Atlantis launched from Kennedy Space Center on December 2, 1988 at 9:30 AM EST and landed at Edwards Air Force Base on December 6 at 3:36 PM PST. The shuttle orbited 68 times at a classified altitude at an angle of 57 degrees and travelled 1.8 million miles. The mission lasted 4 days, 9 hours, 5 minutes, and 37 seconds.

This was the third mission dedicated to the Department of Defense and details of the shuttle mission activities are classified.  The launch set for December 1 during a classified window lying within a launch period between 6:32 a.m. and 9:32 a.m., was postponed due to unacceptable cloud cover and wind conditions and reset for the same launch period on December 2.

Atlantis was crewed by Commander Robert L. Gibson, Pilot Guy S. Gardner, and Mission Specialists Richard Mullane, Jerry L. Ross, and William M. Shepherd.