The US recon satellite over China failed and a replacement satellite was launched but failed to reach proper orbit. The next Space Shuttle mission which was supposed to test High Energy Light experiments (laser) was transferred into a repair mission with a 3 day window of opportunity. During the launch there was a main engine breech which was supposed to become fatal in 60 seconds (but never did and was never explained) and required all the astronauts to use their escape baskets on a wire. During the escape the pilot, Cdr Atkins, fell to his death requiring Lt. Cdr. Mark Lowrey, the backup pilot, to take over. JAG officers Harm (H) and Meg (Mg) came to the launch site to investigate, much to Atkins dismay.
Harm and Atkins exchanged insults prompting Mg to say that she “knew a cockfight when she saw one.” A civilian contractor named Gallant called to Hs attention that the cable had been carefully hollowed out and weakened with a laser so as to fail when a basket loaded with a man rode in it. Then they found that replacement pilot Lowrey’s access card had been used the night before the accident to enter the laser storage area at night. Harm tried to get Colonel Fisher to remove Lowrey but he wouldn’t. Then he made formal recommendation to the president that the mission be delayed, but he wouldn’t either. Harm wanted to talk to Lowrey but he was scheduled for STA (Shuttle Training Aircraft). Lowrey dismissed his 2nd saying that Harm was “the best pilot in JAG.” There was a catastrophic failure of Lowrey’s controls and H had to land the aircraft. They turned off the fuel and H “dead-stick” landed.
Someone had set up an accident to kill the primary pilot and frame the only one who could replace him. Then Mg realized that if it hadn’t been for Gallant they wouldn’t have even suspected Lowrey. She found threads of STA programming in the erased sectors of Gallant’s hard drive and that he had been a researcher in the SDI program which had been scuttled. Being disgruntled they surmised that Gallant would have been approached by the Chinese and told Fisher, who relieved Gallant from his station. Gallant tried to escape and H had to give chase to capture him. Gallant denied everything so H asked if he could try interrogating him. Gallant said he was a visionary and would be known for his exploration of the galaxy with his Super-Conducting Magnetic Ion Engine. He wouldn’t destroy the shuttle, he said, and intimated that China had promised to build his engine.
Harm realized that Gallant may have sabotaged the capture mechanism and convinced Fisher to re-test the mechanism before using it on the sattelite. It blew up during the test so they were without a capture arm. Harm suggested that they “get a bunch of people out there and grab it.” they tried that too, and it worked. Meg suggested H still had time to be “the first lawyer in space” as “navy pilots make the best astronauts.” Harm responded, later alone to himself… “maybe.”