Suggested Searches


STS-38 was the seventh mission dedicated to the Department of Defense



mission duration

4 days, 21 hours, 54 minutes, 31 seconds


Nov. 15, 1990


Nov. 20, 1990
Five men in orange spacesuits pose in front of US flag
The official STS-38 crew portrait includes the following 5 astronauts (front left to right): Frank L. Culbertson, pilot; and Richard O. Covey, commander. Standing (left to right) are mission specialists (MS) Charles D. (Sam) Gemar, (MS-3), Robert C. Springer, (MS-1), and Carl J. Meade, (MS-2). The seventh mission dedicated to the Department of Defense (DOD), the STS-38 crew launched aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on November 15, 1990 at 6:48:15 pm (EST).

Mission Facts

Mission: Department of Defense
Space Shuttle: Atlantis
Launch Pad: 39A
Launch Weight: classified
Launched: November 15, 1990, 6:48:15 p.m. EST
Landing Site: Shuttle Landing Facility, Kennedy Space Center
Landing: November 20, 1990, 4:42:46 p.m. EST
Landing Weight: 191,091 pounds
Runway: 33
Rollout Distance: 9,003 feet
Rollout Time: 56 seconds
Revolution: 79
Mission Duration: 4 days, 21 hours, 54 minutes, 31 seconds
Orbit Altitude: 142 nautical miles
Orbit Inclination: 28.5 degrees
Miles Traveled: 2 million


Richard O. Covey, Commander
Frank L. Culbertson, Pilot
Charles D. (Sam) Gemar, Mission Specialist
Robert C. Springer, Mission Specialist
Carl J. Meade, Mission Specialist

Launch Highlights

The launch was originally scheduled for July 1990. However, a liquid hydrogen leak found on the orbiter Columbia during the STS-35 countdown prompted three precautionary tanking tests on Atlantis at the pad on June 29, July 13 and July 25. Tests confirmed a hydrogen fuel leak on external tank side of external tank/orbiter 17-inch quick disconnect umbilical. This could not be repaired at the pad and Atlantis rolled back to the VAB on August 9, was demated and transferred to the OPF. During rollback, the vehicle parked outside the VAB about a day while COLUMBIA/STS-35 stack was transferred to the pad for launch. Outside, Atlantis suffered minor hail damage to tiles during a thunderstorm. After repairs were made in the OPF, Atlantis was transferred to the VAB for mating on October 2. During hoisting operations, a platform beam that should have been removed from aft compartment fell and caused minor damage which was repaired. Vehicle rolled out to Pad A on October 12. Fourth mini-tanking test performed October 24, with no excessive hydrogen or oxygen leakage detected. At Flight Readiness Review, launch date was set for November 9. Launch was reset for November 15 due to payload problems. Liftoff occurred during a classified launch window lying within a launch period extending from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. EST, November 15, 1990.

Mission Highlights

Seventh mission dedicated to Department of Defense.

Featured Story

Retired Space Shuttle Locations

Shuttle Atlantis – Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Shuttle Discovery – Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Shuttle Endeavour – California Science…

Read the Story