Mission insignia
Mission statistics
Mission nameSTS-6
Space shuttleChallenger
Launch pad39-A
Launch dateApril 4, 1983, 18:30:00 UTC
LandingApril 9, 1983, 18:53:42 UTC
Edwards Airforce Base
Mission duration5d/00:23:42
Number of orbits81
Orbital altitude330 km
Orbital inclination28.5
Distance traveled3,370,437 km
Crew photo
L-R Peterson, Weitz, Musgrave, Bobko
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STS-6 was a Space Shuttle mission conducted by NASA using Space Shuttle Challenger. Launched April 4, 1983, STS-6 was the sixth space shuttle mission and the first of the ten missions flown on Challenger. The mission took off from Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39-A, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base.


  • Commander: Paul J. Weitz (Second spaceflight)
  • Pilot: Karol J. Bobko (First spaceflight)
  • Mission Specialist 1: Donald H. Peterson (First spaceflight)
  • Mission Specialist 2: F. Story Musgrave (First spaceflight)

Mission parameters

  • Mass:
    • Orbiter Liftoff: 116,457 kg
    • Orbiter Landing: 86,330 kg
    • Payload: 21,305 kg
  • Perigee: 288 km
  • Apogee: 295 km
  • Inclination: 28.5
  • Period: 90.4 min

Space walk

  • Musgrave and Peterson - EVA 1
    • EVA 1 Start: April 7, 1983, 21:05 UTC
    • EVA 1 End: April 8, 01:15 UTC
    • Duration: 4 hours, 10 minutes

Mission highlights

The TDRS is deployed

On April 4, 1983 STS-6, the first Challenger mission, lifted off at 1:30 p.m. EST. It was the first use of a new lightweight external tank and lightweight SRB casings.

The mission originally had been scheduled for launch on January 30, 1983. However, a hydrogen leak in one of the main engines was discovered. Later, after a flight readiness firing of the main engines on January 25, 1983, fuel line cracks were found in the other two engines. A spare engine replaced the engine with the hydrogen leak and the other two engines were removed, repaired and reinstalled.

Meanwhile, as the engine repairs were underway, a severe storm caused contamination of the primary cargo for the mission, the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-1, while it was in the Payload Changeout Room on the Rotating Service Structure at the launch pad. This meant the satellite had to be taken back to its checkout facility where it was cleaned and rechecked. The Payload Changeout Room and the payload bay also had to be cleaned.

Musgrave during the EVA

STS-6 carried a crew of four -- Paul J. Weitz, commander; Karol J. Bobko, pilot; Donald H. Peterson and Story Musgrave, both mission specialists. Using new space suits designed specifically for the Space Shuttle, Peterson and Musgrave successfully accomplished the program's first extravehicular activity (EVA), performing various tests in the payload bay. Their space walk lasted for 4 hours, 17 minutes.

Although the 5,000-lb. TDRS was successfully deployed from the Challenger, its two-stage booster rocket, the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), tumbled out of control, placing the satellite into a low elliptical orbit. Fortunately, the satellite contained extra propellant beyond what was needed for its attitude control system thrusters, and during the next several months the thrusters were fired at carefully planned intervals gradually moving TDRS-l into its geosynchronous operating orbit thus saving the $100-million satellite.

Other STS-6 cargo included three GAS canisters and continuation of the Monodisperse Latex Reactor and the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis experiments.

Challenger returned to Earth on April 9, 1983 at 10:53 a.m. PST, landing on Runway 22 at Edwards AFB. It completed 80 orbits, traveling 2 million miles in 5 days, 23 minutes, 42 seconds. It was flown back to KSC on April 16, 1983.

Mission insignia

The six white stars in the upper blue field of the mission patch tell the flight's numerical designation in the Space Transportation System's mission sequence.

Wake-up calls

A tradition for NASA human spaceflights since the days of Gemini, mission crews are played a special musical track at the start of each day in space. Each track is specially chosen, often by their families, and usually has a special meaning to an individual member of the crew, or is applicable to their daily activities.

Flight DaySongArtist/Composer
Day 2Cadets on ParadeAir Force Academy Band
Day 3Teach Me TigerApril Stevens
Day 4Theme from F-Troop
Day 5The Poor Co-pilotOscar Brand
Day 6Ode to the LionsRusty Gordon