Template:Infobox spaceflight 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.


Position Astronaut
Commander Richard O. Covey
Third spaceflight
Pilot Frank L. Culbertson, Jr.
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 Carl J. Meade
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 Robert C. Springer
Second spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 Charles D. Gemar
First spaceflight

Crew seating arrangementsEdit

Seat[1] Launch Landing STS-121 seating assignments
Seats 1–4 are on the Flight Deck. Seats 5–7 are on the Middeck.
S1 Covey Covey
S2 Culbertson Culbertson
S3 Meade Gemar
S4 Springer Springer
S5 Gemar Meade

Preparations and launchEdit

1990 s35-s38 Passing in the Night

Atlantis and Columbia pass.

STS038-84-23 Atlantis

Atlantis in orbit.

ISD highres STS038 STS038-76-68

Sunlight on the ocean.

The launch occurred on 15 November 1990, 18:48:13 EST. It was originally scheduled for July 1990, however, a liquid hydrogen leak found on Columbia during the STS-35 countdown prompted three precautionary tanking tests on Atlantis at the pad on 29, 13 June July – 25 July 1990. Tests confirmed the hydrogen fuel leak on the external tank side of the external tank/orbiter 432 millimetres (Template:Convert/round in) quick disconnect umbilical. This could not be repaired at the pad and Atlantis was rolled back to the VAB on 9 August, 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. During hoisting operations, the platform beam that was to have been removed from the orbiter's 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, with no excessive hydrogen or oxygen leakage detected. During the Flight Readiness Review, the launch date was set for 9 November 1990. The launch was reset for 15 November due to payload problems. Liftoff occurred during a classified launch window lying within a launch period extending from 18:30 to 22:30 EST on 15 November.

Classified payloadEdit

During STS-38, Atlantis deployed USA-67.[2] 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 (Template:Convert/round mi) x 519 kilometres (Template:Convert/round 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 (Template:Convert/round 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.[3][4] 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.[5] 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.

Rumors that now appear to have been substantiated by the identification of an "unknown" geostationary satellite by amateur observers, SDS-2.[6][7] insist that a second secret payload was deployed known as Prowler, reportedly a stealth satellite intended to covertly inspect other nation's geostationary satellites.[8]


The mission was extended by one day due to unacceptable crosswinds at the original planned landing site of Edwards Air Force Base. Continued adverse conditions led to a decision to shift the landing to KSC. Landing occurred on November 20, 1990, 16:42:42 EST, Runway 33, at the Kennedy Space Center. The rollout distance was 9,032 feet (Template:Convert/round m) and rollout time was 57 seconds. STS-38 marked the first KSC landing for Atlantis, and the first shuttle landing at KSC since April 1985 (the last being STS-51-D). Atlantis weighed 191,091 pounds (Template:Convert/round kg) at landing.

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit

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