STS-41-D launch August 30, 1984.jpg
The launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its first mission on 30 August 1984.
NamesSpace Transportation System-12
Mission typeSatellites deployment
COSPAR ID1984-093A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.15234
Mission duration6 days, 0 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds (achieved)
Distance travelled4,010,000 km (2,490,000 mi)
Orbits completed97
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftSpace Shuttle Discovery
Launch mass119,511 kg (263,477 lb)
Landing mass91,418 kg (201,542 lb)
Payload mass18,681 kg (41,185 lb)
Crew size6
Start of mission
Launch date30 August 1984, 12:41:50 UTC
RocketSpace Shuttle Discovery
Launch siteKennedy Space Center, LC-39A
ContractorRockwell International
End of mission
Landing date5 September 1984, 13:37:54 UTC
Landing siteEdwards Air Force Base,
Runway 17
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit[1]
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Perigee altitude346 km (215 mi)
Apogee altitude354 km (220 mi)
Period90.60 minutes
Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES)

STS-41-D mission patch
STS-41-D crew.jpg

Back row: Charles D. Walker, Judith A. Resnik
Front row: Richard M. Mullane, Steven A. Hawley, Henry W. Hartsfield Jr., Michael L. Coats
← STS-41-C (11)
STS-41-G (13) →

STS-41-D (formerly STS-14) was the 12th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the first mission of Space Shuttle Discovery. It was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 30 August 1984, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 5 September 1984. Three commercial communications satellites were deployed into orbit during the six-day mission, and a number of scientific experiments were conducted, including a prototype extendable solar array that would eventually form the basis of the main solar arrays on the International Space Station (ISS).

The mission was delayed by more than two months from its original planned launch date, having experienced the Space Shuttle program's first launch abort at T-6 seconds on 26 June 1984.


Position Astronaut
Commander Henry W. Hartsfield Jr.
Second spaceflight
Pilot Michael L. Coats
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 Richard M. Mullane
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 Steven A. Hawley
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 Judith A. Resnik
Only spaceflight
Payload Specialist 1 Charles D. Walker
First spaceflight

Crew seat assignments

Seat[2] Launch Landing
Space Shuttle seating plan.svg

Seats 1–4 are on the Flight Deck. Seats 5–7 are on the Middeck.
S1 Hartsfield Hartsfield
S2 Coats Coats
S3 Mullane Resnik
S4 Hawley Hawley
S5 Resnik Mullane
S6 Walker Walker

Mission background

The launch was originally planned for 25 June 1984, but because of a variety of technical problems, including rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to replace a faulty Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), the launch was delayed by over two months. The 26 June 1984 launch attempt marked the first time since Gemini 6A that a crewed spacecraft had experienced a shutdown of its engines just prior to launch.

June 1984 launch attempt

During the 26 June 1984 launch attempt, there was a launch abort at T–6 seconds, followed by a pad fire about ten minutes later.[3][4] Because the center engine had not started when the abort was triggered, confusion ensued as the flight controllers were unable to verify its state:

Commentary: "We have a cut off".
"NTD [NASA Test Director] we have a RSLS [Redundant Set Launch Sequencer] abort".

Commentary: "We have an abort by the onboard computers of the orbiter Discovery".
"Break break, break break, GLS [Ground Launch Sequencer] shows engine one not shut down".
"OK, PLT [pilot]?"
"CSME [Space Shuttle Main Engines] verify engine one".
"You want me to shut down engine one?"
"We do not show engine start on one".
"OTC [Orbiter test conductor] I can verify shutdown on verify on engine one, we haven't start prepped engine one".
"All engines shut down I can verify that".

