Tag Archives: Space Shuttle Program

28 January 1986, 16:39:13 UTC, T+1:13.162

Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51L) was launched from Launch Complex 39B, Kennedy Space Center, at 16:38 UTC, 28 January 1986. (Thom Baur/AP)

28 January 1986, 11:38:00 a.m. (EST): The Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-99) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Mission STS-51L.

At liftoff, an O-ring seal between segments of the right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) began leaking. Superheated gases breached the seal and began to burn laterally.

“At 58.778 seconds into powered flight, a large flame plume is visible just above the SRB exhaust nozzle indicating a breach in the motor casing.” (NASA)

The venting rocket exhaust burned through the SRB attachment strut and into the liquid hydrogen tank in the lower section of the External Tank. The aft portion of the liquid hydrogen tank failed and drove the tank vertically upward into the liquid oxygen tank. Both tanks ruptured and the propellants detonated.

1 minute, 13 seconds after liftoff, Challenger was accelerating through Mach 1.62 (1,069 miles per hour, 1,720 kilometers per hour) at approximately 46,000 feet (14,020 meters) when the explosion of the external tank caused the space shuttle to suddenly veer away from its flight path. The shuttle was subjected to aerodynamic forces far beyond its design limits and it was torn apart.

Challenger’s external tank, containing liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, exploded 1 minute 13 seconds after liftoff. The two solid rocket boosters flew off in different directions. (Bruce Weaver/AP)
Challenger’s external tank, containing liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, exploded 1 minute 13 seconds after liftoff. The two solid rocket boosters flew off in different directions. (Bruce Weaver/AP)

The crew cabin, with its seven astronauts aboard, broke away from the disintegrating shuttle assembly and continued upward for another 25 seconds to approximately 65,000 feet (19,080 meters), then began a long fall to the ocean below.

2 minutes 45 seconds after the explosion, the cabin impacted the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at 207 miles per hour (333 kilometers per hour). The entire crew was killed.

The crew cabin of Space Shuttle Challenger is visible near the end of the smoke plume at the upper center of this photograph, still climbing at supersonic speed. (NASA)
The crew cabin of Space Shuttle Challenger is visible near the end of the smoke plume at the upper center of this photograph, still climbing at supersonic speed. (NASA)

I watched this terrible tragedy as it happened, live on television. I will never forget.

The explosion occurred 1 minute, 13 seconds after liftoff. (NASA)
The explosion occurred 1 minute, 13 seconds after liftoff. (NASA)

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA

Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51L Flight Crew. Front Row, left to right, Captain Michael J. Smith, U.S. Navy; Lieutenant Colonel Francis R. Scobee, U.S. Air Force; Ronald Ervin McNair. Back Row, left to right: Lieutenant Colonel Ellison S. Onizuka, U.S. Air Force; Sharon Christa McAuliffe; Gregory Bruce Jarvis; Judith Arlene Resnick. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

16 January 2003, 15:40:21.7 UTC, T plus 00:01:21.7

Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, 15:39:00 UTC, 16 January 2003. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, 15:39:00 UTC, 16 January 2003. (NASA)

16 January 2003, 15:39:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Columbia (OV-102) was America’s first space shuttle. This would be her final flight.

81.7 seconds after launch, Columbia was at approximately 66,000 feet (20,100 meters) altitude and 12.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) down range, accelerating through Mach 2.46 (1,623 miles per hour, or 2,612 kilometers per hour). Several pieces of insulating foam broke off of the external fuel tank (what NASA referred to as “foam shedding”) and struck the leading edge and underside of Columbia‘s left wing.

It is believed that at least one of these pieces of foam punctured a hole in the wing’s surface, estimated to be 6 inches × 10 inches (15 × 25 centimeters).

When Columbia re-entered on 1 February 2003, the damage would cause the shuttle to disintegrate. The entire crew would be lost.

