Human Spaceflights

International Flight No. 123


Columbia (8)

30th Space Shuttle mission


STS-28 patch Patch DoD

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Launch, orbit and landing data

Launch date:  08.08.1989
Launch time:  12:37:00.012 UTC
Launch site:  Cape Canaveral (KSC)
Launch pad:  39-B
Altitude:  289 - 306 km
Inclination:  57.0°
Landing date:  13.08.1989
Landing time:  13:37:06 UTC
Landing site:  Edwards AFB
Landing speed:  293 km/h
Landing rollout:  1,834 m
Vehicle weight at liftoff:  2,045,710 kg
Orbiter weight at liftoff:  90,816 kg (without cargo)
Orbiter weight at landing:  86,616 kg

walkout photo

Crew STS-28

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alternative crew photo


No.   Surname Given names Position Flight No. Duration Orbits
1  Shaw  Brewster Hopkinson, Jr.  CDR 3 5d 01h 00m 06s  81 
2  Richards  Richard Noel "Dick"  PLT 1 5d 01h 00m 06s  81 
3  Adamson  James Craig  MS-1, EV-1 1 5d 01h 00m 06s  81 
4  Leestma  David Cornell  MS-2, FE 2 5d 01h 00m 06s  81 
5  Brown  Mark Neil  MS-3, EV-2 1 5d 01h 00m 06s   81 

Crew seating arrangement

1  Shaw
2  Richards
3  Adamson
4  Leestma
5  Brown
Space Shuttle cockpit
1  Shaw
2  Richards
3  Brown
4  Leestma
5  Adamson


Orbiter :  OV-102 (8.)
SSME (1 / 2 / 3):  2019 (5.) / 2022 (3.) / 2028 (3.)
SRB:  BI-028 / RSRM 5
ET:  ET-31 (LWT-24)
OMS Pod:  Left Pod 03 (8.) / Right Pod 04 (4.)
FWD RCS Pod:  FRC 2 (8.)
RMS:  -
EMU:  EMU No. 1099 (PLSS No. 1013) / EMU No. 1098 (PLSS No. 1011)


Launch from Cape Canaveral (KSC) and landing on the Edwards AFB, Runway 17.

This flight was the fourth mission dedicated to Department of Defense, and most information about it remained classified. For the fourth time, NASA did not provide pre-launch commentary to the public until nine minutes before liftoff. It was the second military mission without a MSE among the crew members.

The crew deployed the military satellites KH-12 and Ferret into orbit. Observation and photo experiments for visibility of small structures on Earth surface were done.

Other sources suggest that USA-40 was one of the deployed satellites. This is a second-generation Satellite Data System (SDS) relay, similar to those likely launched on STS-38 and STS-53. These satellites had the same bus design as the LEASAT satellites deployed on other shuttle missions, and were likely deployed in the same fashion.

The mission marked the first flight of an 11-pound human skull, which served as the primary element of "Detailed Secondary Objective 469", also known as the In-flight Radiation Dose Distribution (IDRD) experiment. This joint NASA/DoD experiment was designed to examine the penetration of radiation into the human cranium during spaceflight. The female skull was seated in a plastic matrix, representative of tissue, and sliced into ten layers. Hundreds of thermo-luminescent dosimeters were mounted in the skull's layers to record radiation levels at multiple depths. This experiment, which also flew on STS-36 and STS-31, was located in the shuttle's mid-deck lockers on all three flights, recording radiation levels at different orbital inclinations

The Shuttle Lee-side Temperature Sensing (SILTS) infrared camera package made its second flight aboard Columbia on this mission. The cylindrical pod and surrounding black tiles on the orbiter's vertical stabilizer housed an imaging system, designed to map thermodynamic conditions during reentry, on the surfaces visible from the top of the tail fin. Ironically, the camera faced the port wing of Columbia, which was breached by superheated plasma on its disastrous final flight, destroying the wing and, later, the orbiter. The SILTS system was used for only six missions before being deactivated, but the pod remained for the duration of Columbia's career. Columbia's thermal protection system was also upgraded to a similar configuration as Discovery and Atlantis in between the loss of Challenger and STS-28, with many of the white LRSI tiles replaced with felt insulation blankets in order to reduce weight and turnaround time. One other minor modification that debuted on STS-28 was the move of Columbia's name from its payload bay doors to the fuselage, allowing the orbiter to be easily recognized while in orbit.

Postflight analysis of STS-28 discovered unusual heating of the thermal protection system (TPS) during re-entry, caused by an early transition to turbulent plasma flow around the vehicle. A detailed report identified protruding gap filler as the likely cause.

Photos / Graphics

Space Shuttle SDS-2
SDS-2 STS-28 rollout
STS-28 on the launch pad STS-28 launch
traditional in-flight photo STS-28 life onboard
life onboard Dead Sea
Richards onboard Space Shuttle Leestma onboard Space Shuttle
Earth observation STS-28 landing
post landing activities  

more Earth observation photos


Last update on March 31, 2020.