The primary objective for the STS-49 mission was the capture, repair and release of the INTELSAT VI (F-3) satellite, which was stranded in an unusable orbit since its launch aboard a Titan vehicle in March 1990. The satellite was captured by crewmembers during an extravehicular activity (EVA) and equipped with a new motor, after which it was released back into orbit for operational use.
A planned EVA was also performed as a part of the experiment, Assembly of Station by EVA Methods, to demonstrate and verify maintenance and assembly capabilities for the International Space Station.
Life sciences experiments performed during the STS-49 mission were those classified as Detailed Supplementary Objectives (DSOs). A DSO is a NASA-sponsored investigation performed by Space Shuttle crewmembers, who also serve as test subjects. These studies are designed to require minimal crew time, power and stowage. Biomedical DSOs focus on operational concerns, including space motion sickness, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscle loss, changes in coordination and balance strategies, radiation exposure, pharmacokinetics and changes in the body's biochemistry.
Other payloads included Commercial Protein Crystal Growth, Ultravioloet Plume Imager and the Air Force Maui Optical Station investigation.
Many records were set during the STS-49 mission. The first EVA involving three astronauts was performed. The first and second longest EVAs to date were performed at 8 hours and 29 minutes and 7 hours and 45 minutes, respectively. STS-49 was the first mission to feature four EVAs, totaling 25 hours and 27 minutes. Finally, STS-49 was the first Shuttle mission requiring three rendezvous with an orbiting spacecraft, and the crew was the first to attach a live rocket motor to an orbiting satellite.
Using a drag chute for the first time during a Shuttle landing, Endeavour landed successfully at Kennedy Space Center on May 16, 1992, after a two-day mission extension to allow completion all objectives.