The Dream Is Alive: Recreating the Space Shuttle Program

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STS-51M Challenger Mission Report


Quick Summary:

Crew: Carver Paulis (CDR), Sally Castell (PLT), Chelsea Glen (MS1), Georgia Fuentes (MS2), Hezikiah Poole (PS1)

Payload: KSA-030 (CLASSIFIED)

Payload Mass: 6,671 kg

Launch: August 10, 1985 3:34:00

Mission Duration: 2d5h17m12s

Landing: August 13, 1985 2:51:12

Statistics & Milestones: 26th flight of the Space Shuttle Program; 10th flight of Challenger; 6th night launch and 2nd night landing of the Space Shuttle Program; 11th landing at Kerbal Space Center; 3rd dedicated DoD mission. Payload Specialist Hezikiah Poole became one of the first married couple to have both flown in space, as her husband, KSP astronaut Jordon Poole, had flown on STS-41G (and is currently in final training for STS-51N).

Narrative Summary:

Challenger lifted off from KSC in the middle of the night on August 10, 1985, after a two-day delay due to rain. As a classified mission the launch coverage was terminated 5 minutes after launch.


Challenger returned for a night landing at KSC three days later.

Classified Summary:



The payload for STS-51M was DSP III-1, a missile warning satellite for the Defense Support Program destined for geosynchronous orbit over the SSSR. This was the first flight of the single-stage IUS-C configuration.

The launch occurred at night, but the orbiter climbed into sunlight near the end of its powered ascent into orbit. Challenger was inserted into an initial -10x195km orbit. The crew completed the orbit insertion burn at MET 14m to insert Challenger into a 73x195km orbit, inclination 2.8 degrees, period 35m04s.


An OMS burn at MET 4h37m lowered the orbit to 73x101km, and a second at MET 4h51m circularized the orbit to 100x103km, period 32m44s.

The crew released the restraints holding DSP III-1 in the payload bay at MET 1d4h48m30s. One orbit later the payload was raised to the 30-degree deployment attitude. Deployment of the payload was delayed several minutes due to oscillations of the payload stack after an orbiter attitude correction maneuver, which was solved by ground controllers turning off the reaction wheels on the payload. The stack was deployed at MET 2d0h03h30s. The single-stage IUS burn placed the payload into a 100x2,784km transfer orbit. They payload thereafter used its own storable-propellant liquid-fuel engine to raise its orbit to its operational geosynchronous perch.



Flight Day 4 was planned as a contingency day in orbit, but the mission managers made the decision to bring Challenger home one day early due to clear weather at KSC on August 13 versus >90% chance of rain for the next three days. The crew completed the reentry burn at MET 2d4h55m. Entry interface occurred at MET 2d5h01m14s. Challenger made a night landing at KSC with wheel stop at 2d5h17m12s.

Next Up: After much preparation, Atlantis is scheduled to launch on its first flight on Sept. 11, carrying another classified payload.

Edited by ShuttleHugger
Fixed a couple of typos

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STS-51N Atlantis Mission Report


Quick Summary:

Crew: Linwood Nedved (CDR), Ellis Beitel (PLT), Arlie Holgersen (MS1), Jordon Poole (MS2), Yannick Huff (PS1)

Payload: KSA-031, KSA-032 (CLASSIFIED)

Payload Mass: 5,002 kg

Launch: September 24, 1985 1:30:28 from Pad 39A at Kerbal Space Center

Mission Duration: 3d4h03m14s

Landing: September 27, 1985 5:33:42

Statistics & Milestones: 27th Space Shuttle mission; 1st flight of Atlantis; 16th landing at Edwards Air Force Range; 4th DoD mission. The 12th spacewalk of the Space Shuttle Program occurred on this mission.

Narrative Summary:

Atlantis was fueled and ready for a Flight Readiness Test Firing attempt on Sept. 8, but at T-28 minutes the #5 monopropellant tank in the orbiter aft compartment began leaking, causing the firing attempt to be scrubbed. It took technicians 5 days to replace the tank and clean the effects of the spill. The FRTF was then completed successfully on September 13, with the main engines firing at full thrust for 23 seconds.

