Human Spaceflights

International Flight No. 126


Discovery (9)

32nd Space Shuttle mission


STS-33 patch Patch DoD

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Launch, orbit and landing data

Launch date:  23.11.1989
Launch time:  00:23:29.986 UTC
Launch site:  Cape Canaveral (KSC)
Launch pad:  39-B
Altitude:  559 km
Inclination:  28.46°
Landing date:  28.11.1989
Landing time:  00:30:15.9 UTC
Landing site:  Edwards AFB
Landing speed:  369 km/h
Landing rollout:  2,367 m
Vehicle weight at liftoff:  2,054,392 kg
Orbiter weight at liftoff:  88,125 kg (without cargo)
Orbiter weight at landing:  88,125 kg

walkout photo

Crew STS-33

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alternative crew photo

alternative crew photo

alternative crew photo

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alternative crew photo


No.   Surname Given names Position Flight No. Duration Orbits
1  Gregory  Frederick Drew  CDR 2 5d 00h 06m 46s  79 
2  Blaha  John Elmer  PLT 2 5d 00h 06m 46s  79 
3  Carter  Manley Lanier, Jr. "Sonny"  MS-1, EV-1 1 5d 00h 06m 46s  79 
4  Musgrave  Franklin Story  MS-2, FE 3 5d 00h 06m 46s  79 
5  Thornton  Kathryn Cordell Ryan  MS-3, EV-2 1 5d 00h 06m 46s  79 

Crew seating arrangement

1  Gregory
2  Blaha
3  Carter
4  Musgrave
5  Thornton
Space Shuttle cockpit
1  Gregory
2  Blaha
3  Thornton
4  Musgrave
5  Carter


Orbiter :  OV-103 (9.)
SSME (1 / 2 / 3):  2011 (4.) / 2031 (2.) / 2107 (1.)
SRB:  BI-034 / RSRM 7
ET:  ET-38 (LWT-31)
OMS Pod:  Left Pod 04 (6.) / Right Pod 01 (11.)
FWD RCS Pod:  FRC 3 (9.)
RMS:  -
EMU:  EMU No. 2006 (PLSS No. 1013) / EMU No. 2005 (PLSS No. 1009)


Launch from Cape Canaveral (KSC) and landing on Edwards AFB, Runway 04.

The launch was originally scheduled for November 20, 1989, but was delayed because of suspect integrated electronics assemblies which control ignition and separation of the Shuttle's solid rocket boosters.

S. David Griggs, the originally scheduled pilot for this mission, died in a plane crash 5 months prior to the shuttle launch. He was replaced by John Blaha.

This flight was the fifth mission dedicated to the 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 third military mission without a MSE among the crew members.

Mail goal was to deploy the reconnaissance satellite "Big Ear" (Magnum 2; USA-48), a secret Magnum ELINT (ELectronic INTtelligence) satellite. The satellite replaced the one launched by STS-51C, which was running out of the maneuvering fuel required for keeping its station over the Indian Ocean. The satellite was deployed on the 7th orbit, and ignited its Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster at the ascending node of the 8th orbit, successfully placing it in a geosynchronous transfer orbit. This was the 8th IUS launched aboard the shuttle, and the seventh successfully deployed. According to Jim Slade of ABC News, the satellite was intended to eavesdrop on military and diplomatic communications from the Soviet Union, China, and other communist states.

Aviation Week claimed that the shuttle initially entered a 204-kilometers (127 mi) x 519-kilometers (322 mi) orbit at an inclination of 28.45 degrees to the equator. It then executed three Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) burns, the last on its fourth orbit. The first burn was to circularize the orbit at 519 kilometers (322 mi).

STS-33 was observed by the 1.6m telescope of the US Air Force Maui Optical Station (AMOS) during five passes over Hawaii. Spectrographic and infrared images of the shuttle obtained with the Enhanced Longwave Spectral Imager (ELSI) were aimed at studying the interactions between gases released by the shuttle's primary reaction control system and residual atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen species in orbit.

Frederick Gregory became the first Afro-American spacecraft commander.

The landing was postponed for one day because of strong winds at the landing site.

Photos / Graphics

Space Shuttle STS-33 MAGNUM
crew in training STS-33 rollout
STS-33 launch STS-33 launch
traditional in-flight photo STS-33 life onboard
Musgrave onboard Space Shuttle Thornton onboard Space Shuttle
life onboard Space Suit
STS-33 landing post landing activities

Earth observation photos


Last update on September 06, 2021.