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.
|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.