After the FRTF launch was originally scheduled for September 17, but nearly a week of solid rain at KSC kept Atlantis grounded. The first launch attempt, on September 22, was scrubbed 35 seconds before liftoff when one of the batteries aboard the payload short-circuited. Swapping out the failed battery took two days.

Atlantis launched on its first flight on the second attempt on September 24, 1985. The shuttle lifted off into the night, and the coverage of the mission was blacked out starting 5 minutes after liftoff.


During the mission Mission Specialists Arlie Holgersen and Jordon Poole conducted a spacewalk.

Atlantis returned to land at Edwards Air Force Range on September 27.


Classified Summary:



The payload for this mission was Satellite Data System (SDS) 2C and 2D plus a single-stage IUS, an identical payload to that deployed by STS-41G almost exactly a year earlier. The satellites were destined for a plane shifted 120 degrees from that occupied by SDS 2A and 2B. The third plane is scheduled to be filled by two satellites launching on STS-61F in early 1986.

Two minor failures occurred during ascent. First, at MET 2m13s, one of the high-gain antennas aboard SDS 2D failed, likely due to the extreme environment of launch. Second, at MET 3m18s one of the RCS ports near the aft end of the external tank became stuck open. Neither failure affected the safety of the ascent. Unusually, as the launch occurred not long after sunset, the orbiter launched in darkness, ascended into sunlight, and then flew into darkness again as it accelerated downrange. Atlantis was placed into an initial 26x210km orbit. The crew completed an OMS burn at MET 17m to place Atlantis into a 73x211km orbit, inclination 40.6 degrees, period 35m37s. A contingency spacewalk was added to the mission plan on Flight Day 3 in order to replace the failed antenna. At MET 2h01m, as the crew were going to bed, one of them inadvertently hit the switch triggering the severing of the ties holding the payload in place in the payload bay; this incident was unfortunate but not a mission-critical event.

Ground controllers had to turn off the reaction wheels aboard the payload in order to prevent swaying of the payload stack during orbiter maneuvers, much as was seen on STS-51M. At MET 4h27m20s, the batteries aboard the SDS 2D spacecraft bus short-circuited. The crew completed an OMS burn at MET 4h44m to lower the orbit to 72x100km, and a second at MET 4h58m to circularize to 99x103km, period 32m42s. At MET 4h58m58s, one of the low-gain antennas aboard SDS 2C failed. The repair of these two failures were added to the spacewalk planned for the next day.

The crew extended the airlock in preparation for the EVA at MET 1d5h04m, and shortly thereafter Arlie Holgersen entered the airlock. Holgersen exited the airlock at MET 1d5h32m00s, followed by Jordon Poole a minute and a half later. Poole proceeded with the antenna repairs, while Holgersen handled the battery repair. They then returned to the airlock. EVA duration was 7m11s for Poole, and 9m27s for Holgersen. Poole conducted his second career EVA one year to the day after his first venture outside, on STS-41G.


At MET 2d4h33m the crew raised the payload into the deployment position in Atlantis’ payload bay. The SDS-2C+2D stack was deployed at MET 2d5h04m00s. The single-stage IUS burn one orbit later placed the two joined SDS satellites into a 99x1,584km transfer orbit. Two and a half minutes after separation from the spent IUS, the two SDS satellites separated from each other. At the first apogee SDS-2C used its onboard thrusters to insert itself into a 1,550x1,613km orbit, period 2h59m35s, inclination 40.4 degrees. After deploying the payload, the crew went to bed an hour early to prepare for getting up early to make the daylight landing opportunity at Edwards Air Force Range the next day. At its second apogee, SDS-2D burned its thrusters to insert itself into a 1,562x1,602km orbit, inclination 40.4 degrees, period 2h59m35s, approximately 180 degrees away from SDS-2C. Upon commissioning, SDS-2C and SDS-2D were renamed KSA-031 and KSA-032, respectively.



