STS-51C Fact Sheet

By Cliff Lethbridge

STS-51C — Discovery

15th Space Shuttle Mission

3rd Flight of Discovery

Note: STS-51C was originally planned for Challenger. However, problems with Challenger’s thermal tiles forced a switch to Discovery.


Thomas K. Mattingly II, Commander

Loren J. Shriver, Pilot

James F. Buchli, Mission Specialist

Ellison S. Onizuka, Mission Specialist

Gary E. Payton, Payload Specialist

Orbiter Preparations:

Tow to Orbiter Processing Facility – November 16, 1984

Rollover to Vehicle Assembly Building – December 21, 1984

Rollout to Launch Pad 39A – January 5, 1985


January 24, 1985 – 2:50:00 p.m. EST. Launch attempt on January 23, 1985 was scrubbed due to cold weather. January 24 launch time was not made public until T-9 minutes and counting.


January 27, 1985 – 4:23:23 p.m. EST at Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center. Rollout distance was 7,352 feet. Rollout time was 50 seconds. Mission duration was 3 days, 1 hour, 33 minutes, 23 seconds. Landing occurred during the 49th orbit.

Mission Summary:

This was the first dedicated Department of Defense mission. Elements of the mission were kept secret. However, it was reported that a U.S. Air Force Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster successfully deployed a secret payload.