Author Topic: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket  (Read 9751 times)

Offline Ares67

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Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« on: 12/15/2016 06:30 PM »
This Space Shuttle history report is dedicated to all those brave men and women in uniform who will always pay the real price for the preservation of the safety, freedom, and way of life of their fellow citizens and allies by following orders, accepting separation from loved ones, and facing injuries – seen and unseen – or even death.

Thank you for being out there, where lines are being drawn in the sand…


Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #1 on: 12/15/2016 06:31 PM »
The Summer Of Our Discontent

"This is no time to go wobbly, George."

- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), during a phone call with U.S. President George H.W. Bush on August 26, 1990


A DARK STAIN

“It all came tumblin’ down in the final week of June,” Countdown magazine reported in its August 1990 issue. “By the last day of June, a dark stain had spilled across the name of NASA, spreading on the whisper wind of ‘Challenger.” Once again, Congress was holding hearings on NASA’s competence. The space agency’s budget was being threatened. Once again, NASA was a topic for the TV news shows and newspaper editorials. Once again, words like ‘horrible’ and ‘devastating’ were blotting over NASA’s rebuilt name. Once again, everyone was asking, ‘What’s wrong with NASA?’”

The long hot summer of 1990 was a real challenge to the space community: Hubble trouble, shuttle leaks, Columbia and Atlantis shuttling back and forth… between launch pad and repair shop; a seemingly endless series of shuttle launch attempts and tanking tests; several mishaps and accidents at KSC; budget trouble and subcommittee hearings in Washington; grounded astronauts – you name it. NASA had come under question again.

“The shuttle’s finicky performance raised concerns about its ability to support NASA’s full plate of projects for the next decade,” read Countdown magazine. ”The performance of Hubble and the shuttle brought into question NASA’s ability to pull off the large, gold-plated projects it desires: Freedom Station, the Mission to Planet Earth and the Moon/Mars initiative.”


AND YET THERE WAS LIGHT

But, let’s face it, not all was doom and gloom during 1990: We saw the emergence of the U.S. commercial launch industry with the first Pegasus taking wing, as well as a series of Expendable Launch Vehicle successes, including the 200th Delta launch; the glorious comeback of Europe’s Ariane rocket; the dedication of the Astronaut Hall of Fame; the reopening of Cape Canaveral’s Air Force Museum; new attractions at the KSC Visitors Center; delivery of the second Shuttle Carrier Aircraft NASA 911.

And, the most important thing to remember: “While the shuttle fleet was grounded, no one died, no piece of vital shuttle hardware was lost,” Countdown magazine explained. “The fleet remained preserved for the challenges of the 1990s.” As summer turned to fall, Discovery, Atlantis and Columbia – on a monthly basis – performed three successful missions in a row. And Atlantis even got a roundtrip ticket.
 

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #2 on: 12/15/2016 06:33 PM »
AT THE BRINK OF WAR

While we space enthusiast were talking of a summer of discontent, the rest of world once again was focusing on what a long time ago used to be hub of human civilization, but nowadays is considered one of our planet’s worst trouble spots – the Middle East. A long-lasting oil dispute, which eventually led to the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait, now became an international conflict. It was a moment in time when a reluctant, but in the end fiercely determined multi-national military alliance lead by the U.S. was forming in the Persian Gulf region to face a brutal dictator who obviously misjudged his power and military strength, as well as the resolve of his counterparts. We were at the brink of war – a war which brought questionable victory; a war which lead to many more military clashes and terrorist acts in the following quarter century.


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #3 on: 12/15/2016 06:35 PM »
Because several members of the space community were involved in Operation Desert Shield and the following “Desert Storm,” this will also be a topic to be dealt with in this thread. Well, and since NASASpaceFlight.com originates from British soil, it should also be mentioned that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigned from office in late 1990 and, let’s all be brave… 1990 marked the moment the UK and mainland Europe were reconnected for the first time since the last Ice Age.

Yes, all this and much more awaits you.

So, here we go. Enjoy the ride.