The crew awoke an hour early in order to prepare for landing at Edwards during the daylight pass. The crew successfully completed the deorbit burn, and entry interface occurred at MET 3d3h49m24s. Nedved and Beitel brought Atlantis in for a smooth morning landing on the far eastern edge of the Edwards Air Force Range, with wheel stop at MET 3d4h03m14s.


Next Up: The day after Atlantis landed, Discovery was rolled out to Pad 39A. It is scheduled to launch on September 32 on mission STS-51K, carrying the fourth TDRS satellite.

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@ShuttleHugger I've been following this silently for some time, but haven't yet made a post to say how much I like this :D

Looking forward to more missions! 

(also, the fact that it's possible to just knock a switch for such a critical function seems like a pretty significant design flaw to me. Something like that should have multiple safety interlocks...get your engineers on it :P)

Edited by RealKerbal3x

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Thanks for the kind words @RealKerbal3x!

On 1/16/2020 at 12:49 PM, RealKerbal3x said:

(also, the fact that it's possible to just knock a switch for such a critical function seems like a pretty significant design flaw to me. Something like that should have multiple safety interlocks...get your engineers on it :P)

What really happened, of course, was I accidentally hit spacebar at an inopportune moment :wink: The story, though, was inspired by a real life occurrence that I learned about when I was lucky enough to see the Apollo 11 traveling exhibit recently. Apparently while on the lunar surface one of the astronauts' bulky life support backpacks hit a critical switch on a circuit breaker and broke it off; the astronauts had to jury-rig a pen to throw the switch so that they could start the ascent engine! Fortunately that worked and said pen is now on display in the exhibit, but I thought a similar occurrence would be a fun in-world explanation for my twitchy thumb.

Edited by ShuttleHugger
Fixed typo

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STS-51K Discovery Mission Report


Quick Summary:

Crew: Zachary Albrecht (CDR), Colin Khoroushi (PLT), Bill Kerman (MS1), Stuart Pryor (MS2), Timothy Swenhaugen (MS3)

Payload: TDRS-D, 6 Getaway Special (GAS) Canisters

Payload Mass: 7,713 kg

Launch: September 34, 1985 4:39:00 from Pad 39A at Kerbal Space Center

Mission Duration: 5d0h28m54s

Landing: October 4, 1985 5:07:54 at Kerbal Space Center

Statistics & Milestones: 28th Space Shuttle mission; 6th flight of Discovery; 12th landing at Kerbal Space Center.

Narrative Summary:

Launch was initially scheduled for September 32, but was delayed one day due to a >95% chance of rain that day, and then delayed one more day to September 34 for the same reason.

Discovery lifted off from KSC on the morning of September 34. Discovery was inserted into an initial 8x211km orbit. At MET 12m22s the wastewater tank on the flight deck sprang a leak. Flight controllers closed its valves and directed wastewater flow to the middeck tank with no impact upon the mission. At MET 15m the crew completed an OMS burn to place Discovery into a 73x211km orbit, inclination 1.0 degree, period 35m35s.


The crew completed an OMS burn at MET 4h42m to lower the orbit to 72x100km, and a second at 4h56m to circularize to 99x102km, period 32m39s. The crew also activated the six GAS canisters in the payload bay.

At MET 1d4h00m46s, the #2 oxygen tank in the orbiter aft compartment began leaking. While the crew were able to transfer about half of the contents of the tank into other tanks, there was not room for everything and the remaining half of the contents leaked into space. At MET 1d4h51m00s the crew jettisoned the restraints holding TDRS-D into the payload bay, and subsequently raised the payload into the deployment position. TDRS-D was deployed at MET 1d5h51m30s. The first IUS burn placed TDRS-D into a 100x2,936km transfer orbit. The second burn placed it into a 2,935x3,084km orbit, which thruster burns refined to a geosynchronous orbit; to avoid the tumbling issues encountered by TDRS-C on its upper stage IUS burn, the primary antennas of TDRS-D were deployed prior to the burn, which was successful.


