Author Topic: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold  (Read 22421 times)

Offline Ares67

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It was not your usual Space Shuttle mission – there was secrecy, censorship and tight security – even protesters along the roads leading to KSC, holding up signs reading “Keep the heavens undefiled!”

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #1 on: 01/10/2012 03:55 PM »
NASA was operating under orders from its customer: The Department of Defense was paying the space agency $31.2 million for the launch of a $300-million advanced Signals Intelligence Satellite codenamed Magnum, built to eavesdrop on the Soviet Union. But the spying business is usually a silent business: In an attempt to prevent the Russians to determine mission 51-C’s specific goal, no official details about the cargo or specifics about the flight were released. During the whole course of the shuttle flight no air-to-ground communications was heard on public channels – only remarks by the PAO, stating “everything is proceeding as planned” every eight hours or so.

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #2 on: 01/10/2012 03:57 PM »
On December 18, 1984, the Washington Post had revealed the nature of the Magnum satellite, after the Air Force had already announced that an IUS stage (for the first time since its botched premiere during STS-6) would be used to place it into orbit. The Post didn’t have any technical or other specific details, but it was enough to provoke Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, angrily accusing the paper of “giving aid and comfort to the enemy”.

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #3 on: 01/10/2012 03:59 PM »
It was no secret that this mission had not even been assigned to the orbiter Discovery originally. Challenger had been expected to carry the DOD payload into orbit in December 1984. The “screed” problem after Mission 41-G, requiring the replacement of nearly 4,000 tiles, led to the change of plans – with Challenger now being prepared for Mission 51-E in February 1985 – another mission that would never take place.

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #4 on: 01/10/2012 04:02 PM »
And this spy really came in from the cold: The U.S. east coast had been under a cold spell for several days before the planned January 23 launch date – even forcing the cancellation of all outdoor elements of U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration ceremony on January 20. But that was Washington D.C. – temperatures in Florida plunging towards freezing for a third straight night, with water pipes bursting in the launch area, was something else.

When Discovery blasted off one day late, with afternoon temperatures at 60°F (15°C) it still was the coldest launch to date. And we all know it was indeed a dress rehearsal for disaster – only one year away… It is really eerie to watch Ellison Onizuka on this, his first mission aboard the shuttle, and see how similar the TV pictures of Discovery’s launch are to these of January 28, 1986… 

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #5 on: 01/10/2012 04:08 PM »
The Road to Launch

January 5: The space shuttle Discovery began its seven-hour rollout to pad 39A at about 1:30 a.m. "Everything went smoothly," NASA spokesman Dick Young said in the afternoon. After locking Discovery onto its launch mounts at 8:31 a.m., workers surrounded the shuttle with the rotating service facility before attaching umbilical cords. Discovery is scheduled to be launched January 23. (TODAY, Jan. 6, 1985)
« Last Edit: 01/10/2012 04:08 PM by Ares67 »

Offline Ares67

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #6 on: 01/10/2012 04:12 PM »
January 6: A practice shuttle countdown went smoothly as Kennedy Space Center workers continued to prepare the Discovery for its classified January 23 mission. "Everything is going fine; we are right on time," said KSC spokesman Hugh Harris. The five-member crew was expected to enter the shuttle at approximately 5:30 a.m. January 7 and conclude the simulated liftoff at 8 a.m. (TODAY, Jan. 7, 1985)

January 7: The five-member Discovery crew and the shuttle itself successfully completed its dress rehearsal for the January 23 liftoff of its Defense Department mission. The terminal countdown demonstration test ended at 8:03 a.m. with a simulated ignition of Discovery's three main engines, said KSC spokesmen. The test had begun at 1:40 p.m. January 6. Flying aboard Discovery for Flight 51-C are mission commander Thomas Mattingly, shuttle co-pilot Loren Shriver, mission specialists Ellison Onizuka and James Buchli and payload specialist Gary Payton - all officers in various branches of the military. (TODAY, Jan. 8, 1985)

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #7 on: 01/10/2012 04:15 PM »
January 14: Pre-launch preparations for the January 23 liftoff of Discovery were back on track, as crews worked to make up time lost over the weekend due to the malfunctioning of a Master Events Controller. A matching Master Events Controller was taken from Challenger and KSC officials said the problem was resolved and there were not expected to be any delays in the scheduled liftoff. Kennedy Space Center spokesman Rocky Raab said several problems affecting Challenger's thermal protection system have also been resolved, though that shuttle's February 20 launch could be delayed if the workers don't catch up to the schedule for reinstalling the delicate thermal tiles. (TODAY, Jan 15, 1985)

January 16: Ground workers preparing for Wednesday's launch of the Discovery have encountered more problems, but none should delay the mission, NASA officials said. Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman Andrea Shea said two damaged cables leading to launch pad 39A were uncovered during testing following the ordnance loading operations. Also, firing room technicians decided to replace a computer buffer device that malfunctioned late on January 15, taking advantage of the down time caused by the need to replace the damaged cables, Shea said. Meanwhile, a sensitive test for minute gas leaks in the shuttle's engines was successfully completed with no problems uncovered in the test. (TODAY, Jan. 17, 1985)