- Ares67   


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« Last Edit: 12/16/2016 09:15 PM by Ares67 »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #5 on: 12/15/2016 06:40 PM »
INTRODUCTION: Atlantis STS-38


Winds of War

“Everybody had a sense that we were going to go to war, that Desert Shield was more than just a saber rattling.”

- Richard Covey, CDR Atlantis STS-38


NO MORE SECRETS

Rumors indicated that the Air Force had used the four-month launch delay of Atlantis to modify the secret AFP-658 payload to monitor Iraqi military activities in the Persian Gulf region. Atlantis was flying on the winds of war – ironically, the final shuttle to do so. STS-38 marked the seventh and final “secret” mission since January 1985, although the Air Force planned another two “open” flights in 1991 – STS-39 and STS-44.

In 2008, Roger Guillemette and Dwayne A. Day revealed the following new details:  STS-38 has been the subject of much speculation due to its secret cargo of two very unusual payloads. Tucked inside the shuttle’s payload bay was a classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) communications satellite – known as “Quasar” – that would be used to relay data between intelligence spacecraft in low Earth orbit. But the “Quasar” payload, although highly classified, also served as a cover story for an even more exotic payload – a stealthy satellite inspection spacecraft, often referred to as “Prowler”, designed to sneak up on other satellites undetected, photographing and measuring them in various ways.


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #6 on: 12/15/2016 06:40 PM »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #7 on: 12/15/2016 06:41 PM »
BLACK ORBITER

Although STS-38’s operational secrets were cloaked at great effort and expense, subtler clues hinted at the mission’s clandestine nature. The official mission patch for the flight featured two nose-on images of a shuttle orbiter, with a white version on top and a dark version below. According to NASA’s image description, “the top orbiter, with the stylistic Orbital Maneuvering System burn, symbolizes the continuing dynamic nature of the Space Shuttle Program. The bottom orbiter, a black and white mirror image, acknowledges the thousands of unheralded individuals who work behind the scenes in support of America’s Space Shuttle program. This mirror image symbolizes the importance of their contributions.”


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #8 on: 12/15/2016 06:43 PM »
But NASA has never disclosed that there was also a secret patch designed for this mission – an emblem that had a darker border. Most notably, the shuttles were inverted, with the black orbiter – the classified mission – on top, and the white orbiter on the bottom. It was an inside joke by the all-military crew about the true nature of their mission.

Many shuttle crews have created unofficial humorous patches for their missions over the years. But the disclosure of the “secret” STS-38 patch raises the interesting possibility that other classified shuttle mission patches may also exist.

There is considerable anecdotal evidence from the expendable rocket community that patches for classified space missions have long existed, often containing not only inside jokes, but also hints and clues about a rocket’s payload. It would not be too much of a stretch to presume that similar patches may have been created for other classified shuttle payloads as well.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1197/1

(Countdown, January 1991; Roger Guillemette and “Blackstar” Dwayne A. Day, “Space Age Hieroglyphs,” thespacereview.com, Aug. 25, 2008; image description on STS-38 decal – edited)


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #9 on: 12/15/2016 06:48 PM »
Starship Troopers

“So we, like I say, had a very busy first day, and then transitioned into enjoying our next couple of days.”

- Richard Covey, CDR Atlantis STS-38


As for most Department of Defense flights, the STS-38 crew carried a strong military background into space. Dick Covey, who had become the first astronaut to fly twice in the shuttle’s pilot seat, now gained command of his first flight. While Bob Springer was the only other space veteran in the crew, the voice of Frank Culbertson had been heard as CapCom for many post-Challenger missions. Unfortunately, no voices would be heard from the secret flight of STS-38.


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #10 on: 12/15/2016 06:49 PM »
CDR Richard Oswalt Covey, Colonel USAF – was born August 1, 1946, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He received a Bachelor of Science in engineering sciences with a major in astronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1968, and a Master of Science in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University in 1969. Covey was a test pilot for F-4 and A-7D weapons systems and Joint Test Director for electronic warfare testing of the F-15 Eagle.