TDRS-D reached its operational orbit and was renamed TDRS-4.


Landing was originally scheduled for Flight Day 5, but it was pushed back by one day due to rain at KSC.

The crew completed the deorbit burn at MET 5d0h08m. Albrecht and Khoroushi brought Discovery in for landing at KSC, with wheel stop at MET 5d0h28m54s.


Next Up: The day before Discovery landed, Challenger was rolled out to Pad 39A, continuing a quick series of launches. Challenger is scheduled for launch on October 8 on mission STS-51O, a lengthy and complex mission to deploy two commsats, test the latest redesign of the Kerballed Maneuvering Units, and retrieve the Long Duration Exposure Facility from orbit.

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Nice work!

How do you fly the shuttles into orbit, and how do you land them?  How do you determine when to begin the de-orbit burn?

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17 hours ago, SRB said:

Nice work!


17 hours ago, SRB said:

How do you fly the shuttles into orbit, and how do you land them?  How do you determine when to begin the de-orbit burn?

I do all of the flying manually, other than SAS stability assist. The launch and landing profiles were developed through a ton of trial and error; as I was designing the shuttle I flew well over a dozen test missions in a separate sandbox save with quite a number of launch and landing accidents... I set the deorbit burn just based on where the orbiter is flying over (needs to be ~150 degrees before the planned landing site), but between difficulty in locating geographic features (I normally land during the day so I have to squint at the night side of Kerbin to find the deorbit burn location) and variations in the descent profile this is only accurate to 5 degrees or so. Once I start putting up GPS satellites I will allow myself to start using actual coordinates to locate the deorbit burn, which should be a lot more accurate.

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STS-51O Challenger Mission Report


Quick Summary:

Crew: Bryan Argyris (CDR), Kirsten Pierre (PLT), Ethan Santoro (MS1), Bob Kerman (MS2), Fred Langbrook (MS3)

Payload: Galaxy V-A commsat, KCom 5 commsat, Kerballed Maneuvering Unit Mk. 3 x2, Canadarm, LDEF Restraint System

Other Objectives: Retrieve Long Duration Exposure Facility from orbit

Payload Mass: 8,274 kg

Launch: October 8, 1985 5:16:38 from Pad 39A at Kerbal Space Center

Mission Duration: 10d0h55m34s

Landing: October 19, 1985 0:12:12 at Edwards Air Force Range

Statistics & Milestones: 29th Space Shuttle mission; 11th flight of Challenger; 17th landing at Edwards Air Force Range. The 13th spacewalk of the Space Shuttle Program occurred on this flight.

Narrative Summary:

Challenger lifted off on the first launch opportunity on October 8, 1985. It was inserted into an initial 2x210km orbit. The OMS burn at MET 16m placed Challenger into a 72x210km orbit, inclination 1.9 degrees (or 1.7 degrees with respect to that of the LDEF), period 35m32s. At MET 20m20s the #3 monopropellant tank in the orbiter aft compartment began leaking, but the crew were able to transfer most of the contents into other tanks.


At MET 4h26m29s the #1 battery in the orbiter aft compartment short-circuited. At MET 4h54m the crew performed the first of three OMS burns for the day, a plane change maneuver taking approximately 60 m/s of Delta-v to align Challenger’s orbit with that of the LDEF, leaving the orbiter with an inclination of 1.2 degrees (or 0.1 degrees with respect to the LDEF). The crew completed a second burn at MET 4h59m to raise the orbit to 101x209km, and a third at MET 5h18m to circularize the orbit to 97x103km.


Galaxy V-A was deployed from the payload bay at MET 2d1h30m25s, the second time for this satellite, as it was originally deployed on STS-5 only to have its PAM disintegrate (and was later retrieved on STS-41D). This second deployment went much more smoothly. The first PAM burn placed the satellite into a 103x2,818km transfer orbit. The second PAM burn and two RCS burns placed it into its operational orbit, nearly three years after originally planned.

