Space Shuttle Challenger


Space Shuttle Challenger
Challenger
OV-099
Space Shuttle Challenger
Challenger landing after its first mission, STS-6
OV designation OV-099
Country United States
Contract award January 1, 1979
Named after HMS Challenger (1858)
Status Destroyed January 28, 1986
First flight STS-6
April 4, 1983 – April 9, 1983
Last flight STS-51-L
January 28, 1986
Number of missions 10
Time spent in space 62 days 07:56:22[1]
Number of orbits 995
Distance travelled 25,803,939 miles
Satellites deployed 10

Space Shuttle Challenger (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-099) was NASA's second Space Shuttle orbiter to be put into service, Columbia having been the first. The shuttle was built by Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California. Its maiden flight was on April 4, 1983, and it completed nine missions before breaking apart 73 seconds after the launch of its tenth mission, STS-51-L on January 28, 1986, resulting in the death of all seven crew members. The accident led to a two-and-a-half year grounding of the shuttle fleet, with missions resuming in 1988 with the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-26. Challenger itself was replaced by the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which first launched in 1992. Endeavour was constructed from spare parts originally meant for Challenger and the other shuttles in the fleet.

Contents

History

Challenger was named after HMS Challenger, a British corvette that was the command ship for the Challenger Expedition, a pioneering global marine research expedition undertaken from 1872 through 1876.[2] The Apollo 17 lunar module that landed on the Moon in 1972 was also named Challenger.[2]

Construction

Because of the low production of orbiters, the Space Shuttle program decided to build a vehicle as a Structural Test Article, STA-099, that could later be converted to a flight vehicle. In order to prevent damage during structural testing, qualification tests were performed to a factor of safety of 1.2 times the design limit loads. The qualification tests were used to validate computational models, and compliance with the required 1.4 factor of safety was shown by analysis.[3]

NASA planned to refit the prototype orbiter Enterprise (OV-101), used for flight testing, as the second operational orbiter. However, design changes made during construction of the first orbiter, Columbia (OV-102), would have required extensive rework. Because STA-099's qualification testing prevented damage, NASA found that rebuilding STA-099 as OV-099 would be less expensive than refitting Enterprise.

Challenger (and the orbiters built after it) had fewer tiles in its Thermal Protection System than Columbia. Most of the tiles on the payload bay doors, upper wing surface, and rear fuselage surface were replaced with DuPont white Nomex felt insulation. This modification allowed Challenger to carry 2,500 lb (1,100 kg) more payload than Columbia. The hatch tile pattern was also different from that of the other orbiters. Challenger was also the first orbiter to have a head-up display system for use in the descent phase of a mission.

Flights and modifications

After its first flight in April 1983, Challenger quickly became the workhorse of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet, flying far more missions per year than Columbia. In 1983 and 1984, Challenger flew on 85% of all Space Shuttle missions. Even when the orbiters Discovery and Atlantis joined the fleet, Challenger remained in heavy use with three missions a year from 1983 to 1985. Challenger, along with Discovery, was modified at Kennedy Space Center to be able to carry the Centaur-G upper stage in its payload bay. Had STS-51-L been successful, Challenger's next mission would have been the deployment of the Ulysses probe with the Centaur to study the polar regions of the Sun.

Challenger's many spaceflight accomplishments included the first American woman, African-American, and Canadian in space; three Spacelab missions; and the first night launch and night landing of a Space Shuttle. Challenger was also the first space shuttle to be destroyed in an accident during a mission. The collected debris of the vessel are currently stored in decommissioned missile silos at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. From time to time, further pieces of debris from the orbiter wash up on the Florida coast.[4] When this happens, they are collected and transported to the silos for storage. Because of its early loss, Challenger was the only space shuttle that never wore the NASA "meatball" logo, and also was never modified with the MEDS "glass cockpit". The tail was also never fitted with a drag chute – the drag chute was fitted to the remaining orbiters in 1992.

Shuttle-challenger.jpg
Space Shuttle Challenger as STA-099.jpg
Challenger's rollout from Orbiter Processing
Facility (OPF) to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Photo 1983-8-25 courtesy of NASA.
Challenger while in service as structural test article STA-099.
# Date Designation Launch pad Landing location Notes Mission duration
1 April 4, 1983 STS-6 LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base Deployed TDRS-A.

First spacewalk during a space shuttle mission.

5 days, 00 hours, 23 minutes, 42 seconds
2 June 18, 1983 STS-7 LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space.

Deployed two communications satellites.

