'A New Orbiter Joins the Shuttle Fleet': 30 Years Since Atlantis' Maiden Voyage (Part 2)

Not until the summer of 1998 were any images from this most “vanilla” of Department of Defense flights revealed … although the nature of the flight had long since trickled into the public domain. A pair of Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS)-III satellites, mounted atop a Boeing-built Inertial Upper Stage, are here raised to […]

'For Tasks That Might or Might Not Take Place': 30 Years Since Atlantis' Maiden Voyage (Part 1)

During the course of her 33-mission career, which began 30 years ago on 3 October 1985, Atlantis flew more Department of Defense assignments than any other orbiter, beginning with her maiden voyage, 51J. In keeping with DoD missions, the patch was both highly symbolic and patriotic. Image Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Thirty years […]

The Lunacy of Secrecy: 30 Years Since Mission 51C (Part 2)

Since the conception of the Manned Spaceflight Engineer (MSE) program, the intent was to fly a dedicated officer aboard each classified flight. For Mission 51C, it would be Air Force Major Gary Payton (back left). The other NASA crew members were Loren Shriver (front left) and Ken Mattingly (front right), with Jim Buchli and […]

Mission to Jupiter: 25 Years Since the Launch of Galileo (Part 1)

Emblazoned with the script-like “Galileo” lettering and the block “NASA” letters, the spacecraft represented a marriage of romance and adventure with science and technology for STS-34’s Shannon Lucid. Photo Credit: NASA

When the Galileo spacecraft drifted out of Shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay on the evening of 18 October 1989—25 years ago, next week—on the […]

To Follow After Knowledge: STS-41 and the Odyssey of Ulysses

Pictured in its horizontal position in Discovery’s payload bay, the circular dish antenna and Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) of Ulysses are clearly visible in this image. Photo Credit: NASA

Human hands have stretched far into the cosmos during our half-century of exploring the final frontier. Men and women have circled hundreds of miles above […]