Commentary: "We can now verify all three engines have been shut down".
"We have red lights on engines two and three in the cockpit, not on one".
"All right, CSME verify engine one safe for APU [auxiliary power unit] shutdown".
"If I can verify that?"
"OTC GPC [General Purpose Computer] go for APU shutdown".[5]

Mission Specialist Steve Hawley was reported as saying following the abort: "Gee, I thought we'd be a lot higher at MECO (Main Engine Cut-Off)!".[6] About ten minutes later, the following was heard on live TV coverage:

"We have indication two of our fire detectors on the zero level; no response. They're side by side right next to the engine area. The engineer requested that we turn on the heat shield fire water which is what could be seen spraying up in the vicinity of the engine bells of Discovery's three main engines".[7]

While evacuating the shuttle, the crew was doused with water from the pad deluge system, which was activated due to a hydrogen fire on the launch pad caused by the free hydrogen (fuel) that had collected around the engine nozzles following the shutdown and engine anomaly.[8] Because the fire was invisible to humans, had the astronauts used the normal emergency escape procedure across the service arm to the slidewire escape baskets, they would have run into the fire.[9]

Changes to procedures resulting from the abort included more practicing of "safing" the orbiter following aborts at various points, the use of the fire suppression system in all pad aborts, and the testing of the slidewire escape system with a real person (Charles F. Bolden Jr.). It emerged that launch controllers were reluctant to order the crew to evacuate during the STS-41-D abort, as the slidewire had not been ridden by a human.[6]

Examination of telemetry data indicated that the engine malfunction had been caused by a stuck valve that prevented proper flow of LOX into the combustion chamber.[citation needed]

Mission summary

STS-41-D launched on 08:41:50 a.m. EDT on 30 August 1984 after a six-minute, fifty-second delay when a private aircraft flew into the restricted airspace near the launch pad. It was the fourth launch attempt for Discovery. Because of the two-month delay, the STS-41-F mission was canceled (STS-41-E had already been canceled), and its primary payloads were included on the STS-41-D flight. The combined cargo weighed over 18,681 kg (41,185 lb), a record for a Space Shuttle payload up to that time.

The six-person flight crew consisted of Henry W. Hartsfield Jr., commander, making his second shuttle mission; pilot Michael L. Coats; three mission specialists – Judith A. Resnik, Richard M. Mullane and Steven A. Hawley; and a payload specialist, Charles D. Walker, an employee of McDonnell Douglas. Walker was the first commercially sponsored payload specialist to fly aboard the Space Shuttle. Resnik became the second American woman to fly any NASA space mission, after Sally K. Ride.

Primary cargo of Discovery consisted of three commercial communications satellites: SBS-4 for Satellite Business Systems, Telstar 302 for Telesat of Canada, and Syncom IV-2, or Leasat-2, a Hughes-built satellite leased to the U.S. Navy; all three were Hughes-built satellites. Leasat-2 was the first large communications satellite designed specifically to be deployed from the Space Shuttle. All three satellites were deployed successfully and became operational.

Another payload was the OAST-1 solar array, a device 4 m (13 ft) wide and 31 m (102 ft) high, which folded into a package 18 cm (7.1 in) deep. The array carried a number of different types of experimental solar cells and was extended to its full height several times during the mission. At the time, it was the largest structure ever extended from a crewed spacecraft, and it demonstrated the feasibility of large lightweight solar arrays for use on future orbital installations, such as the International Space Station (ISS).

The McDonnell Douglas-sponsored Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) experiment, using living cells, was more elaborate than the one flown on previous missions, and payload specialist Walker operated it for more than 100 hours during the flight. A student experiment to study crystal growth in microgravity was also carried out. The highlights of the mission were filmed using an IMAX motion picture camera, and later appeared in the 1985 documentary film The Dream is Alive. On 3 September 1984, concern arose over the formation of ice on the waste dump nozzle of the shuttle. The cause was an obstruction in the shuttle's external wastewater dumping system that caused a 61 cm (24 in) "pee-sicle" to form during the mission; Hartsfield removed it with the Remote Manipulator System (Canadarm) the following day.[10][11]