6 days, 02 hours, 23 minutes, 59 seconds
3 August 30, 1983 STS-8 LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base Guion Bluford becomes first African-American in space

First shuttle night launch and night landing.
Deployed Insat-1B.
Carried 260,000 envelopes stamped to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of NASA.

6 days, 01 hours, 08 minutes, 43 seconds
4 February 3, 1984 STS-41-B LC-39A Kennedy Space Center First untethered spacewalk.

Deployed two communications satellites, unsuccessfully.

7 days, 23 hours, 15 minutes, 55 seconds
5 April 6, 1984 STS-41-C LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base Solar Maximum Mission service mission. 6 days, 23 hours, 40 minutes, 07 seconds
6 October 5, 1984 STS-41-G LC-39A Kennedy Space Center First mission to carry two women.

Marc Garneau becomes first Canadian in space.
Kathryn D. Sullivan becomes first American woman to make a spacewalk.
Deployed Earth Radiation Budget Satellite.

8 days, 05 hours, 23 minutes, 33 seconds
7 April 29, 1985 STS-51-B LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base Carried Spacelab-3. 7 days, 00 hours, 08 minutes, 46 seconds
8 July 29, 1985 STS-51-F LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base Carried Spacelab-2. 7 days, 22 hours, 45 minutes, 26 seconds
9 October 30, 1985 STS-61-A LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base Carried German Spacelab D-1.

Wubbo Ockels becomes the first Dutchman in space

7 days, 00 hours, 44 minutes, 51 seconds
10 January 28, 1986 STS-51-L LC-39B (planned to land at Kennedy Space Center). Shuttle disintegrated after launch, killing all seven astronauts on board. Was to have deployed TDRS-B. 0 days, 00 hours, 01 minute, 13 seconds

Mission insignias

Mission insignia for Challenger flights
Sts-6-patch.png
Sts-7-patch.png
STS-8 patch.svg
Sts-41-b-patch.png
STS-41-C patch.png
STS 6
STS 7
STS 8
STS 41-B
STS 41-C
STS-41-G patch.png
Sts-51-b-patch.png
Sts-51-f-patch.png
STS-61-a-patch.png
STS-51-L.svg
STS-41-G
STS-51-B
STS-51-F
STS-61-A
STS-51-L

Loss of Challenger

The crew of the Challenger's final flight.
Space Shuttle Challenger's smoke plume after the in-flight breakup that killed all seven crew members.

Challenger was destroyed as it broke up in mid-flight in the second minute of its tenth mission, on January 28, 1986, at 11:38:00 am Eastern Standard Time.[5] The breakup was ultimately due to the failure of an O-ring on its right solid-fuel rocket booster (SRB). The O-rings are used to seal the joints between the multiple segments of the SRBs. The failure was due to a variety of factors, including unusually low temperatures prior to liftoff.[6] The failure allowed a plume of flame to leak out of the SRB and impinge on both the external fuel tank (ET) and the SRB aft attachment strut. This caused both structural failure of the ET, and pivoting of the SRB into the orbiter and ET. Damage near the bottom of the ET resulted in the complete loss of the aft dome of the lower tank and a rapid release of hydrogen, creating a forward thrust of about 2.8 million pounds and pushing the tank up into the intertank structure which connects the liquid hydrogen tank and liquid oxygen tank. This was followed by an almost explosive burning of the hydrogen combined with oxygen leaking from the intertank. Challenger's reaction control system then ruptured, resulting in the burning of its hypergolic propellants. The orbiter, traveling at about Mach 1.92, was forced into an attitude that caused it to endure extreme aerodynamic loads, with the resulting stresses breaking it apart.[7] All seven crew members were killed. On March 8, 1986, a search team found the crew cabin; it had not been destroyed in the explosion. The bodies of all seven crew members were found, still strapped into their seats. Autopsies were done but exact cause of death was inconclusive. It is believed that at least some of the crew survived the explosion, since three of four emergency air packs found had been deployed. After the explosion, the crew cabin fell over 50,000 feet and hit the water at approximately 200 miles per hour.

Crew members

  • Francis R. Scobee – Mission Commander
  • Michael J. Smith – Pilot
  • Judith A. Resnik – Mission Specialist 1
  • Ellison S. Onizuka – Mission Specialist 2
  • Ronald E. McNair – Mission Specialist 3
  • Gregory B. Jarvis – Payload Specialist 1
  • Christa McAuliffe – Payload Specialist 2

See also

References

Further reading

External links


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