STS-38 Fact Sheet

By Cliff Lethbridge

STS-38 — Atlantis

37th Space Shuttle Mission

7th Flight of Atlantis


Richard O. Covey, Commander

Frank L. Culbertson, Jr., Pilot

Charles D. Gemar, Mission Specialist

Carl J. Meade, Mission Specialist

Robert C. Springer, Mission Specialist

Orbiter Preparations:

Tow to Orbiter Processing Facility – March 14, 1990

Rollover to Vehicle Assembly Building – June 8, 1990

Rollout to Launch Pad 39A – June 18, 1990

Rollback to Vehicle Assembly Building – August 9, 1990

Rollover to Orbiter Processing Facility – August 15, 1990

Rollover to Vehicle Assembly Building – October 2, 1990

Rollout to Launch Pad 39A – October 12, 1990


November 15, 1990 – 6:48:15 p.m. EST. Launch was originally planned for July, 1990. However, a liquid hydrogen leak discovered during the STS-35 countdown prompted three preliminary tanking tests on Atlantis at the pad on June 29, July 13 and July 25, 1990.

Tests confirmed a liquid hydrogen leak on the external tank side of the external tank/orbiter 17-inch quick disconnect umbilical. Repairs could not be performed on the pad, so Atlantis was rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building on August 9, 1990.

Atlantis was parked outside the Vehicle Assembly Building for about one day while Columbia/STS-35 was rolled out to Launch Pad 39A. During this time, Atlantis suffered minor hail damage to tiles during a severe thunderstorm.

Following repair operations in the Orbiter Processing Facility, Atlantis was transferred to the Vehicle Assembly Building. During hoisting operations there, a platform beam that should have been removed from the aft engine compartment fell and caused damage which required immediate repair.

At the launch pad, an additional tanking test was performed on October 24, 1990. No leaks were detected. Launch was set for November 9, 1990. Launch was reset for November 15, 1990 due to payload problems which were not made public. November 15 launch time was not made public until T-9 minutes and counting.


November 20, 1990 – 4:42:46 p.m. EST at Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center. Rollout distance was 9,003 feet. Rollout time was 56 seconds. Mission duration was 4 days, 21 hours, 54 minutes, 31 seconds. Landing occurred during the 79th orbit.

The primary landing site was Edwards Air Force Base, California. However, unacceptable crosswinds at Edwards forced a one-day extension of the mission and diversion to KSC. This was the first KSC landing for a Space Shuttle since STS-51D in April, 1985.

Mission Summary:

This was the seventh dedicated Department of Defense mission in the Space Shuttle program. Mission elements were kept secret.