Selected as an astronaut in January 1978, Covey served as CapCom for missions STS-5 and 6, as well as STS 61-B, 61-C and 51-L. He piloted mission STS 51-I launched in August 1985, which deployed three communications satellites and was the first mission to use a manual grappling device to catch and repair the Syncom IV-3 satellite. He was the final voice heard by the Challenger Seven during their disastrous launch in January 1986. Covey flew again as pilot for Discovery STS-26, the first post-Challenger shuttle launch in September 1988.


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #11 on: 12/15/2016 06:52 PM »
IT HAD SOME VALUE

“After STS-26, I actually was assigned two positions,” said Richard Covey. “First, I was selected to replace Bryan O’Connor as Chairman of the Space Flight Safety Panel. Second, I replaced Brewster Shaw as the astronaut lead for Department of Defense missions to be flown aboard the Space Shuttle. These missions were highly classified, and even though no new ones were to be added to the shuttle manifest after the Challenger accident, four or five were still on the books. So, I became, say, the interface between the Astronaut Office to the payloads community and to the Department of Defense for those types of missions.”

“The Space Flight Safety Panel was formed after the Challenger accident in response to some of the thoughts and recommendations of the Rogers Commission. Like I say, it was to be an ad hoc, if you would, committee made up of Operations folks, primarily, to look and review activities within the agency that were specifically focused on human spaceflight. It was not to replace things like the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, which has a broader view for NASA, but rather to be complementary to it with an additional focus,” Covey remembered. “We spent our time not just looking at Space Shuttle-related activities, but Space Station.”

“I was not ever very sure that we really performed a valuable function in that safety panel role,” said Covey. “It was in response to the accident and the immediate aftermath of the accident, and the return to flight, getting up to the point where we were back to more regular flight operations, it had some value, but beyond that, it didn’t.”


CAN’T TELL WHERE I’M GOING, CAN’T TELL WHAT I’M DOING

Regarding Covey’s role as astronaut office coordinator for classified shuttle missions, here is an excerpt from the February 2007 interview he gave Jennifer Ross-Nazal for the JSC Oral History Project:

Ross-Nazzal: You were coordinator for DOD flights. That was something that we hadn’t found in our research.

Covey: We were low-profile.

Ross-Nazzal: I can imagine. Can you share with us some more detail about that?

Covey: Sure. You know, all of the missions were highly classified, and each crew, as they were selected, was read into the particular program that they were in, the DOD program that they were supporting. But there needed to be someone who was aware of what all of those missions were going to be doing and working that interface with the appropriate agencies within the DOD to make sure that the crew issues that may cross all of those were being taken care of.

So we had a very small staff, primarily focused on managing the classified materials that we kept in the Astronaut Office related to these missions; the clearances of the people that may have to go beyond just the regular Department of Defense top-secret clearances; helped manage all of that activity. Someone that could go and sit in on all of the meetings related, that are standard types of meetings for any payload that might fly on the shuttle in the course of mission preparation, but because they were of the classified nature, they would be held in special environments or different places, and having someone that could go and attend all those other than just the crew for a specific mission.

Because even the crews, from one mission to the next, didn’t necessarily know what the other crews were doing and what they were going to fly and do on orbit. If you think about just all of the meetings that go on related to mission planning and payloads, those were all done in a classified environment, so having someone designated from the Astronaut Office to go and do all those was important. So I got to know an awful lot about all of the missions that we called classified DOD missions at that time, starting in late ’88 and going on through my flight in 1990.


Ross-Nazzal: Did you spend some time at the Pentagon working these issues, or were you primarily based here in Houston?

Covey: Primarily based here. I probably can’t even tell you where else I went.

Ross-Nazzal: Did you work very closely with anyone in particular while you were working on this?

Covey: Within the Astronaut Office?

Ross-Nazzal: Within the Office or within the Air Force.

Covey: The groups of people that we worked with within the Department of Defense and the Air Force were at the time very low profile. When they came to JSC, there were very few people that knew that they came, necessarily who they were and what organizations they represented. That was the way we operated back in that time frame.

Ross-Nazzal: Was it clear to you at some point that you were going to be flying on a DOD mission because you had received this assignment?