KCom 5 was deployed from the payload bay at MET 3d1h59m25s. The first PAM burn placed into a 99x2,862km transfer orbit, and the satellite was thereafter successfully inserted into its operational orbit.


The crew spent Flight Day 5 preparing for the next day’s spacewalk.

The crew inflated the airlock in preparation for the spacewalk at MET 4d4h27m. Bob Kerman exited the airlock at MET 4d5h12m15s, followed by Fred Langbrook at4d5h13m30s. Langbrook strapped himself into the #2 KMU, while Kerman boarded the #1 KMU. Kerman undocked from Challenger, and performed approximately 1 minute of free flight before successfully redocking. Langbrook then undocked and moved the KMU to the aft end of the payload bay and attempted to return; although he experienced some control issues, he was able to redock after approximately 5m40s of free flight. Kerman then undocked a second time and took the KMU for a free flight to a distance of approximately 75 m from the payload bay and then returned, spending approximately six minutes in free flight. The astronauts deactivated the KMUs, and then retreated inside. Langbrook reentered the airlock at MET 4d5h38m18s, and Kerman at MET 4d5h39m20s. EVA time was 27m15s for Kerman, and 24m48s for Langbrook; this was the longest EVA of the shuttle program to date. The EVA began just after orbital sunrise, and lasted into the next orbital night. The KMUs were successfully validated, although KSP engineers identified a few further modifications to make before their first operational use on STS-61B.



The crew spent Flight Day 7 stowing equipment after the previous day’s EVA and preparing to begin the rendezvous with the LDEF the next day.

At MET 6d4h38m the crew conducted an OMS burn to commence the rendezvous sequence, lowering the orbit to 87x101km, period 32m13s, in order to approach the LDEF. The crew spent the remainder of the day performing experiments and photographing Kerbin while slowly catching up with the LDEF.

At MET 7d5h10m the crew began activating and unberthing Canadarm in preparation for rendezvous and capture of the LDEF. At MET 7d5h45m43s the #4 oxidizer tank in the orbiter aft compartment began leaking; due to the work with Canadarm there was a slight delay in transferring the oxidizer to another tank, and liquid oxygen good for 3 m/s of Delta-v leaked out. At MET 8d0h09m the crew performed an RCS maneuver to fine-tune the encounter with the LDEF in the next orbit, setting Challenger up to pass 600 m from the LDEF at a relative velocity of 21.3 m/s. At MET~8d0h40m Challenger conducted an OMS burn to nearly zero out its velocity with respect to the LDEF, and then began the terminal approach sequence. At MET 8d0h52m Challenger paused its approach at a range of 50m in order for both it and the LDEF to orient themselves for approach and capture. By MET 8d1h10m Challenger had approached to within 8m of the LDEF, close enough for Canadarm to contact the LDEF, but the crew experienced difficulty securing the grapple, exacerbated by the fact that the orbiter had moved into orbital night by this time; mission managers therefore made the call to suspend rendezvous operations until orbital sunrise. Sunrise occurred approximately three minutes later. Due to problems with Canadarm the crew reverted to the backup berthing method*, and Argyris maneuvered Challenger in to dock with the LDEF, with capture occurring at MET 8d1h25m02s. During the approach sequence, at MET 8d1h20m48s, the monopropellant tank aboard the #2 KMU began leaking. 10 minutes after capture the crew engaged the LDEF Restraint Mechanism to help hold the LDEF in the payload bay for reentry. The crew then stowed Canadarm in preparation for landing the next day.




The crew initially prepared for the prime landing opportunity at KSC, despite a forecast 70% chance of NO-GO weather. At MET 8d5h18m, 8 minutes before the planned deorbit burn, mission control gave the NO-GO call and the crew aborted the landing attempt, opening the payload bay doors and re-locking the aerodynamic control surfaces. As mission rules for this flight called for landing at KSC if at all possible in order to allow the least possibility of contamination of the LDEF during ground processing, mission managers decided to try once more to land at KSC on Flight Day 11, when the forecast called for a 62% chance of precipitation, and then to land at Edwards that day if the KSC landing was not possible.

