Tag Archives: STS-107

1 February 2003, 14:00:25 UTC

Disintegration

1 February 2003, 09:00:18 a.m., Eastern Standard Time: Space Shuttle Columbia, nearing the end of Mission STS-107, traveling Mach 19.5 (13,434 miles per hour, 21,620 kilometers per hour) at 209,800 feet (63,950 meters) over Texas, suffered catastrophic structural failure and disintegrated. All seven members of the crew were killed.

81.7 seconds after liftoff on 16 January, 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, 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).

Columbia was scanned as it passed overhead the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, at approximately 7:57 a.m., CST, (13:57 UTC) 1 February 2003. Debris can be seen coming from the shuttle’s left wing. (NASA Johnson Space Flight Center)

During reentry, the internal structure of the wing was no longer protected by the heat resistant material of the leading edge. The extreme heat caused structural failure.

Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) launches on Mission STS-107, 16 January 2003. (NASA)

Columbia (OV-102) was America’s first space shuttle. It flew into space for the first time 11 April 1981. STS-107 was its 28th flight. During those missions, Columbia orbited the Earth 4,808 times and spent 300 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes, 22 seconds in space flight. 160 astronauts served aboard her. She traveled 125,204,911 miles (201,497,722 kilometers).

The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over North America during reentry, 1 February 2003. (AP)
The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over North America during reentry, 1 February 2003. (AP)

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA

Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 flight crew. Front row, left to right: Colonel Rick Douglas Husband, U.S. Air Force, Mission Commander; Kalpana Chawla, Ph.D., Mission Specialist; Commander William Cameron McCool, U.S. Navy, Pilot. Back row, left to right: Captain David McDowell Brown, M.D., U.S. Navy, Mission Specialist; Captain Laurel Blair Salton Clark, M.D., U.S. Navy, Mission Specialist; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Phillip Anderson, U.S. Air Force, Mission Specialist; Colonel Ilan Ramon, Israeli Air Force, Payload Specialist. (NASA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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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

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