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Columbia (OV-102)




Columbia, the oldest orbiter in the Shuttle fleet, is named after the Boston, Massachusetts based sloop captained by American Robert Gray. On May 11, 1792, Gray and his crew maneuvered the Columbia past the dangerous sandbar at the mouth of a river extending more than 1,000 miles through what is today south-eastern British Columbia, Canada, and the Washington-Oregon border. The river was later named after the ship. Gray also led Columbia and its crew on the first American circumnavigation of the globe, carrying a cargo of otter skins to Canton, China, and then returning to Boston.

Other sailing ships have further enhanced the luster of the name Columbia. The first U.S. Navy ship to circle the globe bore that title, as did the command module for Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission.

On a more directly patriotic note, "Columbia" is considered to be the feminine personification of the United States. The name is derived from that of another famous explorer, Christopher Columbus.

The spaceship Columbia has continued the pioneering legacy of its forebears, becoming the first Space Shuttle to fly into Earth orbit in 1981. Four sister ships joined the fleet over the next 10 years: Challenger, arriving in 1982 but destroyed four years later; Discovery, 1983; Atlantis, 1985; and Endeavour, built as a replacement for Challenger, 1991. A test vehicle, the Enterprise, was used for suborbital approach and landing tests and did not fly in space. The names of Columbia's sister ships each boast their own illustrious pedigree.

In the day-to-day world of Shuttle operations and processing, Space Shuttle orbiters go by a more prosaic designation. Columbia is commonly refered to as OV-102, for Orbiter Vehicle-102. Empty Weight was 158,289 lbs at rollout and 178,000 lbs with main engines installed.


Upgrades and Feature

Columbia was the first on-line orbiter to undergo the scheduled inspection and retrofit program. It was transported August 10, 1991, after its completion of mission STS-40, to prime Shuttle contractor Rockwell International's Palmdale, California assembly plant. The oldest orbiter in the fleet underwent approximately 50 modifications, including the addition of carbon brakes, drag chute, improved nose wheel steering, removal of development flight instrumentation and an enhancement of its thermal protection system. The orbiter returned to KSC February 9, 1992 to begin processing for mission STS-50 in June of that year

On October 8, 1994, Columbia was transported to Palmdale California for its first ODMP. This orbiter modification and refurbishment time is expected to take approximately 6 months. (Reference KSC Press Release 113-94 and Shuttle Status Report 10/10/94)

On September 24, 1999, Columbia was transported to Palmdale California for its second ODMP. While in California, workers will perform more than 100 modifications on the vehicle. Columbia will be the second orbiter outfitted with the multi-functional electronic display system (MEDS) or "glass cockpit". Last year, Shuttle Atlantis had the full-color, flat-panel displays installed on its flight deck during an OMDP. The new system improves crew interaction with the orbiter during flight and reduces the high cost of maintaining the outdated electromechanical cockpit displays currently onboard. (Reference KSC Press Release 74-99)


Construction Milestones

July 26, 1972
Contract Award

March 25, 1975 
Start long lead fabrication aft fuselage

November 17, 1975 
Start long-lead fabrication of crew module

June 28, 1976 
Start assembly of crew module

September 13, 1976
Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage

December 13, 1976 
Start assembly upper forward fuselage

January 3, 1977
Start assembly vertical stabilizer

August 26, 1977
Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman

October 28, 1977
 Lower forward fuselage on dock, Palmdale

November 7, 1977
Start of Final Assembly

February 24, 1978
 Body flap on dock, Palmdale

April 28, 1978
 Forward payload bay doors on dock, Palmdale

May 26,1978
Upper forward fuselage mate

July 7, 1978
Complete mate forward and aft payload bay doors

September 11, 1978
 Complete forward RCS

February 3, 1979
 Complete combined systems test, Palmdale

February 16, 1979
Airlock on dock, Palmdale

March 5, 1979
Complete postcheckout

March 8, 1979
Closeout inspection, Final Acceptance Palmdale

March 8, 1979
Rollout from Palmdale to Dryden (38 miles)

March 12, 1979
Overland transport from Palmdale to Edwards

March 20, 1979
 SCA Ferry Flight from DFRF to Bigs AFB, Texas

March 22, 1979
 SCA Ferry flight from Bigs AFB to Kelly AFB, Texas

March 24, 1979
 SCA Ferry flight from Kelly AFB to Eglin AFB, Florida

March 24, 1979
 SCA Ferry flight from Eglin, AFB to KSC

November 3, 1979
 Auxiliary Power Unit hot fire tests, OPF KSC

December 16, 1979
 Orbiter integrated test start, KSC

January 14, 1980
 Orbiter integrated test complete, KSC

February 20, 1981
 Flight Readiness Firing

April 12, 1981
First Flight (STS-1)


Columbia's Flights to Date

STS-1 (04/12/81)

STS-2 (11/12/81)

STS-3 (03/22/82)

STS-4 (06/27/82)

STS-5 (11/11/82)

STS-9 (11/28/83)

61-C (01/12/86)

STS-28 (08/08/89)

STS-32 (01/09/90)

STS-35 (12/02/90)

STS-40 (06/05/91)

STS-50 (06/25/92)

STS-52 (10/22/92)

STS-55 (04/26/93)

STS-58 (10/18/93)

STS-62 (3/4/94)

STS-65 (7/8/94)

STS-73 (10/20/95)

STS-75 (2/22/96)

STS-78 (6/20/96)

STS-80 (11/19/96)

STS-83 (04/04/97)

STS-94 (07/01/97)

STS-87 (11/19/97)

STS-90 (4/13/98)

STS-93 (7/23/99)

STS-107 (e.1/11/01)


To OMDP (Palmdale) 9/23/99 (Reference KSC Press Release 74-99)

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