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Author Topic:   Classified shuttle missions; "Secret Space Shuttles"

Posts: 1040
From: New Windsor, Maryland USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 12-20-2012 05:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Link to a several-year-old article from Air & Space magazine is linked in the current "What's Up..." email from the National Air and Space Museum, entitled "Secret Space Shuttles."

I'm sure many would have so much to share and say about them, if only they could. It may be old news, but it's a fascinating side of the space age.

Hart Sastrowardoyo

Posts: 3445
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 12-20-2012 10:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I met Robert Gibson in 1989 (I believe), when he made a presentation to Cooperstown (where he was born) of a flown STS-27R patch.

For some reason, there was more hoopla at this time than Gibson's two previous flights - around this time Suffolk Co. Community College not only took out an ad in Long Island's Newsday newspaper congratulating him, but also inviting him to be a commencement speaker.

Anyway, I remember Gibson apologizing: "I wish I could say something about my recent flight, but I can't," was what he told the crowd at Cooperstown.


Posts: 419
From: Seneca, IL, US
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 12-20-2012 10:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Were there any classified activities done on Mercury, Gemini or Apollo that remain sealed?

Jay Chladek

Posts: 2272
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 12-20-2012 11:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Doubtful for the previous NASA missions. Mercury was primarily concerned about seeing if spaceflight was possible. Apollo having extensive publicity likely precluded it from doing anything classified. Indeed there was an international mandate that was followed on the Apollo flights that flew with a SIM bay (Apollos 15, 16 and 17) according to Al Worden's book "Falling to Earth". The lunar mapping camera in the SIM bay apparently was a type also used on recon aircraft like the U-2. So the Soviets apparently requested that the cover over it not be released until after the CSM entered lunar orbit so there would be no temptation to point it at Earth and shoot some photos. NASA apparently complied with that request.

If anything were done, it likely was on Gemini since there was some equipment testing done for the DoD and the Air Force with Gemini since several of its systems would be potentially used in both Blue Gemini and MOL. The AMU which I believe was intended for the MOL program was the ultimate one and the unmanned Gemini 2 capsule also got recycled for the Titan IIIC MOL mockup lab flight test (with the hatch added to its heat shield to test the concept).


Posts: 1040
From: New Windsor, Maryland USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 12-21-2012 10:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
I met Robert Gibson in 1989 (I believe), when he made a presentation to Cooperstown (where he was born) of a flown STS-27R patch.

I have a flown patch from that flight as well someone gave to me a year or two ago. Not surprisingly, a number of the flown patches were handed out by the astronauts to mission supporters without much fanfare and were not accompanied by any supporting documentation at all. Only by word of mouth.

Once upon a time, the crew showed up some place and presented flown patches to the members of a particular team. Years later when an old desk was being cleaned out, one of the patches was discovered. It was found by a person I knew who surprised me by turning it over.

It has no provinence, but that doesn't bother me.

Jim Behling

Posts: 1463
From: Cape Canaveral, FL
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 12-21-2012 11:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As far as MSE's, there is not much they can say and there wasn't much that they are going to do on orbit. There was actually little need for MSE's on deployment missions. The conop for the MSE program was to bring shuttle experience and knowledge into the satellite program offices. This was where most of the benefit of the program was. When it came to flying with the payloads, it was easier to train a spacecraft expert to fly on the shuttle vs training a shuttle expert on a spacecraft project. And this is exacting what a payload specialist was.

The criteria used in the MSE selection process, just as for MOL, proved to be spot on when one considers the career paths of the MSE's and MOL astronauts, whether they flew or not.

Aside from AFP-675 (and Starlab)*, there little interaction with payloads, aside from a few switch throws. The spacecraft checkout was done through downlinked telemetry or it wasn't done at all, since it was done prelaunch like most payloads on ELV's.

* both which could have been done cheaper on ELV's and obtained more data. The ESS for AFP-675 was designed to demonstrate the utility of military man in space and therefore had limited ground commanding and telemetry. This was a concern for STS-39 since the data to be gathered by the experience was more important than the MMIS demonstration. And in fact, one tape record for an experience failed and the crew had to some wire splicing so that the data could downlinked.

I was in what one could call the USAF shuttle program office from 1983-1988. The 3rd class of MSE's was small (5) and our colonel figured since he was spending money on specialized training, he might as well maximize the return on it. So he opened up the training to any one in the office. I don't remember all that was available. But there was some classes on astronautics at the USAF academy and scuba training. But the best one and the one I went on was 2 and 1/2 weeks of JSC/STS familiarization/ orientation. It was just an overview, but I think that was the extend of their shuttle training since they weren't going to fly (for 3 of the 5. I think Crombie and Staub did a little more in support of STS-39).


Posts: 864
From: Vancouver, WA, USA
Registered: Feb 2012

posted 12-21-2012 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fifteen different Department of Defense experiments were performed during the Gemini Program. The nature of each experiments was publicized, but the results of those successfully conducted were described in only general terms. To my knowledge, no classified experiments were carried out during Gemini.


Posts: 1522
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 12-22-2012 02:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember hearing somewhere that the paucity of Earth photography from early missions was because the Department of Defense forbade photography near military bases in the US, USSR, and China. They did not want it to be publicly known how clearly military installations could be photographed from orbit.


Posts: 1031
From: New Jersey, USA
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 12-29-2012 03:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well there was that incident with Skylab when they took photos of Groom Lake (Area 51) and the DoD wasn't happy.

All times are CT (US)

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