In "The Serpent's Lair" SG-1 minus Daniel (of course they thought he was dead at the time) along with Bra'tac escape the destruction of a pair of Ha'tak gliders that were crippled in the explosion requiring them to be rescued by the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Now launching a Space Shuttle isn't something that could be done unnoticed by thousands of people even with it somehow being kept out of the news, so presumably there must have been an excuse made up for the mission.

Has the cover story for for this mission ever been mentioned anywhere?

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    I actually talked about this episode with some NASA guys at Ames. Whatever the excuse, the shuttle mission would have been on NASA's existing schedule and then retasked. You just couldn't do a launch without weeks of planning and prep time. There's also the question of how you rescue four people in gliders with no pressure suits or compatible docking apparatus. The NASA guys didn't buy the idea of loading gliders with wings retracted into the shuttle cargo bay due to weight issues and the lack of any way to secure them in place. Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 20:15
  • @DoscoJones - That one's actually quite easy to deal with : scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/163911/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 20:19
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    A long time since I saw that episode, so I don't recall how it would have been publicly explained in-universe, but it could have been simply a high-urgency military mission. After all, shuttles have been used to launch secret military payloads on multiple occasions. The only dodgy aspect of the cover story is the last-minute re-tasking. From a logistics point of view, if the shuttle was already on the pad, it presumably already had its original mission payload on board, so what happened there? There is also the matter of orbital mechanics... conveniently coincidental orbital parameters.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 22:10
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    @Valorum Unless NASA in the SG universe has some magical powers I'm not aware of, a shuttle on the pad and ready for launch would have to be rolled back to the VAB, probably de-mated from the stack and rotated to "wings-level" orientation before it could have its payload removed, then re-assembled and rolled back out - taking days. Plausibly, the shuttle's original mission payload was discarded on-orbit to make room for the gliders, but there's still the supremely convenient matter of the shuttle's negligible delta-V requirement to achieve the glider rendezvous.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 22:49
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    @AnthonyX quite a lot of the Shuttles payloads could be integrated while the Shuttle was vertical on the pad via the use of the Rotating Service Structure - nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/flyout/PCR.html . Much more problematic would be the mission programming, which was custom for each mission and couldnt just be done on the fly…
    – Moo
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


There's nothing in the episode to explain what the Shuttle was supposed to be doing, other than that it was already on the launchpad (or able to be moved to the pad) with short notice, just when they needed it.

HAMMOND: What's the status of the shuttle Endeavor?

HARRIMAN: On the pad and standing by.

Presumably this was a shuttle that was conveniently already ready to launch, doing whatever it is that shuttles usually do and they were able to re-task it at the last minute, either by dumping the cargo before it set off or voiding it into space as soon as they broke atmo.

In real life shuttles have periodically been used for covert missions, although not necessarily at such short notice. Probably it made the news in a few science outlets, but "shuttle takes off and comes back quite quickly, "no comment" says NASA" isn't much of a story.

Shuttle 'rescue' missions were actually a lengthy affair (and basically useless) and emptying the cargo with only a day or two notice would also have been tricky, even with the use of the Rotating Service Structure. Ultimately, you need to apply Bellisario's Maxim to this one.

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