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Author Topic:   Space shuttle mission designations (STS)
RichieB16
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posted 03-04-2004 12:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RichieB16   Click Here to Email RichieB16     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why did NASA change the space shuttle mission designations following 1983?

I have never understood why they followed STS-9, with STS-41-B (until Challenger was lost). Why did they make this change and what did it mean?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-04-2004 01:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At the time, NASA was expecting to increase the frequency of launches and begin use of a second launch facility in California.

From Kennedy Space Center's website:

The new numbering system was designed to be more specific in that the first numeral stood for the fiscal year in which the launch was to take place, the "4" being 1984. The second numeral represented the launch site l for KSC and 2 for Vandenberg AFB, Calif. The letter represented the order of launch assignment, " B" was the second launch scheduled in that fiscal year.

Rob Joyner
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posted 03-08-2004 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is also no STS-10 through STS-25. It seems that STS-41-B through STS-51-L took the place of numbers 10 through 25. If you count all the STS 41, 51 and 61 "letter" missions (there are 16 of them) they fit in perfectly.

All manned STS missions up to STS-9 plus 16 "letter" missions equals 25. The next mission after those was STS-26.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 03-08-2004 05:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To add to the confusion, internally, NASA kept the "original" numbering scheme. Challenger's last mission, 51L, was also known as STS-33, even though they launched only 25 up to that point — eight missions were either canceled or remanifested.

Somewhere I have an orbit chart labelled STS-16/41F (which was moot, since it flew as mission 41D) and one for mission 51DR (the 51D mission, revised).

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 03-09-2004 08:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Dennis Jenkins' "Space Shuttle: The First 100 Missions" (abbreviated title) and some speculation:
  • STS-10 - DoD canceled
  • STS-11 - 41B (11 stars on patch)
  • STS-12 - first Discovery flight, canceled due to engine abort (12 stars)
  • STS-13 - 41C
  • STS-14 - 41F second Discovery flight, canceled and payloads merged after engine abort (two stars on patch)
  • STS-15 - DoD / 41E canceled
  • STS-16 - "new" 41D
  • STS-17 - 41G (17 stars on patch)
  • STS-18 - DoD / 41H canceled
  • STS-19 - 51A
  • STS-20 - 51C
  • STS-21 - old 51D (Brandenstein with Jarvis and Walker)
  • STS-22 - 51E canceled and payloads merged with 51D
  • STS-23 - "new" 51D
  • STS-24 - 51B
  • STS-25 - 51G
  • STS-26 - 51F (19 stars on patch, but for the 19th flight of the shuttle)
  • STS-27 - 51I
  • STS-28 - 51J
  • STS-29 - 51H or 51K (EOM or SL-D1)
  • STS-30 - 61A
  • STS-31 - 61B
  • STS-32 - 61C
  • STS-33 - 51L
Mission 61D (Spacelab 4) was canceled in 1985, probably before it got assigned a final STS flight number (note that the patch for 51I has 19 stars because it was originally STS-19 but flew as STS-27). I haven't seen any references for STS numbers for any original post-Challenger flights (e.g. 61E, 61F, 61G, 61H, 62A, et al).

LM-12
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posted 07-23-2017 04:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The 2011 "Space Shuttle Missions Summary" document (NASA/TM-2011-216142) includes these official STS flight designators:
  • seq flight no. 9 - STS-9 (STS 41-A)
  • seq flight no. 10 - STS-11 (STS 41-B)
  • seq flight no. 11 - STS 41-C (STS-13)
  • seq flight no. 12 - STS 41-DR (STS-14)
The numbers I put in brackets are the original flight designators, according to the document.

LM-12
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posted 07-24-2017 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Which shuttle missions were cancelled after rolling out to the pad?
  • STS 41-D (STS-12)
  • STS 51-E (STS-22)
Any others?

Kite
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posted 07-24-2017 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kite     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
STS-70. Woodpeckers!

On edit: Actually it was postponed, not cancelled, so not answering your question properly. Sorry.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 07-24-2017 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The STS-9 as 41A may be a retcon.

There was planned an STS-10, so what designation would that be? By contrast, STS-11 was simultaneously known as 41B; the STS-9/41A may be an attempt to fill in the gap - and I've seen at least STS-8 labeled as 31C, which also seems to be a retcon.

Jim Behling
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posted 07-24-2017 11:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That is correct.
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
STS-11 - 41B
The STS number used after STS-11 were strictly used by KSC and not JSC or the shuttle program office.

canyon42
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posted 07-24-2017 06:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hart, I'm a little confused by this statement:
quote:
...note that the patch for 51I has 19 stars because it was originally STS-19 but flew as STS-27
The patch for what flew as STS-27 only has 7 stars. Is something about the statement reversed, or am I interpreting it wrong?

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 07-24-2017 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mission 51L is also known as STS-33 — eight missions were canceled or postponed. When flights were resumed after Challenger, in order to "simplify" things, the first mission was known as STS-26.

