January 24, 1985


(The crew assigned to the STS-51C mission included (kneeling in front left to right) Loren J. Shriver (USAF), pilot; and Thomas K. Mattingly, II (USN), commander. Standing, left to right, are Gary E. Payton (USAF), payload specialist; and mission specialists James F. Buchli (USN), and Ellison L. Onizuka (USAF). Launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery at 2:50:00 pm (EST), the STS-51C was the first mission dedicated to the Department of Defense.)

1985: Through 27 January, the Discovery flew the fifteenth Space Shuttle mission. Colonel Loren J. Shriver led a four-man crew on the Department of Defense’s first dedicated mission to deliver an intelligence satellite. The mission’s length of three days was shorter than the week or longer of most civilian shuttle flights. It was the first dedicated to the U.S. Department of Defense, and most information about it remains classified. For the first time, NASA did not provide pre-launch commentary to the public until nine minutes before liftoff. The U.S. Air Force only stated that the shuttle successfully launched its payload with an Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) on the mission’s seventh orbit.