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Space Shuttle Challenger

Space Shuttle Challenger

Overview
Space Shuttle Challenger (NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 Orbiter Vehicle Designation
Orbiter Vehicle Designation
Each NASA space shuttle designation is composed of a prefix and suffix separated by a dash. The prefix for operational shuttles is OV, for Orbiter Vehicle.The suffix is composed of two parts: the series and the vehicle number.Series:...

: OV-099) was NASA's second Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 orbiter to be put into service,
Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle in NASA's orbital fleet. First launched on the STS-1 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle program, it completed 27 missions before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th, STS-107. All seven crew...

 having been the first. The shuttle was built by Rockwell International
Rockwell International
Rockwell International was a major American manufacturing conglomerate in the latter half of the 20th century, involved in aircraft, the space industry, both defense-oriented and commercial electronics, automotive and truck components, printing presses, valves and meters, and industrial automation....

's Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California
Downey, California
Downey is a city located in southeast Los Angeles County, California, United States, southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The city is best known as the birthplace of the Apollo space program, and is the city where folk singer Karen Carpenter lived and died...

. 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
STS-51-L
STS-51-L was the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle program, which marked the first time an ordinary civilian, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, had flown aboard the Space Shuttle. The mission used Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted off from the Launch Complex 39-B on 28 January...

 on January 28, 1986, resulting in the death of all seven crew members
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida at 11:38 am EST...

. The accident led to a two-and-a-half year grounding of the shuttle fleet, with missions resuming in 1988 with the launch of on STS-26
STS-26
STS-26 was the 26th NASA Space Shuttle mission and the seventh flight of the Discovery orbiter. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 29 September 1988, and landed four days later on 3 October. STS-26 was declared the "Return to Flight" mission, being the first mission after...

.
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Encyclopedia
Space Shuttle Challenger (NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 Orbiter Vehicle Designation
Orbiter Vehicle Designation
Each NASA space shuttle designation is composed of a prefix and suffix separated by a dash. The prefix for operational shuttles is OV, for Orbiter Vehicle.The suffix is composed of two parts: the series and the vehicle number.Series:...

: OV-099) was NASA's second Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 orbiter to be put into service,
Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle in NASA's orbital fleet. First launched on the STS-1 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle program, it completed 27 missions before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th, STS-107. All seven crew...

 having been the first. The shuttle was built by Rockwell International
Rockwell International
Rockwell International was a major American manufacturing conglomerate in the latter half of the 20th century, involved in aircraft, the space industry, both defense-oriented and commercial electronics, automotive and truck components, printing presses, valves and meters, and industrial automation....

's Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California
Downey, California
Downey is a city located in southeast Los Angeles County, California, United States, southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The city is best known as the birthplace of the Apollo space program, and is the city where folk singer Karen Carpenter lived and died...

. 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
STS-51-L
STS-51-L was the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle program, which marked the first time an ordinary civilian, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, had flown aboard the Space Shuttle. The mission used Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted off from the Launch Complex 39-B on 28 January...

 on January 28, 1986, resulting in the death of all seven crew members
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida at 11:38 am EST...

. The accident led to a two-and-a-half year grounding of the shuttle fleet, with missions resuming in 1988 with the launch of on STS-26
STS-26
STS-26 was the 26th NASA Space Shuttle mission and the seventh flight of the Discovery orbiter. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 29 September 1988, and landed four days later on 3 October. STS-26 was declared the "Return to Flight" mission, being the first mission after...

. Challenger itself was replaced by the , which first launched in 1992. Endeavour was constructed from spare parts originally meant for Challenger and the other shuttles in the fleet.

History


Challenger was named after HMS Challenger
HMS Challenger (1858)
HMS Challenger was a steam-assisted Royal Navy Pearl-class corvette launched on 13 February 1858 at the Woolwich Dockyard. She was the flagship of the Australia Station between 1866 and 1870....

, a British corvette
Corvette
A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

 that was the command ship for the Challenger Expedition
Challenger expedition
The Challenger expedition of 1872–76 was a scientific exercise that made many discoveries to lay the foundation of oceanography. The expedition was named after the mother vessel, HMS Challenger....

, a pioneering global marine research expedition undertaken from 1872 through 1876. The Apollo 17
Apollo 17
Apollo 17 was the eleventh and final manned mission in the American Apollo space program. Launched at 12:33 a.m. EST on December 7, 1972, with a three-member crew consisting of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 remains the...

 lunar module
Apollo Lunar Module
The Apollo Lunar Module was the lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft built for the US Apollo program by Grumman to carry a crew of two from lunar orbit to the surface and back...

 that landed on the Moon in 1972 was also named
Challenger.