Front, left to right: COL Richard D. Husband, USAF, Kalpana Chawla, CDR William C. McCool, USN. Back, left to right: CAPT David M. Brown, MD, USN, CAPT Laurel Clark, MD, USN, LCOL Michael P. Anderson, USAF, COL Ilan Ramon, IAF. (NASA)
The flight crew of Columbia (STS-107): Front, left to right, COL Richard D. Husband, USAF; Kalpana Chawla; CDR William C. McCool, USN. Back, left to right, CAPT David M. Brown, MD, USN; CAPT Laurel Clark, MD, USN; LCOL Michael P. Anderson, USAF; COL Ilan Ramon, IAF. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

10 December 2006, 01:47:35 UTC, T minus Zero

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-116) lifts off from Launch Complex 39B, 8:47 p.m., 9 December 2006, Eastern Standard Time. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) STS-116 flight crew: Front row, left to right: William Anthony Oefelein, pilot; Joan Elizabeth Higginbotham, mission specialist; and Mark Lewis Polansky, commander. On the back row (from the left) are astronauts Robert Lee Curbeam, Jr.; Nicholas J.M. Patrick, Ph.D.; Sunita Lyn Williams and the European Space Agency’s Arne Christer Fuglesang; all mission specialists. (NASA)
Astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, Jr., (left) and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Christer Fuglesang, both STS-116 mission specialists, participate in the mission’s first of three planned sessions of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction resumes on the International Space Station. The landmasses depicted are the South Island (left) and North Island (right) of New Zealand. (NASA)
The International Space Station after the installation of a P5 spacer truss segment and fully retracted P6 solar array wing. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) STS-116 landing at the Space Shuttle Landing Facility, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 22:32:00 UTC, 22 December 2006. Mission Elapsed Time: 12 days, 20 hours, 44 minutes, 16 seconds. (NASA)

10 December 2008

One of NASA’s two Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft transports Space Shuttle Endeavour (OV-105) from Edwards Air Force Base in California to the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10 December 2008. Cropped from the original image photographed by Carla Thomas, NASA ED08-0306-131.
Original image. (NASA/Carla Thomas ED08-0306-131)

4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC

Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)

4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-88) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an 11-day mission to assemble the Unity docking connector module (Node 1) of the International Space Station.

The Mission Commander of STS 88 was Colonel Robert Donald Cabana, United States Marine Corps, on his fourth (and final) space flight. The Pilot was Colonel Frederick Wilford Sturcklow, U.S. Marine Corps, on his first space flight. There were four Mission Specialists: Colonel Jerry Lynn Ross, U.S. Air Force; Major Nancy Jane Currie, U.S. Army, on her third space flight; James Hansen Newman, Ph.D., on his third flight; and Sergei Konstantinovick Krikalev (Серге́й Константинович Крикалёв), a Cosmonaut-Researcher for NPO Energia, on his fourth of six space flights.

Left to right: Sergei K. krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Rober D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)
Crew of STS-88: (left to right) Sergei K. Krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Robert D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)

The first segment of the space station was the Functional Cargo Block, known as Zarya (Заря́), which had been placed in Earth orbit two weeks earlier, 20 November 1998, by a Proton-K three-stage rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Node 1 provided a docking station for arriving space craft. Adaptor points for additional modules were built into the node’s circumference. Endeavour carried Node 1 in its cargo bay. It was maneuvered into position and installed using the shuttle’s robotic arm, operated by Major Currie.

U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to Russian-built Zarya module, forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration STS088-703-019)
U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to the Functional Cargo Block (the Russian-built Zarya module), forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

Endeavour returned to Earth at the Shuttle Landing Facitity, Kennedy Space Center, at 10:53:29 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 15 December 1998 (03:53, 16 December 1998, UTC). The total duration of Mission STS-88 was 11 days, 19 hours, 18 minutes, 47 seconds.

Endeavour touches down at Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST (NASA)
Endeavour touches down at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes