Word from SSM2007: “…..Space Shuttle Mission 2007 has a new FREE add-on: the still-classified DoD Space Shuttle mission STS-27. STS-27 began on December 2, 1988 with the launch of Atlantis, and was concluded on December 6, 1988 after a little more than 4 days in orbit, making it one of the shortest Space Shuttle missions…..”.
“……During launch, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was hit by the cone of the right SRB’s which resulted in serious, but not fatal damage to the thermal tiles. The extent of the damage was discovered only after a successful landing and it was considered a miracle that the damage missed a few critical locations that would have ended the mission in a disaster similar to the STS-107.
The mission purpose and payload are still classified but it is speculated that the purpose was to deploy an extremely sophisticated spy sat with extreme surveillance capabilities, impressive even by today’s standards. The Lacrosse 1 satellite was the first “dark” DoD sat and orbited Earth at an inclination of 57 deg and apogee/perigee of 426.28/408.26km respectively, with an orbital period of 93.4 minutes. Lacrosse 1 was deorbited around 1997 and replaced with more advanced versions launched from Vandenberg AFB and Cape Canaveral on Titan IV platforms.
The sat was deployed manually using the RMS in a procedure similar to the Hubble launch, a fact that earned Mission Specialist Astronaut Mike Mullane (who operated the RMS) and the crew, the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement.
In the best SSM2007 tradition, the STS-27 free add-on allows budding Virtual Astronauts to experience the launch, on-orbit including the deployment of the Lacrosse 1 spy sat, and return to Earth by manually landing the Atlantis at the Edwards AFB…..”.
The Space Shuttle Mission 2007 is available online in downloadable format at the SSM2007 official website.