The document JSC-07896 'Space Shuttle Baseline Reference Missions' would be an invaluable reference for anyone seeking to understand why the US Space Transportation System was designed the way it was.

But, other than one excerpt found on www.jamesoberg.com, and a couple of cryptic references in NTRS, I have not been able to locate a copy of the document.

Does anyone know if a publicly accessible copy exists?

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    $\begingroup$ Great question! I wish I knew the answer myself. Have you tried contacting the NASA archives? nasa.gov/FOIA/index.html $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ Google for the win: Space shuttle baseline reference missions $\endgroup$
    – ThePlanMan
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ It's not online. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ That is a conference paper describing the document I'm looking for, and as @DeerHunter said, isn't linked there anyway. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 12:56

1 Answer 1


The mention of the three mission profiles in Jenkins' The Space Shuttle (p. 160) cites NASA-CR-132282, a 1973 contractor report on the heat shield, which is public and does helpfully have a brief outline of missions 1, 2, and 3. (3 had not been split into 3A and 3B yet?). Not immensely helpful, but it does at least give the basic parameters.

There's a little more detail on the various reference missions in History of Space Shuttle Rendezvous, 2011 (ch. 9) - but again not really a substitute for the full thing. It confirms planning for both 3A and 3B was abandoned in late 1975.

Finally this conference paper from 1973 gives an outline of the four "representative missions" being considered at the time. I have not yet tracked down a full copy but the first page is still helpful.

Combining the three we get:

  • Mission 1 - 185km circular orbit (presumably 28.5 degrees) to deploy a satellite into geostationary orbit, and return another, with 29 tonnes payload, 290 m/s OMS and 37 m/s RCS dV. Launched from KSC. This used a space tug as a third stage to transfer the satellite to geostationary orbit.
  • Mission 2 - 500km circular orbit (55 degrees) to resupply a space station or perform maintenance on an orbiting satellite, 11 tonnes payload, 430 m/s OMS and 37 m/s RCS dV. Launched from KSC.
  • Mission 3 - a single orbit mission to a 185km circular polar orbit to deploy or retrieve a satellite, with 18 tonnes payload, 150 m/s OMS and 46 m/s RCS dV. Launched from Vandenberg.
  • Mission 3A - single orbit deployment variant
  • Mission 3B - single orbit recovery variant

There is also mention of a Mission 4 in that last paper, which seems to have been a general class for "long duration flight with a particular scientific payload/objective", of up to 30 days.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I have an older edition of Jenkins and I found this on page 119. I wish this great book had a better index. So far we've at least gotten capsule summaries of DRM 1, 2, and 3A/B. I'll look at those NTRS test reports again and see if there is any additional info. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ It looks like the original outline for these will have been in the Shuttle RFP, but that doesn't seem to be online either. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ The documents that I found in NTRS were dispersion analyses but they all refer to these same 3 missions. I think this is as good as we will get. Thanks for the answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble five years late, I have updated this to actually include in the answer what the various mission profiles were :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 18:18

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