Encyclopedia Astronautica

STS-36 Atlantis, OV-104, rollout is framed in a VAB door opening at KSC
Credit: NASA
Credit: www.spacefacts.de - www.spacefacts.de
Aerial view of STS-36 Atlantis, OV-104, at KSC LC Pad 39A with T-38A in-flight
Credit: NASA
STS-36 Atlantis, OV-104, lifts off from KSC LC Pad 39A into darkness
Credit: NASA
STS-36 Commander Creighton skis on the middeck of Atlantis, OV-104
Credit: NASA
STS-36 Pilot Casper reaches for laptop computer on OV-104's flight deck
Credit: NASA
STS-36 Mission Specialist Hilmers with AEROLINHOF camera on aft flight deck
Credit: NASA
STS-36 onboard view of the "Bonner Sphere", a neutron flux experiment
Credit: NASA
Aral Sea, North End, Kazakhstan, CIS
Credit: NASA
Open Ocean, Sun glint and Clouds
Credit: NASA
STS-36 night Earth observation of New York City, New York
Credit: NASA
STS-36 Atlantis, OV-104, glides above EAFB Runway 23 prior to landing
Credit: NASA
Crew: Casper, Creighton, Hilmers, Mullane, Thuot. Classified mission in 62 degree orbit, the highest inclination orbit ever flown by an American mission. Launch delayed due to illness of crew members.

Classified mission in 62 degree orbit, the highest inclination orbit ever flown by an American mission. Landed at: Runway 23 dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, . Landing Speed: 368 kph. Touchdown miss distance: 494.00 m. Landing Rollout: 2,407.00 m. Payloads: DoD Mission - Record altitude (through 5/93).

The first launch attempt was scrubbed when all but two of the crew came down with the flu. After a second scrub for weather, a third launch attempt came on February 25.

As the crew entered the room to suit up, they found the name tags misspelled on each recliner in which they were prepared. Thuot had done this in revenge for an early version of the crew patch that had misspelled his name. On the way out to the crew van, his oxygen hose snagged on a rail, nearly pulling him down to the ground. The commander and pilot still carried net backs full of medications to fight off their flu symptoms. The crew was led by astronaut Coats in prayer before they departed for the gantry "God help you if you screw this up". The view of the shuttle, prepared for night launch, reminded Mullane of Chesley Bonestell's classic painting "Zero Hour Minus Five" from the 1950's Conquest of Space. However this launch was again scrubbed due to failure of a range safety backup computer.

A fourth attempt, again after loading the crew into the shuttle, was scrubbed due to bad weather at an RTLS abort site. The launch was rescheduled for two days later to give everyone time to rest after days of all-night work.

Finally launched on 28 February, the work in orbit was almost entirely classified.

Mullane enjoyed, on his last mission, the best view from the shuttle - by floating horizontally, and putting his body over the control panel, his face looking out through the forward windscreen, offering a completely unobstructed view.

After the mission, the crew was invited to the White House to meet President Bush - an unusual thing, and indicative of the importance given to the secret mission.

NASA Official Mission Narrative

Mission Name: STS-36 (34)
Atlantis (6)
Pad 39-A (38)
34th Shuttle mission
6th Flight OV-104
4th Night launch

John O. Creighton (2), Commander
John H. Casper (1), Pilot
Richard M. Mullane (3), Mission Specialist 1
David C. Hilmers (3), Mission Specialist 2
Pierre J. Thuot (1), Mission Specialist 3

OPF - Oct. 30, 1989
VAB - Jan. 19, 1990
PAD - Jan. 25, 1990

Mission Objectives:

February 28, 1990, 2:50:22 a.m. EST. Launch set for Feb. 22 postponed to Feb 23, Feb. 24, and Feb. 25 due to illness of the crew commander and weather conditions. First time since Apollo 13 in 1970 that manned space mission was affected by illness of crew member. Launch set for Feb. 25 scrubbed due to malfunction of range safety computer. Launch set for Feb. 26 scrubbed due to weather conditions. (Note: external tank loaded only for launch attempts on Feb. 25 and 26, and launch on Feb. 28.) Launch Feb. 28 set for classified window lying within launch period extending from 12 midnight to 4 a.m. EST. Launch Weight: Classified.
Altitude: 132
Inclination: 62.0 degrees
Orbits: 72
Duration: 4 days, 10 hours, 18 minutes, 22 seconds.
Distance: 1,920,000 miles (approx)

