Karol J. Bobko

Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Retired)
Born December 23, 1937, in New York, NY
BS from U.S. Air Force Academy MS in aerospace engineering
from University of Southern California.

About the Man

Bobko, an Air Force Colonel, was a member of the first graduating class of the Air Force Academy. Subsequent to receiving his commission and navigator rating, he attended pilot training at Bartow Air Base, Florida, and Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He completed his flight training and received his wings in 1960.

From 1961 to 1965, he flew F-100 and F-105 aircraft while assigned as a pilot with the 523d Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, and the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymore Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. He attended the Aerospace Research Pilots School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and was assigned as an astronaut to the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program in 1966.

He has logged over 6,600 hours flight time in the F-100, F-104, T-105, T-33, T-38, and other aircraft.

Colonel Bobko became a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He was a crewmember on the highly successful Skylab Medical Experiments Altitude Test (SMEAT) -- a 56-day ground simulation of the Skylab mission, enabling crewmen to collect medical experiments baseline data and evaluate equipment, operations and procedures.

Bobko was a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). This historic first international, manned space flight was completed in July 1975. Subsequently, he was a member of the support crew for the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He served alternately as CAPCOM and prime chase pilot during these Approach and Landing Test (ALT) flights.

In preparation for the first flight of Columbia ( STS-1) Colonel Bobko served as the lead astronaut in the test and checkout group at Kennedy Space Center.

A veteran of three space flights, Bobko has logged a total of 386 hours in Space. He was the pilot on STS-6 (April 4-9, 1983); and was the mission commander on STS-51D (April 12-19, 1985) and STS-51J (October 3-7, 1985).

In 1988, Bobko retired from NASA and the Air Force to join the firm of Booz Allen & Hamilton Inc., in Houston, Texas. At Booz Allen he was a principal and managed efforts dealing with human space flight. His areas of emphasis were: high performance training simulation, hardware and software systems engineering, spacecraft checkout and testing, space station development and program integration.

In 2000, Bobko joined SPACEHAB, Inc in Houston, Texas and was Vice President for Strategic Programs. He led an organization which developed concepts, processes and hardware for future spaceflight applications.

In 2005, Bobko joined SAIC where he is currently the program manager for support of the NASA Ames Simulation Laboratories (SimLabs). SimLabs is comprised of three unique Flight Simulators, an Air Traffic Control Radar Simulator and a High Fidelity Air Traffic Control Tower Simulator. These world-class simulation facilities support government as well as private industry in a wide array of applications.

About the Spaceflights


April 4-9, 1983

Primary payload was first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-1. Additional propellant aboard satellite used over next several months gradually place TDRS-1 into properly circularized orbit. First space walk of Shuttle program performed by Peterson and Musgrave, lasting about four hours, 17 minutes.

Other payloads: Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES), Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR) (MLR), Radiation Monitoring Experiment (RME). Night/Day Optical Survey of Lightning (NOSL), and three Get Away Special canisters. Mission used first lightweight external tank and lightweight rocket booster casings.

Flight Duration: 5 days, 2 hours, 14 minutes, 25 seconds

STS 51-D

April 12-19, 1985

Mission highlights included deployment of TELESAT-l (ANIK C-1) communications satellite, attached to Payload Assist Module (PAM-D) motor, and SYNCOM IV-3 (also known as LEASAT-3).

Other payloads included:

  • Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) III, flying for sixth time
  • Two Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiments
  • American Flight Echocardiograph (AFE)
  • Two Get Away Specials
  • Phase Partitioning Experiments (PPE)
  • Astronomy Photography verification test

The crew also conducted medical experiments and `toys in space, an informal study of the behavior of simple toys in weightless environment, with results made available to school students.

Flight Duration: Six days, 23 hours, 55 minutes, 23 seconds

STS 51-J

October 3-7, 1985

Colonel Bobko was next commander of STS-51J, the second Space Shuttle Department of Defense mission, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on October 3, 1985. This was the maiden voyage of the Atlantis. After 98 hours of orbital operations, Atlantis landed on Edwards Air Force Base Lakebed Runway 23 on October 7, 1985.

Flight Duration: 4 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes, 38 seconds

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