Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center on October 6, 1990 at 6:57 AM PDT and landed at Edwards Air Force Base on October 10 at 6:57 AM PDT. The shuttle orbited 66 times at an inclination of 28.45 degrees at an altitude of 160 nautical miles and travelled 1.7 million miles. The mission lasted 4 days, 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 4 seconds.

This mission launched the Ulysses probe to study the polar regions of the Sun.

Two upper stages of Ulysses, the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) and a mission-specific Payload Assist Module-S (PAM-S), combined together for first time to send Ulysses toward out-of-ecliptic trajectory. Other payloads and experiments: Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) experiment; INTELSAT Solar Array Coupon (ISAC); Chromosome and Plant Cell Division Experiment (CHROMEX); Voice Command System (VCS); Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE), Investigations into Polymer Membrane Processing (IPMP); Physiological Systems Experiment (PSE); Radiation Monitoring Experiment III (RME III); Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) and Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) experiment.

Discovery was crewed by Commander Richard N. Richards, Pilot Robert D. Cabana, and Mission Specialists William B. Shepherd, Bruce E. Melnick, and Thomas D. Akers.