Covey: Yes. I assumed that I probably was, but I’m trying to think of the timing. It must have been in ’89. I was approached by the Air Force about returning to a Air Force assignment as a Test Wing Commander over at Eglin Air Force Base. Going through the process of making my decision on whether I wanted to accept their offer to come back to a very, very good job, or to stay and fly again, I had discussions with Dan Brandenstein about, okay, so what’s going to happen next and when. So it was in that discussion with Dan when he told me of his intent for me to fly STS-38, which was going to fly at the time, I believe, in the summer of ’90. Yes, it was summer of ’90. So, that was sort of when I learned.

So, I was in this role, which made sense that Dan would have assigned me to this role of coordinating all of the DOD flights if indeed he is planning for me to pick up one of those flights, much like Brewster had. See, Brewster left and went off and flew one of the DOD missions, I think STS-28, and so I kind of rolled in behind him in doing that, and then flew the STS-38. So that was when I found out that, yes, that was what I was going to go do. It made sense at the time.


Ross-Nazzal: What sort of challenges are associated with flying a classified mission versus, you know, flying your first two missions?

Covey: Well, one, it was very complex. You know, from the training and standpoint that even sometimes the training loads were classified, so you had to operate in a classified environment; the controls and the limitations that that puts on you in how you train, how the Mission Control Center operates, make it more cumbersome. But actually, we had gotten very good at it by 1990. The facilities were set up. The procedures were set up. You had to have a classified way of developing the Flight Data File and managing the Flight Data File as classified material.

The control center had to operate in a classified environment, which meant that there were real limitations on the communication systems; that encryption was required for communications, and some of it, there were special facilities required in the control center for the payload operations and for certain levels of secure meetings. It was much different. When you throw the elements of classification, DOD classified operations, in there, it got more complex and more difficult. But, you know, we learned how to do it.

We had additional restrictions and limitations put on us in our travel. Sometimes we were not allowed to travel to acknowledged locations. So then when you start having to travel and, you know, the whole issue of how you do your travel reporting and expensing, when you have to say going someplace, but maybe you go somewhere else. I mean, it was complex, and so that was part of what the role that I had was, as the coordinator and integrator, was to help facilitate some of that stuff.

So there were those complexities, but that was all kind of fun, too, you know, all this keeping everything classified and saying, “No, I can’t tell you where I’m going, and I can’t tell you what I’m doing,” and those types of things. Outside of the core group in the office that was either flying the missions or had leadership positions and had the appropriate clearances, there were very few people that really knew what was going on those DOD missions.

There were even further levels of classification and knowledge of what was really going on and what the payloads were designed to do and were to do, as you got within even the crew. So there were some things that I as the commander of the mission got read into that no one else on the crew did, and there were some things that the crew knew about and that some of the people working the payloads knew about, that other people working the payloads did not know about. So even in the control center they had a limited knowledge of all the things that were actually involved in the payload operations. So it was a different environment, different environment.

You have to remember we had gone down this path because when the shuttle came into being, it was designated as the primary launch vehicle for Department of Defense payloads, so it had to accommodate that. We were going down a path where we were even going to launch Department of Defense missions out of the West Coast. We were going to control them out of Colorado Springs. I mean, all those things were – and work facilities were being built. We had done a lot of work on developing, you know, supporting the development of SLC-6, the Space Launch Complex 6 out at Vandenberg Air Force Base before the Challenger accident.

That all ended with the Challenger accident, and then the national policy became that they weren’t going to fly satellites and expendable payloads, if you would, or payloads that could fly on expendable launch vehicles, on the Shuttle anymore. So that got phased out, and that’s why it eventually went away. It took a while because of what was in flow and in process at the time, but then it went away after that. But that was because of the change in national policy based upon the Challenger accident.

So we stopped working on Vandenberg launches, which not only included the new launch complex out there and a very complex process of moving the orbiter, we were developing filament-wound boosters that were lighter for the Shuttle that replaced the steel-case ones that we fly with now, and that was to facilitate launching out of the West Coast where they had a real performance issue. Those were scary boosters, because they had a lot more flex in them. So none of us were really sorry to see that go away after the Challenger accident, and the DOD missions went away, and we decided we weren’t going to launch out of California with the Space Shuttle.