January 20: Four of the five astronauts who will fly the January 23 secret DOD mission arrived at Kennedy Space Center at 4:35 p.m.; The four - Mattingly, Buchli, Shriver, and Onizuka - skipped their usual arrival statements to reporters after flying to KSC from Houston. (Air Force Major Gary Payton arrived at KSC earlier without explanation from NASA.) The four crew members were greeted by family members and quickly driven to their KSC quarters, according to NASA spokesman Hugh Harris. (TODAY, Jan. 21, 1985)

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #8 on: 01/10/2012 04:21 PM »
January 21: Kennedy Space Center officials blamed the weather for freezing water lines at oceanside launch pad 39A and said the cold may have caused a main engine control computer aboard Discovery to malfunction. "We've never had to launch in cold weather like this," NASA spokesman Charles Redmond said. Despite the cold, the official countdown got under way on time at 4 a.m. The normal pre-launch sequence was varied for this secret DOD mission to obscure the flight's actual departure time, scheduled for sometime between 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. January 23. Military officials considered activating the countdown clock at nine minutes before liftoff. Engineers continued to investigate the cause of the problem in the engine controller, a "black box" that interacts with Discovery's five main on-board flight computers to drive the craft's primary propulsion system. Pad workers were scheduled to load super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into storage tanks on Discovery said NASA spokeswoman Lisa Malone. Officials refused to say when the fueling would take place (TODAY, Jan 22, 1985)

January 22: The threat of ice forming on the space shuttle Discovery forced a 24-hour delay of the scheduled January 23 liftoff, NASA announced. Shortly before midnight (January 22), the space agency announced that "extreme weather conditions in the area are projected to cause icing conditions on the external tank" and said the launch would be rescheduled for the afternoon of January 24. The cold weather already was responsible for some launch problems. Freezing temperatures burst water valves and pipes in the launch pad fire extinguishing system during the night of January 21. Hazardous pad operations, such as filling the shuttle's external fuel tank, could not be conducted without an operational fire-extinguishing system on the pad. Other than weather-related difficulties, no other significant problems had occurred. (TODAY, Jan. 23, 1985)

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #9 on: 01/10/2012 04:24 PM »
January 23: A handful of demonstrators, including a Darth Vader look-alike, picketed outside Kennedy Space Center to protest what they called the militarization of space. Orlando resident Bruce Gagnon, state coordinator of the coalition, said, "I'm very proud of the space program in its peaceful civilian applications. That's why we haven't been here for other launches. We're here now because this is the beginning of the 'Star Wars' (Strategic Defense Initiative) offensive." Orlando resident Becky Acuna, who wore the Darth Vader costume, said she believes most passers-by made "a clear connection" between the fictional symbol of evil and what she said is the evil inherent in military control of space. (TODAY, Jan. 24, 1985)

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #10 on: 01/10/2012 04:38 PM »
January 24, 1985 - Under a blanket of silence... and roaring thunder!

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #11 on: 01/10/2012 04:41 PM »
Not much information at the press center today...
« Last Edit: 01/10/2012 04:42 PM by Ares67 »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #12 on: 01/10/2012 04:43 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #13 on: 01/10/2012 04:46 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #14 on: 01/10/2012 04:50 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #15 on: 01/10/2012 04:52 PM »
PAO: This is Shuttle Launch Control. One of the key steps or major milestone in any countdown is the wakeup of the flight crew. Before the crew quarters is called by the NASA Test Director a check is made by all of the test conductors to ensure that all systems are ready to support the launch. This happened earlier today and breakfast was the first order of business. Breakfast has become more varied as flight crews have gone from two people to seven or more. Nowadays each crew person selects whatever they are happiest with, instead of having a set menu. Today the menu ranges from dry cereal to steak and eggs.

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #16 on: 01/10/2012 05:02 PM »
PAO: After breakfast the crew received the latest weather briefing and then they left the crew quarters on the third floor of the O&C building. Coming out of the crew quarters was Mission Specialist James Buchli, Pilot Loren Shriver, Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka, Payload Specialist Gary Payton and T.K. Mattingly, the Commander. They go down through the elevator to the first floor. And unlike most missions there is not a great crowd to see them off. Normally there is quite a lot of press photographers down at the entrance to the building, as well as some well-wishers from the workers in that building. The press is not down at this today. George Abbey, the Flight Crew Director from Houston opening the door, T.K. Mattingly coming out, and followed by John Young, who is the head of the astronaut office. And the crew going down to the ground floor in the O&C building.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2012 05:03 PM by Ares67 »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #17 on: 01/10/2012 05:07 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #18 on: 01/10/2012 05:11 PM »

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Re: Discovery STS 51-C / The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
« Reply #19 on: 01/10/2012 05:13 PM »
PAO: The crew coming out of the O&C building, going to the astrovan. This a modified recreational vehicle, which is used for the larger crews now. When they are aboard, they are convoyed to the pad and then prepared for ingress into the vehicle. Out at the pad a great many preparations are made prior to their arrival. A special close-out crew begins work about an hour before they come out and they prepare the seats, the switches and everything in the cabin for their arrival. During an earlier time today an ice and frost inspection team has checked the external tank for buildup of any ice which may cause concern for the safety of the thermal protection system, or operation of the engine gimbals, or other mechanisms during lift-off. As we saw there was some more ice buildup than has been seen on previous tanks, mostly on the north side, away from the orbiter itself. And it has been determinated that this is not a concern for the launch today. Everything going smoothly, this is Shuttle Launch Control.

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