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John F. Kennedy Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899
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Columbia Vehicle History

Columbia, the first of NASA's orbiter fleet, is commonly referred to as OV-102, for Orbiter Vehicle-102. Columbia was delivered to Kennedy Space Center in March 1979. STS-1, Columbia's maiden voyage, launched on April 12, 1981, and was the inaugural flight in the Space Shuttle Program. It proved the operational concept of a winged, reusable spaceship by successfully completing the Orbital Flight Test Program - missions STS-1 through STS-4. The orbiter weighed 178,000 pounds with its main engines installed. Columbia was also the first orbiter to undergo the scheduled inspection and retrofit program. In 1991, Columbia returned to its birthplace at Rockwell International's Palmdale, CA, assembly plant for upgrades and improvements. Her last flight was on January 16, 2003.

Construction Milestones

DATE MILESTONE
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 Biggs AFB, TX
March 22, 1979 SCA Ferry flight from Biggs AFB to Kelly AFB, TX
March 24, 1979 SCA Ferry flight from Kelly AFB to Eglin AFB, FL
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)

 

Upgrades and Features

Columbia is commonly referred to as OV-102, for Orbiter Vehicle-102. The orbiter weighed 178,000 pounds with its main engines installed.

Columbia was the first orbiter to undergo the scheduled inspection and retrofit program. In 1991, Columbia returned to its birthplace at Rockwell International's Palmdale, CA, assembly plant. The spacecraft underwent approximately 50 upgrades there, including the addition of carbon brakes and a drag chute, improved nose wheel steering, removal of instrumentation used during the test phase of the orbiter, and an enhancement of its Thermal Protection System. The orbiter returned to Florida in February 1992 to begin processing for mission STS-50, launching in June of that year.

In 1994, Columbia was transported back to Palmdale for its first major tear-down and overhaul, known as the Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP). This overhaul typically lasts one year or longer and leaves the vehicle in "like-new" condition.

Its second OMDP came in 1999, when workers performed more than 100 modifications on the vehicle. The orbiter's most impressive upgrade likely was the installation of a state-of-the-art, Multi-functional Electronic Display System (MEDS), or "glass cockpit." The MEDS replaced traditional instrument dials and gauges with small, computerized video screens. The new system improved crew interaction with the orbiter during flight and reduced maintenance costs by eliminating the outdated and tricky electromechanical displays.

http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail.cfm?mediaid=20849