However, to be more accurate, the first eight missions had an R appended to it, the R signifying reflight (although, it should really be reuse, as the number was reused).

Before STS-94 was assigned its number, the mission was internally known as STS-83R, because it really was a reflight of payload and crew.

Thus, the STS-27 patch that you're thinking of really is the STS-27R patch.

LM-12
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posted 07-24-2017 09:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The document mentions 11 post-Challenger missions with "R" in the original flight designators: 26R, 27R, 29R, 30R, 28R, 34R, 33R, 32R, 36R, 31R and 83R.

Skylon
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posted 07-25-2017 07:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Similar to maintaining the "old" scheme from STS 41-B thru 51-L, were these "R" designations strictly used by KSC? Or JSC as well?

Also, what always threw me a little about the system that designates for example, Challenger's last flight as STS-33 and 51-L is the discontinuity in the scheme. STS 51-L, as the last "manifested" flight for 1985 looks like it should be STS-30.

On the other hand, STS 61-C looks like it should have the highest number (STS-33), yet it is STS-32 — clearly since it flew before 51-L. Did KSC just attach those designations to missions as it began processing them?

Jim Behling
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posted 07-25-2017 01:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
...were these "R" designations strictly used by KSC? Or JSC as well?
Just KSC used the "R" designations because of their previous use of the sequential numbers. They were not used by JSC.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 07-25-2017 06:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The alphanumeric designations were payload codes. Thus 51D was (originally) the LDEF retrieval mission, whether it was flown by Brandenstein-Creighton or Bobko-Williams.

With slips in the shuttle schedule, payloads can and did slip, although the flights were numbered in order. And again, some flights were canceled outright, like Spacelab EOM-1 (remanifested as the combined EOM-1/2 for 1986), eliminating that flight number. One flight was canceled early enough that it was given a payload code but no STS number (Mission 61D/Spacelab 4.) Clear as mud?

LM-12
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posted 08-05-2017 02:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
and I've seen at least STS-8 labeled as 31C
This NASA document includes these mission designations. The number in brackets is the flight sequence.
  • STS-005/31A (5)
  • STS-006/31B (6)
  • STS-007/31C (7)
  • STS-008/31C (8)
  • STS-035R (38)
  • STS-037R (39)
  • STS-335/135 (135)

Jim Behling
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posted 08-05-2017 02:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not a NASA but a United Space Alliance PR document. They weren't around for those earlier missions nor do they name the missions. The 31-X designations were not used.

carmelo
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posted 08-05-2017 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Who is the original that invented this odd numeration? George Abbey?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-05-2017 08:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Several astronauts' oral histories (Bob Crippen, Terry Hart, Paul Weitz and James van Hoften) ascribe the change in numbering (though not necessarily the format it took) to NASA's sixth administrator, James Beggs, due to triskaidekaphobia (i.e. avoiding an STS-13). To quote Crippen:
Of course, I mentioned it was 41-C that originally it was STS-13, and my friend Jim [James M.] Beggs, who was the Administrator of NASA, had triskaidekaphobia, and he said, "There's not going to be [another] Apollo 13 or a Shuttle 13, so come up with a new numbering system." So we did come up with this complex system for numbering the Shuttles during that period of time.

Mike Dixon
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posted 08-05-2017 08:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Don't know why they didn't just use the numbering system for one flight. Looking back, it would have been easier with a jump straight to STS-14.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-05-2017 09:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From a public perspective, sure, chronological numbering is easier to understand (except when STS-121 flies before STS-120), but such a system conveys only one piece of information: the original order in which the flights were manifested.

The letter-number designations conveyed the year in which the mission was anticipated to fly, the order in which the payload was manifested, and the coast from where it would launch. It may have been more complicated, but it provided more information at a glance.

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 08-05-2017 10:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With the alpha-numeric system in the 1980s, I always wondered what was going to happen when the 1990s rolled around and caused a "re-use" of the numbering.

To take one example, what would the second manifested Shuttle launch from KSC in FY94 have been called; STS 41-B (even though this had already been used in February 1984)? Was there ever a plan to start using the full FY in a more expansive designation to overcome this problem, such as STS 941-B etc? Of course, this might have led to more problems in the 2000s, as the second manifested KSC launch in FY2004 would have been STS 041-B etc.

LM-12
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posted 08-06-2017 12:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
the R signifying reflight
The "R" designation in STS 41-DR might mean Remanifest. The press kit has "Shuttle Mission 41-D Remanifest — Quick Look Facts" on page 9, and "41-D Remanifest Sequence Of Events" on page 12.

In the 2011 NASA document mentioned back on 07-23, there is only one official STS flight number with an "R" designation, and that is STS 41-DR.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-06-2017 11:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by carmelo:
Who is the original that invented this odd numeration? George Abbey?
It was not Abbey. He disliked it — says it originated in the shuttle program office, then under Glynn Lunney.

