evaluation of the opportunity to launch Prowler on STS-38
- Robert Windrem, NBC News: What is America's top-secret spy program?