STS-51L RECOVERY SHIP COVER & POSTMARK VARIETIES

STS-51L Recovery Force

Recovery Major Events
Date Postmark Event Comments
28 Jan 1986  Cape Canaveral Flotilla of 28 Ships - Challenger Operations Begin Canaveral Port Authority Corner Card
5 Feb 1986 Cape Canaveral First Recovery Phase - USCGC Dallas Retrieves 12 tons of debris Printed Cachet - Green
12 Feb 1986 Cape Canaveral USS Opportune - Lead Recovery Ship - Joint Search by 28 Recovery Ships Printed Cachet - Blue & Unusual USS Opportune Lead Recovery Ship Cachet
2 Mar 1986 Cape Canaveral Left Booster Found Space Voyager Cover
6 Mar 1986 Jacksonville Recover Challenger FLT 51L Debris Commanding Officer USS Preserver Corner Card
12 Mar 1986 Kennedy Space Center Cabin Crew & Astronaut Remains Returned to Port by USS Preserver Space Voyager Cover
12 Mar 1986 Cape Canaveral USS Opportune Lead Recovery Ship - Joint Search by 28 Recovery Ships Printed Cachet - Green
10 / 12 Mar 1986 Kennedy Space Center USS Preserver finds Challenger's compartment and Astronaut Remains Commanding Officer USS Preserver Corner Card - 2 postmarks
20 Mar 1986 Cape Canaveral USS Preserver Lead Recovery Vessel Recovery Operations Ended Printed cachet - Blue
28 Mar 1986 Cape Canaveral USS Koelsch - 2.5 ton piece of Challenger SRB recovered Commanding Officer Corner Card
13 Apr 1986 Kennedy Space Center Key Section of Right Booster Found Space Voyager Cover
15 Apr 1986 Cape Canaveral Stena Workhorse Brings Right Booster to Port Space Voyager Cover
18 Apr 1986 Cape Canaveral USS Opportune Lead Recovery Ship - Crew Compartment Recovery Operations Ended Printed cachet - Black
27 May 1986 Cape Canaveral USS Opportune Lead Recovery Ship - Spartan-Halley Payload Recovery Operations Ended Printed Cachet - Purple
30 May 1986 Cape Canaveral SRB Retrieval Ship Independence - External Tank Recovery Printed Cachet - Blue
28 Aug 1986 Cape Canaveral USS Opportune Lead Recovery Ship - TDRS Payload Recovery Operations Ended Printed Cachet - Green & Unusual USS Opportune Lead Recovery Ship Cachet
28 Aug 1986 Kennedy Space Center Sarzin Cover - Ocean Search for Challenger Debris Ends Printed Cachet & S/H Photo

Recovery Force Shipsiv 
Ship Postmark Date Comments
UTC Freedom Star Kennedy Space Center 28 Jan 1986 Boudwin Cover - With submersible 'Scorpia' - Souvenir Cover Only
UTC Freedom Star Kennedy Space Center 3 Mar 1986 Boudwin Cover - Resumes Search - Souvenir Cover Only
UTC Liberty Star Kennedy Space Center 28 Jan 1986 Boudwin Cover - With submersible 'Sprint' - Souvenir Cover Only
UTC Liberty Star Kennedy Space Center 3 Mar 1986 Boudwin Cover - With Submersible 'Orion' Aboard - Souvenir Cover Only
UTC Independence Kennedy Space Center 28 Jan 1986 Boudwin Cover - With submersible 'Recon IV' - Souvenir Cover Only
UTC Independence Kennedy Space Center 3 Mar 1986 Boudwin Cover - With Submersible 'Deep Drone' Aboard - Souvenir Cover Only
USNS Range Sentinel Orlando
Cape Canaveral
Kennedy Space Center
27 Jan 1986
28 Jan 1986
28 Jan 1986
Master USNS Range Sentinel Corner Card & Ship's Cachet
USNS Redstone Cape Canaveral
Kennedy Space Center
Mobile AL
28 Jan 1986
28 Jan 1986
28 Jan 1986
Blue ship's cachet
Master USNS Redstone Corner Card & Ship's Cachet - KSC Cover includes KSC Philatelic Society Cachet
USS Sampson USS Sampson 3 Feb 1986 Ship's Cachet
USS Koelsch USS Koelsch 3 Mar 1986
5 Mar 1986
Ship's Cachet plus Commanding Officer Corner Card
USS Koelsch Cape Canaveral 28 Mar 1986 Commanding Officer Corner Card - 2.5 ton piece of Challenger SRB recovered
USS Semmes USS Semmes 4 Feb 1986 Ship's Cachet
USS Underwood USS Underwood + Jacksonville
USS Underwood

