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Liftoff of the first flight of Atlantis and the STS 51-J mission.
Mission type Satellite deployment
Operator NASA
COSPAR ID 1985-092A
SATCAT № 16115
Mission duration 4 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes, 38 seconds
Distance travelled 2,707,948 kilometres (1,682,641 mi)
Orbits completed 64
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft Space Shuttle Atlantis
Landing mass 86,400 kilograms (190,400 lb)
Payload mass 19,968 kilograms (44,022 lb)
Crew size 5
Members Karol J. Bobko
Ronald J. Grabe
David C. Hilmers
Robert L. Stewart
William A. Pailes
Start of mission
Launch date 3 October 1985, 15:15:30 (1985-10-03T15:15:30Z) UTC
Launch site Kennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Landing date Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. UTC
Landing site Edwards Runway 23
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 475 kilometres (295 mi)
Apogee 484 kilometres (301 mi)
Inclination 28.5 degrees
Period 94.2 min

L-R: Stewart, Hilmers, Bobko, Pailes, Grabe

Space Shuttle program
← STS-51-I STS-61-A

STS-51-J 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.


  • Crew 1
    • Backup crew 1.1
  • Crew notes 2
  • Mission summary 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Position Astronaut
Commander Karol J. Bobko
Third spaceflight
Pilot Ronald J. Grabe
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 David C. Hilmers
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 Robert L. Stewart
Second 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

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

Declassified picture showing the DSCS-III satellites before deployment.
Space Shuttle Atlantis lands on the dry desert lakebed of Edwards Air Force Base at the end of the STS-51-J mission.

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, 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.

See also


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

  • 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
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