The first flight of space shuttle Challenger launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 4, 1983 at 1:30 PM (EST) and landed at Edwards Air Force Base on April 9, 1983 at 10:53 AM (PST). Challenger orbited 81 times at an altitude of 184 nautical miles at an inclination of 28.5 degrees and travelled 2.1 million miles. Mission duration was 5 days, 0 hours, 23 minutes, and 42 seconds.

The launch was originally set for January 20 and was delayed by a hydrogen leak into the engine compartment which was found on December 18, 1982 during a test firing. Cracks in the engine were confirmed on January 25. All three engines were removed while the shuttle was on the pad and fuel line cracks were repaired. One engine was replaced and the other two re-installed. The launch was further delayed by contamination to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-1) during a severe storm. The satellite was the primary payload. Other payloads on this flight were the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES), Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR), Radiation Monitoring Experiment (RME). Night/Day Optical Survey of Lightning (NOSL), and three Get Away Special canisters.

A malfunction of the Inertial Upper Stage booster resulted in an improper but stable orbit. The TDRS-1 carried extra propellant that was used over several months to move the satellite to the proper orbit.

The first space walk of the shuttle program was performed by astronauts Peterson and Musgrave and lasted 4 hours and 17 minutes. The mission was the first to use lightweight external tanks and lightweight rocket boosters during the spacewalk.

The Challenger was crewed by Commander Paul J. Weitz, Pilot Karol J Bobko, and Mission Specialists Donald H Peterson and F. Story Musgrave.