The mission lasted 6 days, 0 hour, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds, with landing taking place on Runway 17 at Edwards Air Force Base at 06:37:54 a.m. PDT on 5 September 1984. During STS-41-D, Discovery traveled a total of 4,010,000 km (2,490,000 mi) and made 97 orbits. The orbiter was transported back to KSC on 10 September 1984. Ominously, STS-41-D was the first Shuttle mission in which blow-by damage to the SRB O-rings was discovered, with a small amount of soot found beyond the primary O-ring. Following the Challenger disaster, Morton Thiokol engineer Brian Russell called this finding the first "big red flag" on SRB Joint and O-ring safety.[12]

Launch attempts

Attempt Planned Result Turnaround Reason Decision point Weather go (%) Notes
1 25 Jun 1984, 12:00:00 am scrubbed Failure of Orbiter's back-up General Purpose Computer forced the scrub.[13]  ​(T-9:00 minutes and holding)
2 26 Jun 1984, 12:00:00 am scrubbed 1 day, 0 hours, 0 minutes Post-SSME start RSLS abort due to anomaly in number three main engine.  ​(T-0:06) Discovery returned to OPF for engine replacement; launch delayed over two months.
3 29 Aug 1984, 12:00:00 am scrubbed 64 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes Discrepancy with master events controller relating to SRB fire commands.
4 30 Aug 1984, 1:41:50 pm successful 1 day, 13 hours, 42 minutes Delayed 6 minutes, 50 seconds when private aircraft strayed into KSC airspace.

Mission insignia

The 12 stars within the blue field indicate the flight's original numerical designation as STS-12 in the Space Transportation System's mission sequence. A representation of Discovery's namesake is manifested in a sailing ship, which is linked to the Shuttle (with the OAST solar array in the payload bay) via a red, white, and blue path, signifying its maiden voyage.

Wake-up calls

NASA began a tradition of playing music to astronauts during the Project Gemini, and first used music to wake up a flight crew during Apollo 15. Each track is specially chosen, often by the astronauts' families, and usually has a special meaning to an individual member of the crew, or is applicable to their daily activities.[14]

Flight Day Song Artist/Composer
Day 2 "Anchors Aweigh" Charles A. Zimmerman
Day 3 "Telstar" The Ventures
Day 4 "Mr. Spaceman" The Byrds
Day 5 "Hair" Broadway cast
Day 6 "Eight Miles High" The Byrds


See also


  1. ^ "SATCAT". Jonathan's Space Report. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  2. ^ "STS-41D". Spacefacts. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Risk of Space Flight" Archived 28 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine Wyle Laboratories Retrieved 21 June 2013
  4. ^ "STS-41-D". NASA. 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "STS-41D pad abort" YouTube 6 August 2009 Retrieved 30 April 2012
  6. ^ a b "Roundup" NASA June 2007 Retrieved 21 June 2013 Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "Discovery STS-41-D Mission - Launch - Abort". YouTube 12 April 2017 Retrieved 20 June 2019
  8. ^ "Photo of the week 19 (8 August)" CollectSpace Retrieved 21 July 2013
  9. ^ Walker, Charles D. (17 March 2005). "Oral History Transcript" (PDF). NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project (Interview). Interviewed by Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer. NASA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2011. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  10. ^ Walker, Charles D. (14 April 2005). "Oral History Transcript" (PDF). NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project (Interview). Interviewed by Johnson, Sandra. NASA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 January 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2011. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ 35 Years Ago: STS-41-D – First Flight of Space Shuttle Discovery Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ Vaughan, Diane (1996). The Challenger launch decision: risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA. University of Chicago Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-226-85175-4.
  13. ^ Vaughan, Diane (1996). The Challenger launch decision: risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA. University of Chicago Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-226-85175-4.
  14. ^ Fries, Colin (25 June 2007). "Chronology of Wakeup Calls" (PDF). NASA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2007. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.