See also Space Transportation System
and space shuttle
This orbiter was destroyed.
Entered service April 12, 1981.
Became first spacecraft to be flown twice on November 12, 1981.
Destroyed February 1, 2003, during its 28th mission.
Columbia was the first operational orbiter in the orbiter fleet. First flown on April 12, 1981, Columbia was the first reusable spacecraft. This first flight carried no payload except testing equipment to monitor the functionality of the craft. The flight was successfull, and future flights carried actual payloads.
Columbia was overhauled in 1991, replacing and adding many pieces of equipment, including carbon brakes, drag chute, improved nose wheel steering, removal of development flight instrumentation and an enhancement of its thermal protection system. It was refurbished again in 1994 and 1999.
On the morning February 1, 2003, Columbia was lost along with her crew. The orbiter broke up during reentry. The loss marks the second catastrophic failure of the Space Suttle system, the first being the loss of Challenger.
Because the space shuttle orbiter is reusable, Columbia was the oldest spacecraft still in use, until its loss during mission STS-107.
The rest of the orbiter fleet:
Enterprise * Challenger * Discovery * Atlantis * Endeavour