After 25 missions to outer space and 4,671 orbits around planet Earth, Space Shuttle Endeavour has completed its final voyage, dubbed mission number 26.
Mission 26 entailed Endeavour’s move from its previous home in Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) 2 at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), headquartered in Merritt Island, Florida, to its final resting place at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California. The retired NASA orbiter enjoys an interesting history, and one that spans 25 years.
Endeavour, the fifth and final NASA space shuttle constructed, was built to replace Space Shuttle Challenger following its tragic destruction 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986. (Mission STS-51-L, which ended with a launch accident, marked the tenth mission of Challenger, the second Space Shuttle orbiter built and the predecessor of the flagship Columbia orbiter.)
Formally designated as Orbiter Vehicle 105 (OV-105), the Endeavour was contracted to and built by Rockwell International, a major American manufacturing conglomerate serving various markets, including aviation, space, defense and commercial electronics, printing, and more. (Rockwell International was dissolved in 2001; the only remaining parts of a once giant conglomerate are Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Collins, a name well known in the military/aerospace (mil/aero) community.)
Endeavor was constructed not from scratch, but with the use of structural spares from its predecessors. Structural spares left over from the construction of Space Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis went into Endeavor’s assembly. It wasn’t all leftovers, however; the orbiter benefitted from new hardware, including upgraded avionics, intended to deliver enhanced capabilities.
There’s still so much more that’s interesting about Endeavor, and this geek will explore them in the next installment.