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.

NASA planned to refit the prototype orbiter Enterprise
Space Shuttle Enterprise
The Space Shuttle Enterprise was the first Space Shuttle orbiter. It was built for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle program to perform test flights in the atmosphere. It was constructed without engines or a functional heat shield, and was therefore not capable of spaceflight...

 (OV-101), used for flight testing, as the second operational orbiter. However, design changes made during construction of the first orbiter,
Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia
Space Shuttle Columbia was the first spaceworthy Space Shuttle in NASA's orbital fleet. First launched on the STS-1 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle program, it completed 27 missions before being destroyed during re-entry on February 1, 2003 near the end of its 28th, STS-107. All seven crew...

 (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
Space shuttle thermal protection system
The Space Shuttle thermal protection system is the barrier that protects the Space Shuttle Orbiter during the searing heat of atmospheric reentry...

 than Columbia. Most of the tiles on the payload bay doors, upper wing surface, and rear fuselage surface were replaced with DuPont
DuPont
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company , commonly referred to as DuPont, is an American chemical company that was founded in July 1802 as a gunpowder mill by Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. DuPont was the world's third largest chemical company based on market capitalization and ninth based on revenue in 2009...

 white Nomex
Nomex
Nomex is a registered trademark for flame resistant meta-aramid material developed in the early 1960s by DuPont and first marketed in 1967.- Properties:...

 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
Head-Up Display
A head-up display or heads-up display is any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints...

 system for use in the descent phase of a mission.

Flights and modifications


After its first flight
STS-6
STS-6 was a NASA Space Shuttle mission conducted using Space Shuttle Challenger, carrying the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-1, into orbit. Launched on 4 April 1983, STS-6 was the sixth shuttle mission and the first of the ten missions flown by Challenger...

 in April 1983,
Challenger quickly became the workhorse of NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 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
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery is one of the retired orbiters of the Space Shuttle program of NASA, the space agency of the United States, and was operational from its maiden flight, STS-41-D on August 30, 1984, until its final landing during STS-133 on March 9, 2011...

 and
Atlantis
Space Shuttle Atlantis
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is a retired Space Shuttle orbiter in the Space Shuttle fleet belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration , the spaceflight and space exploration agency of the United States...

 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
STS-51-L
STS-51-L was the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle program, which marked the first time an ordinary civilian, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, had flown aboard the Space Shuttle. The mission used Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted off from the Launch Complex 39-B on 28 January...

 been successful,
Challengers next mission would have been the deployment of the Ulysses probe with the Centaur to study the polar regions of the Sun.

Challengers many spaceflight accomplishments included the first American woman, African-American, and Canadian in space; three Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

 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
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

. From time to time, further pieces of debris from the orbiter wash up on the Florida coast. 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
NASA logo
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration logo has three main official designs, although the one with stylized red curved text has been retired from official use since 1992...

, and also was never modified with the MEDS "glass cockpit". The tail was also never fitted with a drag chute – it was fitted to the remaining orbiters in 1992.
Challengers rollout from Orbiter Processing
Facility (OPF) to the Vehicle Assembly Building
Vehicle Assembly Building
The Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center was used to assemble and house American manned launch vehicles from 1968-2011. It is the fourth largest building in the world by volume...

 (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
STS-6
STS-6 was a NASA Space Shuttle mission conducted using Space Shuttle Challenger, carrying the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-1, into orbit. Launched on 4 April 1983, STS-6 was the sixth shuttle mission and the first of the ten missions flown by Challenger...

LC-39A
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39
Launch Complex 39 is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, USA. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified to support Space Shuttle operations. NASA began modifying LC-39 in 2007 to...

Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

Deployed TDRS-A
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite
A Tracking and Data Relay Satellite is a type of communications satellite that forms part of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System used by NASA and other United States government agencies for communications to and from independent "User Platforms" such as satellites, balloons, aircraft,...

.

First spacewalk during a space shuttle mission.
5 days, 00 hours, 23 minutes, 42 seconds
2 June 18, 1983 STS-7
STS-7
STS-7 was a NASA Space Shuttle mission, during which Space Shuttle Challenger deployed several satellites into orbit. The shuttle launched from Kennedy Space Center on 18 June 1983, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base on 24 June. STS-7 was the seventh shuttle mission, and was Challengers second...

LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

Sally Ride
Sally Ride
Sally Kristen Ride is an American physicist and a former NASA astronaut. Ride joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became the first American woman—and then-youngest American, at 32—to enter space...

 becomes first American woman in space.

Deployed two communications satellites.
6 days, 02 hours, 23 minutes, 59 seconds
3 August 30, 1983 STS-8
STS-8
STS-8 was a NASA Space Shuttle mission which launched on 30 August 1983 and landed on 5 September; it conducted the first night launch and night landing of the program, and flew the first African-American astronaut, Guion Bluford...

LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

Guion Bluford
Guion Bluford
Guion Stewart “Guy” Bluford, Jr. , is an engineer, retired Colonel from the United States Air Force and a former NASA Astronaut. He participated in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992...

 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
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

.
6 days, 01 hours, 08 minutes, 43 seconds
4 February 3, 1984 STS-41-B
STS-41-B
STS-41-B was the tenth NASA Space Shuttle mission, launching on 3 February 1984 and landing on 11 February. It was the fourth flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Following STS-9, the flight numbering system for the Space Shuttle program was changed...

LC-39A Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

First untethered spacewalk.

Deployed two communications satellites, unsuccessfully.
7 days, 23 hours, 15 minutes, 55 seconds
5 April 6, 1984 STS-41-C
STS-41-C
STS-41-C was NASA's 11th Space Shuttle mission, and the fifth mission of Space Shuttle Challenger. The launch on 6 April 1984 was the first direct ascent trajectory for a shuttle mission...

LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

Solar Maximum Mission
Solar Maximum Mission
The Solar Maximum Mission satellite was designed to investigate solar phenomenon, particularly solar flares. It was launched on February 14, 1980....

 service mission.
6 days, 23 hours, 40 minutes, 07 seconds
6 October 5, 1984 STS-41-G
STS-41-G
STS 41-G was the 13th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program and the sixth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. Challenger launched on 5 October 1984, and conducted the second shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center on 13 October...

LC-39A Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

First mission to carry two women.

Marc Garneau
Marc Garneau
Joseph Jean-Pierre Marc Garneau, CC CD FCASI MP is a Canadian retired military officer, former astronaut, engineer and politician.Garneau was the first Canadian in space taking part in three flights aboard NASA Space shuttles...

 becomes first Canadian in space.

Kathryn D. Sullivan
Kathryn D. Sullivan
Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan is an American geologist and a former NASA astronaut. A crew member on three Space Shuttle missions, she is the first American woman to walk in space.-Education:...

 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
STS-51-B
STS 51-B was the seventeenth flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the seventh flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. The launch of Challenger on 29 April 1985 was delayed by 2 minutes and 18 seconds, due to a launch processing failure. Challenger was initially rolled out to the pad to launch on...

LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

Carried Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

-3.
7 days, 00 hours, 08 minutes, 46 seconds
8 July 29, 1985 STS-51-F
STS-51-F
STS-51-F was the nineteenth flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the eighth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger...

LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

Carried Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

-2.
7 days, 22 hours, 45 minutes, 26 seconds
9 October 30, 1985 STS-61-A
STS-61-A
STS-61-A was the 22nd mission of NASA's Space Shuttle program. It was a scientific Spacelab mission, funded and directed by West Germany – hence the non-NASA designation of D-1 . STS-61-A was the last successful mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which was destroyed during STS-51-L in 1986...

LC-39A Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

Carried German Spacelab
Spacelab
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay...

 D-1.
Wubbo Ockels
Wubbo Ockels
Prof. Dr. Wubbo Johannes Ockels is a Dutch physicist and a former ESA astronaut. In 1985 he participated in a flight on a space shuttle , making him the first Dutch citizen in space. He was not the first Dutch-born astronaut, as he is preceded by the naturalized American Lodewijk van den Berg, who...

 becomes the first Dutchman in space
7 days, 00 hours, 44 minutes, 51 seconds
10 January 28, 1986 STS-51-L
STS-51-L
STS-51-L was the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle program, which marked the first time an ordinary civilian, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, had flown aboard the Space Shuttle. The mission used Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted off from the Launch Complex 39-B on 28 January...

LC-39B
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39
Launch Complex 39 is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, USA. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified to support Space Shuttle operations. NASA began modifying LC-39 in 2007 to...

(planned to land at Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

).
Shuttle disintegrated after launch, killing all seven astronauts on board. Was to have deployed TDRS-B
TDRS-B
TDRS-B was an American communications satellite, which was to have formed part of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. It was destroyed when the disintegrated 73 seconds after launch....

