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[i]Now, as the final chapter of the story of the Space Shuttle is being written, it is worthwhile to revisit the program’s early years, and the less-examined history of the United States military’s use of the shuttle. When the shuttle was first approved, the US Air Force and the secret National Reconnaissance Office planned on making extensive use of its capabilities. But soon after the shuttle began flying, military and intelligence leaders started to have second thoughts and ultimately only ten military shuttle missions were flown. Several other missions were officially civilian, but conducted work that was important to the military. Overall, about ten percent of nearly 140 shuttle missions had some kind of military component. Amateur observers have been able to piece together what they suspect are the identities and missions of the classified shuttle missions...
Of the eight classified shuttle missions, only one of them has been substantially declassified. This was STS-51J, the launch of Atlantis on October 3, 1985, on a four-day mission to deploy two military communications satellites.[/i]
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