4 & 5 Feb 1986
6 March 19861b

Ship's Cachet
USS Guam USS Guam & New Orleans
USS Guam
8 & 10 Feb 1986
26 Mar 19864
Ship's Cachet
USS Simpson USS Simpson 11 Feb 1986 Ship's Cachet
USS Aubrey Fitch1 USS Aubrey Fitch 11 Feb 1986 Ship's Cachet
USS Aubrey Fitch USS Aubrey Fitch & Jacksonville 12 & 14 Feb 1986 Ship's Cachet
USCGC Sweetgum Jacksonville
Hampton Roads
Cape Canaveral (red cachet)
Cape Canaveral (black cachet)
18 Feb 1986
2 Apr 1986
12 Apr 1986
12 April 1986
Commanding Officer Corner Card & Ship's Cachet
USCGC Harriet Lane Jacksonville 19 Feb 1986 Commanding Officer Corner Card & Ship's Cachet
USCGC Dallas Cape Canaveral 31 Jan 1986 -
4 Feb 1986
Carried on board the ship and signed - two postmarks
USCGC Dallas New York 19 Feb 1986
 6 Mar 19861a
19 Mar 1986
Ship's Cachet - Signed by ship's Commander
USCGC Point Roberts Detroit4
Jacksonville
Jacksonville
3 Feb 1986
10 Feb 1986
19 Feb 1986
2 Apr 1986
Commanding Officer Corner Card
USS Preserver Orlando
Jacksonville
Orlando
24 Feb 1986
6 Mar 19864
19 Mar 1986
31 Mar 1986
Commanding Officer Corner Card
USS Preserver  Kennedy Space Center 10 & 12 Mar 1986 Commanding Officer Corner Card - Challenger's Compartment and Astronaut Remains Found
USCGC Bear US Navy FPO 84051 27 Feb 1986 Commanding Officer Corner Card & Ship's Cachet
USS Sunbird Orlando  5 Mar 1986
31 Mar 19864
16 Apr 19864
Ship's cachet
USCGC Tampa Hampton Roads 12 Mar 1986 Commanding Officer Corner Card & Ship's Cachet
NR-1ii Groton CT Submarine Base 6 Mar 19861b
10 Mar 1986
26 Mar 1986
17 Apr 1986
22 Apr 1986
Cover marked 5 Mar 1986 - Very Rare
Cover marked 7 Mar 1986 - Very Rare
Cover marked 25 Mar 1986 - Very Rare
Cover marked 17 April - Very Rare
No extra markings - Very Rare
USS W. S. Sims USS W. S. Sims 26 Mar 1986 Ship's cachet (rare - only two seen)
Johnson Sea-Link 2i Kennedy Space Center 20 Mar 1986 Dive # 1279 - Detailed Info Cachet - Marked 11 Mar 1986 - Ship's cachet on back - Rare Cover
Johnson Sea-Link 2i,4 Patrick AFB 2 Apr 1986 Dive # 1292 - Detailed Info Cachet & small Johnson Sea-Link 2 Cachet - Dive 28 Mar 86 - Ship's cachet on back - Rare Cover
Johnson Sea-Link 2i Patrick AFB 2 Apr 1986 Dive # 1293 - Detailed Info Cachet & small Johnson Sea-Link 2 Cachet - Dive 28 Mar 86 - Ship's cachet on back - Rare Cover
Johnson Sea-Link 2i,4 Kennedy Space Center 14 Apr 1986 Dive # 1308 - Detailed Info Cachet & small Johnson Sea-Link 2 Cachet - Dive 11 Apr 86 - Ship's cachet on back - Rare Cover
Johnson Sea-Link 2i,4 Kennedy Space Center 14 Apr 1986 Dive # 1310 - Detailed Info Cachet & small Johnson Sea-Link 2 Cachet - Dive 13 Apr 86 - Ship's cachet on back - Rare Cover
Johnson Sea-Link 2i,4 Kennedy Space Center 14 Apr 1986 Dive # 1311 - Detailed Info Cachet & small Johnson Sea-Link 2 Cachet - Dive 13 Apr 86 - Ship's cachet on back - Rare Cover
Johnson Sea-Link 2i,1 Kennedy Space Center 8 Apr 1986 Dive # 1312 - Detailed Info Cachet & small Johnson Sea-Link 2 Cachet - Dive 15 Apr 86 - Ship's cachet on back - Rare Cover
Johnson Sea-Link 1i,4 Cape Canaveral 22 Apr 1986 Dive # 1744 - Detailed Info Cachet & small Johnson Sea-Link 1 Cachet on back- Dive 18 Apr 86 - Extremely Rare Cover
USCGC Dauntless Miami 20 Apr 1986 Commanding Officer Corner Card
R/V G.W. Pierce Fort Lauderdale 21 Apr 1986 Ship's Corner Card
USS Kittiwake USS Dahlgren 2? Apr 1986 Ship's cachet plus 'Welcome Home from Challenger Debris Retrieve Mission' cachet
Only 3 seen - probably Rare
MSV Stena Workhorse Orlando 23 Apr 1986 Ship's Cachet - Master's Signature on Back
USS Opportune4 Orlando 1 May 1986
6 May 1986
Ship's Cachet
USCGC Cherokee4 Hampton Roads 7 May 1986iii Ship's Corner Card plus 'Coast Guard Cutter' Embossed Seal
R/V Paul Langevin III Fort Lauderdale 18 Aug 1986 Ship's Corner Card
R/V Paul Langevin III4 For Lauderdale 22 Aug 1986 Marked 2-11-86 to 8-15-86
Involvement Unknown      
USCGC Point Charles U/K 24 Feb, 25 March, 10 April, 22 April Covers not seen
Not Involved
USNS Observation Island4 Seattle 4 Feb 1986 Ship's Corner Card and Cachet


Different Cachets
Date Description of Cachet Colours Type
15 Apr 1986

KSC - Sarzin Cachet? - Shows diagram of Right SRB

Black Printed
15 Apr 1986

KSC - Boudwin Cachet - Found parts of Critical Right SRB

Pple & Green Rubber Stamp

Notes General:
i) Many other dates and dive numbers are known
ii ) Other Dates are known
iii ) Date on the postmark is sometimes poor and may appear to be a 1 rather than a 7. Also it sometimes appears to be two digits.
iv ) My personal website lists other reported dates for covers which I have not seen.

Notes Other:
1) Sold on eBay during 2011 a) 2013 b) 2017
4) From the collection of Tom Steiner


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Last modified on 19 July 2018

 

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