Launch from Cape Canaveral (KSC
landing at Cape Canaveral (KSC
The launch was scheduled for January 23,
1985 but was delayed because of freezing weather conditions. Orbiter Challenger
had been scheduled for this flight, but Discovery was substituted when thermal
tile problems were encountered with Challenger.
became the first military astronaut in space.
This was the first Shuttle mission dedicated to Department of Defense,
and most information about it remains classified. For the first time, NASA did
not provide pre-launch commentary to the public until nine minutes before
liftoff. The U.S. Air Force Inertial Upper Stage (IUS/ELINT) booster was
deployed and met mission objectives. It is believed that the payload was an
Magnum/ORION ELINT satellite into geosynchronous orbit, and that
launched others. Gary
stated in 2009 that STS-51C's payload is "still up
there, and still operating.
Also according to Aviation Week, the shuttle
initially entered a 204-kilometre (127 mi) x 519-kilometre (322 mi) orbit, at
an inclination of 28.45 degrees to the equator. It then executed three Orbital
Maneuvering System (OMS) burns, the last being executed on the fourth orbit.
The first burn was conducted to circularize the shuttle's orbit at 519
kilometres (322 mi).
Almost exactly a year after STS-51C, Space Shuttle
Challenger was destroyed with all hands on board during the
, a crew member on both flights. As part of the
investigation into the disaster, it was reported to the Rogers Commission that
during the launch of STS-51C, the worst solid rocket booster (SRB) blow-by
effects of any mission prior to
occurred, indicating conclusively that the Viton O-rings were not sufficiently
sealing the hot gases inside the combustion chambers of the
while firing. After they were recovered post-flight, the O-rings in both the
right and left
showed some degree of charring, but analysis of the center field joint of the
showed an unprecedented penetration of the primary O-ring and heavy charring on
the secondary O-ring.