.
0 days, 00 hours, 01 minute, 13 seconds

Mission insignias


Mission insignia for Challenger flights
STS 6
STS 7
STS 8
STS 41-B
STS 41-C
STS-41-G
STS-41-G
STS 41-G was the 13th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program and the sixth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. Challenger launched on 5 October 1984, and conducted the second shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center on 13 October...

STS-51-B
STS-51-B
STS 51-B was the seventeenth flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the seventh flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. The launch of Challenger on 29 April 1985 was delayed by 2 minutes and 18 seconds, due to a launch processing failure. Challenger was initially rolled out to the pad to launch on...

STS-51-F
STS-51-F
STS-51-F was the nineteenth flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the eighth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger...

STS-61-A
STS-61-A
STS-61-A was the 22nd mission of NASA's Space Shuttle program. It was a scientific Spacelab mission, funded and directed by West Germany – hence the non-NASA designation of D-1 . STS-61-A was the last successful mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which was destroyed during STS-51-L in 1986...

STS-51-L
STS-51-L
STS-51-L was the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle program, which marked the first time an ordinary civilian, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, had flown aboard the Space Shuttle. The mission used Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted off from the Launch Complex 39-B on 28 January...



Loss of Challenger




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
Eastern Time Zone
The Eastern Time Zone of the United States and Canada is a time zone that falls mostly along the east coast of North America. Its UTC time offset is −5 hrs during standard time and −4 hrs during daylight saving time...

. The breakup was ultimately due to the failure of an O-ring
O-ring
An O-ring, also known as a packing, or a toric joint, is a mechanical gasket in the shape of a torus; it is a loop of elastomer with a disc-shaped cross-section, designed to be seated in a groove and compressed during assembly between two or more parts, creating a seal at the interface.The O-ring...

 on its right solid-fuel rocket booster
Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster
The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters were the pair of large solid rockets used by the United States' NASA Space Shuttle during the first two minutes of powered flight. Together they provided about 83% of liftoff thrust for the Space Shuttle. They were located on either side of the rusty or...

 (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. The failure allowed a plume of flame to leak out of the SRB and impinge on both the external fuel tank
Space Shuttle external tank
A Space Shuttle External Tank is the component of the Space Shuttle launch vehicle that contains the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. During lift-off and ascent it supplies the fuel and oxidizer under pressure to the three Space Shuttle Main Engines in the orbiter...

 (ET) and the SRB aft
Aft
Aft, in naval terminology, is an adjective or adverb meaning, towards the stern of the ship, when the frame of reference is within the ship. Example: "Able Seaman Smith; lay aft!". Or; "What's happening aft?"...

 attachment strut
Strut
A strut is a structural component designed to resist longitudinal compression. Struts provide outwards-facing support in their lengthwise direction, which can be used to keep two other components separate, performing the opposite function of a tie...

. This caused both structural failure of the ET, and pivoting of the SRB into the orbiter
Space Shuttle Orbiter
The Space Shuttle orbiter was the orbital spacecraft of the Space Shuttle program operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. The orbiter was a reusable winged "space-plane", a mixture of rockets, spacecraft, and aircraft...

 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
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

, 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
Reaction control system
A reaction control system is a subsystem of a spacecraft whose purpose is attitude control and steering by the use of thrusters. An RCS system is capable of providing small amounts of thrust in any desired direction or combination of directions. An RCS is also capable of providing torque to allow...

 then ruptured, resulting in the burning of its hypergolic propellants. The orbiter, traveling at about Mach
Mach number
Mach number is the speed of an object moving through air, or any other fluid substance, divided by the speed of sound as it is in that substance for its particular physical conditions, including those of temperature and pressure...

 1.92, was forced into an attitude
Aircraft principal axes
An aircraft in flight is free to rotate in three dimensions: pitch, nose up or down about an axis running from wing to wing), yaw, nose left or right about an axis running up and down; and roll, rotation about an axis running from nose to tail. The axes are alternatively designated as lateral,...

 that caused it to endure extreme aerodynamic
Aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...

 load
Structural load
Structural loads or actions are forces, deformations or accelerations applied to a structure or its components.Loads cause stresses, deformations and displacements in structures. Assessment of their effects is carried out by the methods of structural analysis...

s, with the resulting stresses breaking it apart. 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
    Christa McAuliffe
    Christa McAuliffe was an American teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, and was one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster....

     – Payload Specialist 2

See also



External links