Atlantis launched from Kennedy Space Center on August 2, 1991 at 11:01 AM EDT and landed at kennedy on August 11 at 8:23 AM EDT. The shuttle orbited 142 times at an altitude of 174 nautical miles at an inclination of 28.45 degrees and travelled 3.7 million miles. The misssiona lasted 8 days, 21 hours, 21 minutes, and 25 seconds.

The primary purpose of the mission was to launch a new tracking satellite.

Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-5 (TDRS-5) was attached to an inertial Upper Stage (IUS), and deployed about six hours into flight, the IUS propelled the satellite into geosynchronous orbit; TDRS-5 becomes the fourth member of the orbiting TDRS cluster. Secondary payloads were Space Station Heat Pipe Advanced Radiator Element II (SHARE II); Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultra-Violet (SSBUV) instrument; Tank Pressure Control Equipment (TPCE) and Optical Communications Through Windows (OCTW). Other experiments included Auroral Photography Experiment (APE-B) Protein Crystal Growth Ill (PCG Ill); Bioserve / Instrumentation Technology Associates Materials Dispersion Apparatus (BIMDA); Investigations Into Polymer Membrane Processing (IPMP); Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS); Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE); Ultraviolet Plume imager (UVPI); and the Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) experiment.

Atlantis was crewed by Commander John E. Blaha, Pilot Michael E. Baker, and Mission specialists Shannon W. Lucid, James C. Adamson, and G. David Low.