SRB: BI-036
SRM: 360L009
ET : 33/LWT-26
MLP : 1
SSME-1: SN-2019
SSME-2: SN-2030
SSME-3: SN-2027

March 4, 1990, 10:08:44 a.m. PST, Runway 23, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Rollout distance: 7,900 feet. Rollout time: 53 sec. Orbiter returned to KSC on March 13,1990. Landing Weight: 187,200 lbs.

Mission Highlights:
Sixth mission dedicated to Department of Defense.

AKA: Atlantis.
First Launch: 1990.02.28.
Last Launch: 1990.03.04.
Duration: 4.43 days.

More... - Chronology...

Associated People
  • Creighton Creighton, John Oliver (1943-) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on STS-51-G, STS-36, STS-48. Grew up in Seattle, Washington. Flew 175 combat missions in Vietnam. Bachelor navy fighter pilot with a midnight blue corvette and a ski boat dubbed Sin Ship. More...
  • Casper Casper, John Howard (1943-) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on STS-36, STS-54, STS-62, STS-77. Grew up in Gainesville, Georgia, son of an Air Force officer. Flew 229 combat missions in Vietnam. More...
  • Thuot Thuot, Pierre Joseph (1945-) American test pilot mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-36, STS-49, STS-62. More...
  • Mullane Mullane, Richard Michael 'Mike' (1945-) American test engineer mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-41-D, STS-27, STS-36. Author of the frankest astronaut biography ever published. Flew 150 combat missions in Vietnam. More...
  • Hilmers Hilmers, David Carl 'Dave' (1950-) American USMC engineer mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-51-J, STS-26, STS-36, STS-42. Known as a religiously conservative astronaut; summed up many astronaut's fears of the shuttle, saying before a flight "I have no plans past MECO". More...

Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Atlantis American manned spaceplane. 33 launches, 1985.10.03 to 2011.07.08. The space shuttle Atlantis was the fourth orbiter to become operational at Kennedy Space Center, and the last of the original production run. More...

See also
Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...
  • NASA Houston American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. Houston, Houston, USA. More...

Associated Programs
  • STS The Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle) was conceived originally as a completely reusable system that would provide cheap, routine access to space and replace all American and civilian military launch vehicles. Crippled by technological overreach, political compromise, and budget limitations, it instead ended up costing more than the expendable rockets it was to have replaced. STS sucked the money out of all other NASA projects for half a century. The military abandoned its use after the Challenger shuttle explosion in the 1980's. More...

  • Mullane, Mike, Riding Rockets, Scribner, New York, 2006.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...

STS-36 Chronology

1990 February 28 - . 07:50 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39A. LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Shuttle. LV Configuration: Space Shuttle STS-36R.
  • STS-36 - . Call Sign: Atlantis. Crew: Casper; Creighton; Hilmers; Mullane; Thuot. Payload: Atlantis F06 / KH-12 1. Nation: USA. Related Persons: Casper; Creighton; Hilmers; Mullane; Thuot. Agency: NASA Houston. Program: STS. Class: Manned. Type: Manned spaceplane. Flight: STS-36. Spacecraft: Atlantis. Duration: 4.43 days. Decay Date: 1990-03-04 . USAF Sat Cat: 20512 . COSPAR: 1990-019A. Apogee: 204 km (126 mi). Perigee: 198 km (123 mi). Inclination: 62.0000 deg. Period: 88.50 min. Manned five crew. Deployed a classified payload. Landed at: Runway 23 dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, . Landing Speed: 368 kph. Touchdown miss distance: 494.00 m. Landing Rollout: 2,407.00 m. Payloads: DoD Mission - Record altitude (through 5/93).

1990 March 4 - .
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