STS -53 (English Space Transportation System) is a mission name for the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery ( OV -103 ) from NASA. The launch took place on 2 December 1992. It was the 52nd Space Shuttle mission and the 15th flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery.


  • David Walker ( third space flight), Commander
  • Robert Cabana ( second space flight), Pilot
  • Guion Bluford (4th space flight), Mission Specialist
  • James Voss ( second space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Michael Clifford ( first space flight), Mission Specialist

Mission overview

This was the last purely military flight of a space shuttle. The main payload was secret and was exposed to six hours after the start at 19:18 UTC. Presumably there was a spy satellites for surveillance of radio signals. The mass of cargo designated as DOD -1 was reported to be 10.5 tons.

The initial orbital altitude of 370 kilometers was reduced after the start of DOD -1 by 45 kilometers. At an altitude of 325 kilometers, another freight should be exposed on 4 December at 11:22 UTC. The ODERACS payload ( Orbital Debris RAdar Calibration Spheres ) consisted of six metal balls of different sizes: the two five - inch, four-inch and 15 - inch balls. The latter consisted of aluminum, the other four of steel. ODERACS should serve as a target for calibration of radar stations and optical ground-based telescopes that detect the density of space debris. The German FGAN radar station in Wachtberglifte should participate. The balls were housed in a cylinder in the front area portside of the payload bay. Mission Specialist Mike Clifford should open the cockpit from the cover of the cylinder and eject the ODERACS balls by spring force. Because the battery failed, failed experiment.

Furthermore, some medical experiments performed, among others, also planning for the Space Station Freedom, the precursor of the ISS project served. Various military experiments were also performed.

The landing occurred at Edwards Air Force Base.