But the whole operation was going to be really weird out there. Getting from the runway to the launch pad, you know, it was up and down hills and through the valleys, because of the way California is built. They had made special provisions for being able to tow the orbiter along roads and stuff to get it from the runway down to the launch pad. That was very interesting, and got to do some interesting work in preparation for that pre-Challenger.


Ross-Nazzal: Were you involved in that work?

Covey: Yes, yes, yes, for a while back before the – it must have been even before I flew my first flight we were doing, because we stopped pretty much everything after Challenger. I don’t remember us doing anything out there but that. Yes, we ran tests on making shuttle approaches to the runway at Vandenberg, which was sloped, and everybody worried about whether the slope of the runway would cause problems in flying the big glider down, because it was a one-and-a-half-degree slope, as I remember, which is not real severe, but the final approach of the shuttle is only a two-and-a-half-degree glide path, so one and a half degrees, relative to that two and a half degrees, can make a big difference.

So we were trying to figure out if that was a problem; we ran a test out there. That was fun, and took the Shuttle Training Aircraft out and flew it around to the runways, and then we were working also, like I say, the SLC-6 development, and the filament-wound boosters. All those were elements of getting ready to fly out there, and that was early eighties we were doing that stuff.

But anyway, so I’m back to the DOD missions. As I say, for those of us that were flying those missions involved, it was just a little bit different than – a whole lot different than the other missions.


Ross-Nazzal: What did it mean to you as a military man, being assigned to this DOD mission? Did it have any sort of special significance for you?

Covey: Oh yes, absolutely. You know, I thought it was wonderful. There were exciting things going on in DOD space back then. There still are. There were exciting things, and being a part of all that then with my military background and my being an astronaut and being able to support all that was really very, very cool.


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #12 on: 12/15/2016 06:55 PM »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #13 on: 12/15/2016 06:57 PM »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #14 on: 12/15/2016 06:59 PM »
A FULL BAG

“Well, my STS-38 crew is a unique crew in a lot of different ways,” Colonel Covey said. “One, we were all active-duty military folks. We had representatives of each service. We had a West Point graduate, two Naval Academy graduates, and myself, an Air Force graduate, and then a UT graduate, so, you know, Carl Meade snuck in there. So we had representatives of every service. We had representatives of all three service academies. Every one of the crew members was a graduate of a military test pilot school.”

Covey said, “Although only two of us were really flying as pilots, there always have been and continue to be some number of military test pilots who fly as mission specialists. So Bob Springer, Carl Meade, “Sam” Gemar were all graduates of test pilot school selected to be mission specialist astronauts by NASA and flew in that role with us. Frank Culbertson and I were selected as pilots, and so we were there. From the standpoint of, if you would, a common background of military academies, military service, military test pilot school, we had the full bag there on the crew.”

“Three of the guys were flying for the first time. I had flown twice, Bob Springer had flown once, and then Frank, Sam, and Carl were all flying their first flight. Flying with guys for the first time is always an interesting proposition,” said Covey. “On STS-26, everybody had flown. My first flight, I was flying for the first time, so I was just wide-eyed. I probably didn’t know the complexities it is of training with and flying with somebody for the first time.”

“The good news/bad news about flying with new guys is that the good news is that we weren’t flying a real long mission, so they didn’t have to worry about a whole lot of things,” Covey explained. “The bad news was that our most critical operations were all on the first day right after, basically between launch and the time we went to bed. So here these guys were going to be adapting to space for a first time, with all of the ‘gee whiz’ factors and everything, and we had to do our most serious and significant work that first day in deploying a payload.”


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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #15 on: 12/15/2016 07:01 PM »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #16 on: 12/15/2016 07:04 PM »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #17 on: 12/15/2016 07:06 PM »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #18 on: 12/15/2016 07:07 PM »

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Re: Atlantis STS-38 – Roundtrip Ticket
« Reply #19 on: 12/15/2016 07:09 PM »

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