Space Shuttle Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger was the 2nd Space Shuttle servicer put into service by NASA, the first one been Columbia. Rockwell International’s Space Transportation Systems Division which is in Downey, California built the shuttle and made its maiden flight on 4th April 1983. It was named after the British corvette HMS challenger which was command ship for what was known as the Challenger Expedition undertaken in 187 2 through to 1876.
In April 1983, the Space Shuttle Challenger made the first flight and it quickly became the NASA’s workhorse as it was taken on more missions than Columbia per year. In 1983-1984, it had flown on 85% of all the Shuttle missions. It was the first to fly the first African-American, American woman and Canadian into space. It was also the first to undertake Spacelab missions, launch at night and do Space Shuttle night landing.
Construction of the Challenger
As a result of low production orbiters, the Shuttle program embarked on the construction of a vehicle as a Structural Test Article (STA-099) that later could be converted into a flight vehicle. The construction contract was awarded to North American Rockwell and it was completed on 26th July 1972.
After the rollout of STA-099, it was sent to a test site in Lockheed, Palmdale where it underwent vibration tests for eleven months. These tests were carried out for purposes of simulating shuttle flights from the time of launching to landing.
For purposes of preventing damage during the structural tests, qualifications tests were also carried out to a factor of 1.2 times of the design limit loads. These were to validate computational models and comply with the desired 1.4 safety factor.
Portions of the STA-099 including the body flap, payload bay doors, vertical stabilizer and wings had to be returned to individual subcontractors for rework. By the start of 1981, most of the components had already been sent back to Palmdale where they got reinstalled. Till July 1982, work continued on conversion of the Space Shuttle.
The Space Shuttle Challenger completed 9 missions before it broke seventy three seconds after its launch in what was to be its 10th mission.
The Challenger Disaster
On 28th January 1986, seventy three seconds after liftoff, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke up bringing to an end a devastating end to the spacecraft. All the 7 members aboard dies and this included a 37 year old teacher, Christa McAuliffe from New Hampshire selected to join the mission so she could teach schoolchildren across the globe from space.
This happened as the hundreds of people on the ground including families of those aboard watched. Millions of people also watched the tragedy on television and because of this, NASA suspend temporarily all space shuttle expeditions.
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