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Liftoff of STS-33.
Mission type Satellite deployment
Operator NASA
COSPAR ID 1989-090A
SATCAT № 20329
Mission duration 5 days, 6 minutes, 46 seconds
Distance travelled 3,400,000 kilometres (2,100,000 mi)
Orbits completed 79
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft Space Shuttle Discovery
Payload mass 21,000 kilograms (46,000 lb)
Crew size 5
Members Frederick D. Gregory
John E. Blaha
Manley L. Carter, Jr.
F. Story Musgrave
Kathryn C. Thornton
Start of mission
Launch date 23 November 1989, 00:23:30 (1989-11-23T00:23:30Z) UTC
Launch site Kennedy LC-39B
End of mission
Landing date Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. UTC
Landing site Edwards Runway 4
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 519 kilometres (322 mi)
Apogee 519 kilometres (322 mi)
Inclination 28.45 degrees
Period 88.7 min

Back row, L-R: Carter and Blaha. Front row, L-R: Thornton, Gregory, Musgrave.

Space Shuttle program
← STS-34 STS-32

STS-33 was a NASA Space Shuttle mission, during which Space Shuttle Discovery deployed a payload for the United States Department of Defense (DoD). STS-33 was the 32nd shuttle mission overall, the ninth flight of Discovery, and the fifth shuttle mission in support of the DoD. Due to the nature of the mission, specific details remain classified. Discovery lifted off from Pad A, Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, on 22 November 1989 at 7:23 pm EST; it landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 28 November.


  • Crew 1
    • Crew seating arrangements 1.1
  • Mission background 2
  • Mission summary 3
  • Gallery 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Position Astronaut
Commander Frederick D. Gregory
Second spaceflight
Pilot John E. Blaha
Second spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 Manley L. Carter, Jr.
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 F. Story Musgrave
Third spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 Kathryn C. Thornton
First spaceflight

Crew seating arrangements

Seat[1] Launch Landing
Seats 1–4 are on the Flight Deck. Seats 5–7 are on the Middeck.
S1 Gregory Gregory
S2 Blaha Blaha
S3 Carter Thornton
S4 Musgrave Musgrave
S5 Thornton Carter

Mission background

STS-33 was the original designation for the mission that became STS-51-L, the disastrous final flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. After Challenger's destruction, NASA recycled the mission numbering system back to STS-26, which was the 26th shuttle mission and the first to fly after the disaster.

S. David Griggs, a veteran of STS 51-D, was to have been the pilot of this mission. He was killed in the crash of a vintage WWII aircraft in June 1989 while training to serve as pilot on STS-33, and is commemorated on the mission insignia with a single gold star on the blue field.[2] He was replaced by John Blaha. Sonny Carter, a Mission Specialist on this flight, was killed in a commercial plane crash on 5 April 1991[3] while training to fly on STS-42.

Mission summary

STS-33 was originally scheduled to launch on 20 November, but was delayed because of problems with the integrated electronics assemblies which controlled the ignition and separation of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters. STS-33 was the third night launch of the Space Shuttle program, and the first since shuttle flights resumed in 1988 following the Challenger disaster of 1986.

During the mission, Discovery deployed a single satellite, USA-48 (NSSDC ID 1989-090B). Experts believe that this was a secret Magnum ELINT (ELectronic INTtelligence) satellite headed for geosynchronous orbit, similar to that launched by STS-51-C in 1985, making this mission essentially a duplicate of that earlier mission.[4] According to Jim Slade of ABC News, the satellite was intended to eavesdrop on military and diplomatic communications from the Soviet Union, China, and other communist states. The satellite replaced the one launched by STS-51-C, which was running out of the maneuvering fuel required for keeping its station over the Indian Ocean.[5]

Aviation Week claimed that the shuttle initially entered a 204 kilometres (127 mi) x 519 kilometres (322 mi) orbit at an inclination of 28.45 degrees to the equator. It then executed three Orbital Manoeuvering System (OMS) burns, the last on its fourth orbit. The first burn was to circularize the orbit at 519 kilometres (322 mi).

The satellite was deployed on the 7th orbit, and ignited its Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster at the ascending node of the 8th orbit, successfully placing it in a geosynchronous transfer orbit. This was the 8th IUS launched aboard the shuttle, and the seventh successfully deployed.

STS-33 was observed by the 1.6m telescope of the US Air Force Maui Optical Station (AMOS) during five passes over Hawaii. Spectrographic and infrared images of the shuttle obtained with the Enhanced Longwave Spectral Imager (ELSI) were aimed at studying the interactions between gases released by the shuttle's primary reaction control system and residual atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen species in orbit.[6][7]

The landing was initially scheduled for 26 November, but was postponed for a day because of strong winds at the landing site. Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 27 November 1989 at 7:30 pm EST, after a mission duration of 5 days and 6 minutes.


See also


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

  1. ^ "STS-33". Spacefacts. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  2. ^ [2] Archived 23 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Carter". Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  4. ^ Cassutt, Michael (August 2009). "Secret Space Shuttles". Air & Space. Retrieved April 19, 2015. 
  5. ^ Slade, Jim (22 November 1989). "ABC News Coverage of the STS-33 Launch". ABC News. 
  6. ^ Knecht, David J. (19 April 1990). "Recovery of Images from the AMOS ELSI Data for STS-33" (PDF). Geophysics Laboratory (PHK), Hanscom AFB. 
  7. ^ I.L. Kofsky, D.L.A. Rall, R.B. Sluder (28 June 1991). "Measurements and Interpretation of Contaminant Radiations in the Spacecraft Environment" (PDF). Phillips Laboratory, Hanscom AFB. 

External links

  • NASA mission summary
  • STS-33 Video Highlights
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