Jim Behling
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posted 08-06-2017 07:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LM-12:
In the 2011 NASA document mentioned back on 07-23...
That isn't an official source either. That document was not produced by the shuttle program office.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 08-06-2017 10:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Henry Heatherbank:
I always wondered what was going to happen when the 1990s rolled around and caused a "re-use" of the numbering.
One planning document (which I no longer have; it was from Rockwell) gave Kennedy flights up to 91V. My speculation is that the following year would start with 101A - the 10 signifying the 10th calendar (not fiscal) year of shuttle operations, followed by the launch pad (1 or 2) and then the flight sequence represented by a letter.

Ronpur
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posted 08-07-2017 09:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So going by that system, that would have made STS-135 STS-301C? 30th year, 1 for KSC and 3rd flight of the year.

Jim Behling
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posted 08-08-2017 08:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
the 10 signifying the 10th calendar (not fiscal) year of shuttle operations...
The alphanumeric system alignment with fiscal years was specifically set up for budgetary reasons. They would not have changed it just because they were using it for a decade.

OV-105
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posted 08-08-2017 11:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think all NASA manned programs have had messed up numbering going all the way back to Mercury.

Unmanned fights getting numbers. Then the Apollo three digit numbers, must have been the same guy who came up with the shuttle's alphanumerical system. Then Skylab, was there three or four flights?

Mike Dixon
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posted 08-08-2017 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well the numbering systems are okay now (how could they not be), but I never have and never will refer to Skylab flights other than 1, 2 and 3.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-08-2017 06:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Each Soyuz flight to the International Space Station has two designations (e.g. Soyuz MS-05 and 51S) and each expedition overlaps, so you have Expedition 51/52 (or in the case of Peggy Whitson, Expedition 50/51/52). Earlier in the International Space Station program, there were increment designations, too.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 08-08-2017 08:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by OV-105:
Then Skylab, was there three or four flights?
I forget who it was, but they retconned an explanation: The numbering on the patches (1, 2, 3) stood for Skylab Expedition 1, 2, and 3, while the launches were 1 (the station itself) and 2-4 for the crew launches.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-08-2017 09:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is how the Bill Pogue explained the Skylab numbering:
When the Skylab space station crews were announced in 1971, the astronauts assigned set about designing their mission insignia, or "patch," as it was usually called. The missions were officially designated as:
  • Skylab 1: for the unmanned launch of the Skylab space station on a giant Saturn V, and,

  • Skylab 2, 3 and 4 for the manned visits, which were lofted to space by Saturn 1B rockets.
That seemed simple enough, but mischief was not long in coming. We began receiving flight procedures documents (checklists and other training materials) labeled SLM-1, SLM-2 and SLM-3 (Skylab manned 1, 2 and 3). Other documents were labeled SL-2, SL-3 and SL-4, conforming to the official mission designations.

It became a confusing mess because we began receiving mail and other documents clearly meant for one of the other crews and the people in the Astronaut Office mailroom became as bewildered, confused and uncertain as the rest of us.

In the meantime we had designed our mission patches incorporating the official numeric designations Skylab 2, 3, and 4. During a visit by the Director of the Skylab Program, Skylab 2 commander Pete Conrad asked him, "Are we 1, 2 and 3 or are we 2, 3 and 4"?

He replied, "you are 1, 2 and 3".

All of us went back to work and designed new patches to incorporate the numerals 1, 2 and 3. Skylab 1 and 2 used Roman numerals and Jerry Carr, Ed Gibson and I used the Arabic numeral 3. The designs were rendered by artists and sent to Headquarters for approval. The whole process took several months, and the artwork didn't arrive in Washington until about six months before the planned launch of the Skylab.

The Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight took one look at the artwork and disapproved the design because he said the official flight designations, "2, 3 and 4" were to be used.

Thus informed, we dug out our original designs (for 2, 3 and 4) and were in the process of getting the artwork done when informed by Headquarters "not to bother". We could use the designs for 1, 2 and 3. Then we found out why.

The people who had manufactured the Skylab flight clothing (to be worn onboard) had already completed their work several weeks earlier in order to get the clothes packaged and shipped to the Cape to meet their deadline (for stowage onboard Skylab, which was already in pre- launch processing). Furthermore, they had already used the designs submitted earlier for the mission patches. They didn't have time to wait for official approval. The designs using the numeric designation 1, 2 and 3 became approved by default because items with these patches were already stowed in the Skylab lockers at the Cape. Removing them for patch change-out was considered too expensive and disruptive of launch preparations.

So, although officially designated as Skylab 2, 3 and 4, the mission insignias bear the numeric designations as follows: Skylab 2 (Roman numeral I), Skylab 3 (Roman numeral II) and Skylab 4 (Arabic numeral 3).

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