In the first mission after the Challenger disaster Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center on September 29, 1988 at 11:37 AM EDT and landed at Edwards Air Force Base on October 3 at 9:37 AM PDT. The shuttle orbited 64 times at an altitude of 203 nautical miles at an inclination of 28.5 degrees and travelled 1.7 million miles. The mission lasted 4 days, 1 hour, 0 minutes, and 11 seconds.

The shuttle program was back after suspending active missions for two and a half years. The launch was delayed 1 hour, 38 minutes to replace fuses in the cooling system of two of the crew’s flight pressure suits, and due to lighter than expected upper atmospheric winds. The suit repairs were successful and the countdown continued after a waiver of wind condition constraint was issued.

The primary payload, NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-3 (TDRS-3) attached to an Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), became the second TDRS deployed. After deployment, IUS propelled the satellite to a geosynchronous orbit. Secondary payloads: Physical Vapor Transport of Organic Solids (PVTOS); Protein Crystal Growth (PCG); Infrared Communications Flight Experiment (IRCFE); Aggregation of Red Blood Cells (ARC); Isoelectric Focusing Experiment (IFE); Mesoscale Lightning Experiment (MLE); Phase Partitioning Experiment (PPE); Earth-Limb Radiance Experiment (ELRAD); Automated Directional Solidification Furnace (ADSF) and two Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiments. Orbiter Experiments Autonomous Supporting Instrumentation System-I (OASIS-I) recorded variety of environmental measurements during various inflight phases of orbiter.

Ku-band antenna in the payload bay was deployed; however, the dish antenna command and actual telemetry did not correspond. Also, the orbiter cabin Flash Evaporator System iced up, raising crew cabin temperature to the mid-80s.

Discovery was crewed by Commander Frederick H. Hauck, Pilot Richard R. Covey, and Mission Specialists John M. Lounge, George D. Nelson, and David C. Hilmers.