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Fast Facts: Space Shuttle Columbia

Space shuttle Columbia was the oldest in NASA's orbiter fleet, and the first to go into space.

Columbia was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in March 1979. Two years later, April 12, 1981, it lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center to become the first shuttle in orbit. (Space shuttle Enterprise was the program's test vehicle and not equipped for spaceflight.)

Columbia's successful completion of the Orbital Flight Test Program — missions STS-1 through 4 — proved that a winged, reusable spaceship could successfully operate in space.

Four ships joined the orbiter fleet over the next decade; Challenger in 1982; Discovery in 1983; Atlantis in 1985, and Endeavour, built in 1991 to replace the Challenger after it exploded during liftoff in 1986.

Columbia was commonly referred to as OV-102, for Orbiter Vehicle-102. Empty Weight was 158,289 lbs at rollout and 178,000 lbs with main engines installed.

Since 1988, Columbia went through more than 1,540 modification packages and, due to advances in thermal protection technology,  Columbia eventually flew with 5,550 fewer tiles than were carried on its first mission.

During its last Orbiter Major Modification (OMM) period, Columbia underwent a substantial weight reduction with the removal of more than 1,000 pounds of Development Flight Instrumentation wiring and hardware no longer required.

On September 24, 1999, Columbia was transported to Palmdale, Calif., for its second Orbiter Maintenance Down Period, or ODMP (its first was in 1994). While in California, worker performed more than 100 modifications on the vehicle.

Columbia was the second orbiter outfitted with the multi-functional electronic display system (MEDS) or "glass cockpit." (Atlantis received this upgrade in 2002.) The full-color, flat-panel displays installed on its flight deck improves crew interaction with the orbiter during flight and reduces the high cost of maintaining the outdated electromechanical cockpit displays currently onboard.

While at Palmdale, Columbia's 100 miles of wiring were examined as part of NASA's fleet-wide wiring inspection. The wiring problem was first identified on Columbia as a result of the STS-93 mission.

Other, more recent achievements for Columbia included the recovery of the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) satellite from orbit during mission STS-32 in January 1990 and the STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences mission in June 1991 — the first manned Spacelab mission totally dedicated to human medical research.

Columbia was named after a small sailing vessel that operated out of Boston in 1792 and explored the mouth of the Columbia River. One of the first ships of the U.S. Navy to circumnavigate the globe was named Columbia. The command module for the Apollo 11 lunar mission was also named Columbia.

Construction History

• July 26, 1972 — Contract Award
• March 27, 1975 — Start long lead fabrication aft fuselage
• Nov. 17, 1975 — Start long-lead fabrication of crew module
• June 28, 1976 — Start assembly of crew module
• Sept. 13, 1976 — Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage
• Dec. 13, 1976 — Start assembly upper forward fuselage
• Jan. 03, 1977 — Start assembly vertical stabilizer
• Aug. 26, 1977 — Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman
• Oct. 28, 1977 — Lower forward fuselage on dock, Palmdale
• Nov. 07, 1977 — Start of Final Assembly
• Feb. 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 07, 1978 — Complete mate forward and aft payload bay doors
• Sept. 11, 1978 — Complete forward RCS
• Feb. 03, 1979 — Complete combined systems test, Palmdale
• Feb. 16, 1979 — Airlock on dock, Palmdale
• March 05, 1979 — Complete postcheckout
• March 08, 1979 — Closeout inspection, Final Acceptance Palmdale
• March 08, 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
• Nov. 03, 1979 — Auxiliary Power Unit hot fire tests, OPF KSC
• Dec. 16, 1979 — Orbiter integrated test start, KSC
• Jan. 14, 1980 — Orbiter integrated test complete, KSC
• Feb. 20, 1981 — Flight Readiness Firing
• April 12, 1981 — First Flight — Mission STS-1

Previous Spaceflights

• 01. STS-1 — April 12, 1981
• 02. STS-2 — Nov. 12, 1981
• 03. STS-3 — March 22, 1982
• 04. STS-4 — June 27, 1982
• 05. STS-5 — Nov. 11, 1982
• 06. STS-9 — Nov. 28, 1983
• 07. 61-C — Jan. 12, 1986
• 08. STS-28 — Aug. 8, 1989
• 09. STS-32 — Jan. 9, 1990
• 10. STS-35 — Dec. 2, 1990
• 11. STS-40 — June 5, 1991
• 12. STS-50 — June 25, 1992
• 13. STS-52 — Oct. 22, 1992
• 14. STS-55 — April 26, 1993
• 15. STS-58 — Oct. 18, 1993
• 16. STS-62 — march 4, 1994
• 17. STS-65 — July 8, 1994
• 18. STS-73 — Oct 20, 1995)
• 19. STS-75 — Feb. 22, 1996
• 20. STS-78 — June 20, 1996
• 21. STS-80 — Nov. 19, 1996
• 22. STS-83 — April 4, 1997
• 23. STS-94 — July 1, 1997
• 24. STS-87 — Nov. 19, 1997
• 25. STS-90 — April 13, 1998
• 26. STS-93 — July 23, 1999
• Maintenance — OMDP Sept. 23, 1999
• 27. STS-109 — March 1, 2002
• 28. STS-107 — Jan. 16, 2003 — Crew and Vehicle lost during landing approach on Feb. 1, 2003)

Sources: NASA and the Associated Press.