At MET 9d5h11m the crew closed the payload bay for the first landing attempt of the day, but seven minutes before the re-entry burn the landing was called off due to rain at KSC. Due to a forecast 96% chance of rain the next day, mission managers elected to switch the prime landing site to Edwards. The crew thus reopened the payload bay and reconfigured the computers. The crew closed the payload bay doors for the second time that day at MET 10d0h17m. At MET 10d0h28m22s the motors to actuate the airlock failed. Challenger completed an RCS-assisted deorbit burn targeting Edwards Air Force Range at MET 10d0h35m, which was only able to lower to apoapsis to 9.6 km. Entry interface occurred at MET 10d0h41m32s. At MET 10d0h47m, at an altitude of approximately 36 km, Challenger began experiencing some abnormal pitching and yawing which ceased after the crew disabled the reaction wheels aboard the LDEF. Agryris steered Challenger in for a smooth landing with wheel stop at MET 10d0h55m34s.


This was the final mission for veteran astronaut Bryan Argyris, who retired after this flight. Argyris retired as one of the most experienced astronauts to date, having spent more than 85 days in space aboard Skylab and three space shuttle missions. KSP wishes Argyris all the best in his new position as COO of Western Airlines.

Next Up: The final in a back-to-back-to-back-to-back sequences of launches is scheduled for October 23, when Columbia will launch on STS-51I, carrying the Space Interferometry Test Platform and the second sitting member of Congress to fly into space.

*What actually happened was that, much like when I deployed it, the LDEF was very glitched out (screenshot below) and I was unable to release it after capturing it with Canadarm, so I elected to just manually dock instead.




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On 8/6/2019 at 11:22 PM, ShuttleHugger said:


Can I just say how awesome these patches are? I love the low-fidelity design and they've all got such personality. Really, kudos to having that to tell your story!

EDIT: For anyone browsing the forums and seeing this activity, definitely check out their summary table of mission patches.

To @ShuttleHugger If you haven't put these on the KSP Reddit, you really should! I had to google the actual STS mission patches to see how these aren't just re-creations, they're original artwork. Am I wrong?

STS-1 Columbia
Apr. 7-9, 1981
Test Flight 1
STS-2 Columbia
Dec. 14-19, 1981
Test Flight 2
STS-3 Columbia
Apr. 35-May 7, 1982
Test Flight 3
STS-4 Columbia
Sept. 13-22, 1982
Test Flight 4

STS-5 Columbia
Dec. 27-31, 1982

STS-6 Challenger
Mar. 30-35, 1983

STS-7 Challenger
Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 1983
STS-8 Challenger
Jan. 1-6, 1984
STS-9 Columbia
Feb. 1-10, 1984
Spacelab 1
STS-41B Challenger
Mar. 32-Apr. 3, 1984
STS-41D Columbia
May 19-26, 1984
STS-41C Discovery
June 2-10, 1984
STS-41E Challenger
June 25-29, 1984
STS-41H Challenger
Sept. 4-11, 1984
Kerbin Radiation
Budget Satellite
STS-41G Discovery
Sept. 24-29, 1984
STS-41F Columbia
Oct. 28-32, 1984
STS-51B Discovery
Dec. 10-20, 1984
Spacelab 2
STS-51A Challenger
Jan. 5-11, 1985
STS-51D Columbia
Jan. 21-32, 1985
Spacelab 3
STS-51F Discovery
Mar. 12-16, 1985
STS-51E Challenger
Apr. 3-6, 1985
STS-51C Columbia
May 1-7, 1985
STS-51G Challenger
June 2-6, 1985
STS-51H Discovery
June 18-24, 1985

STS-51J Columbia
July 36-Aug. 3, 1985

STS-51M Challenger
Aug. 10-13, 1985
STS-51N Atlantis
Sept. 24-27, 1985
STS-51K Discovery
Sept. 34-Oct. 4, 1985
STS-51O Challenger
Oct. 8, 1985
LDEF Retrieval

Edited by scottadges

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