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Space Shuttle Endeavour

By Marty McDowell/NASA

Endeavour, the newest addition to the four-orbiter fleet, is named after the first ship commanded by James Cook, the 18th century British explorer, navigator and astronomer. On Endeavour's maiden voyage in August 1768, Cook sailed to the South Pacific (to observe and record the infrequent event of the planet Venus passing between the Earth and the sun). Determining the transit of Venus enabled early astronomers to find the distance of the sun from the Earth, which then could be used as a unit of measurement in calculating the parameters of the universe. In 1769, Cook was the first person to fully chart New Zealand (which was previously visited in 1642 by the Dutchman Abel Tasman from the Dutch province of Zeeland). Cook also surveyed the eastern coast of Australia , navigated the Great Barrier Reef and traveled to Hawaii.

Cook's voyage on the Endeavour also established the usefulness of sending scientists on voyages of exploration. While sailing with Cook, naturalist Joseph Banks and Carl Solander collected many new families and species of plants, and encountered numerous new species of animals.

Endeavour and her crew reportedly made the first long-distance voyage on which no crewman died from scurvy, the dietary disease caused by lack of ascorbic acids. Cook is credited with being the first captain to use diet as a cure for scurvy, when he made his crew eat cress, sauerkraut and an orange extract.

The Endeavour was small at about 368 tons, 100 feet in length and 20 feet in width. In contrast, its modern day namesake is 78 tons, 122 feet in length and 78 feet wide. The Endeavour of Captain Cook's day had a round bluff bow and a flat bottom. The ship's career ended on a reef along Rhode Island.

For the first time, a national competition involving students in elementary and secondary schools produced the name of the new orbiter; it was announced by President George Bush in 1989. The Space Shuttle orbiter Endeavour was delivered to Kennedy Space Center in May 1991, and flew its first mission, highlighted by the dramatic rescue of a stranded communications satellite, a year later in May 1992.

In the day-to-day world of Shuttle operations and processing, Space Shuttle orbiters go by a more prosaic designation. Endeavour is commonly referred to as OV-105, for Orbiter Vehicle-105. Empty Weight was 151,205 lbs at rollout and 172,000 lbs with main engines installed.


Endeavour rollout on 5-6-91, courtesy of NASA

Upgrades and Features

Endeavour features new hardware designed to improve and expand orbiter capabilities. Most of this equipment was later incorporated into the other three orbiters during out-of-service major inspection and modification programs. Endeavour's upgrades include:

  • A 40-foot diameter drag chute that is expected to reduce the orbiter's rollout distance by 1,000 to 2,000 feet.
  • The plumbing and electrical connections needed for Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) modifications to allow up to 28-day missions.
  • Updated avionics systems that include advanced general purpose computers, improved inertial measurement units and tactical air navigation systems, enhanced master events controllers and multiplexer-demultiplexers, a solid-state star tracker and improved nose wheel steering mechanisms.
  • An improved version of the Auxiliary Power Units (APU's) that provide power to operate the Shuttle's hydraulic systems.

Construction Milestones

07/31/87 Contract Award
02/15/82 Start structural assembly of Crew Module (yes 1982)
09/28/87 Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage
12/22/87 Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman
08/01/87 Start of Final Assembly
07/06/90 Completed Final Assembly
04/25/91 Rollout from Palmdale
05/07/91 Delivery to Kennedy Space Center
04/06/92 Flight Readiness Firing
05/07/92 First Flight (STS-49)

The orbiter Endeavour underwent a 8-month Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP) in Palmdale, CA. The most significant modification will be in the installation of an external air lock making Endeavour capable of docking with the International Space Station once construction begins late 1997. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 7/30/1996).

Endeavour's Flights to date:

01. STS-49 (05/07/92)
02. STS-47 (09/12/92)
03. STS-54 (01/13/93)
04. STS-57 (6/21/93)
05. STS-61 (12/02/93)
06. STS-59 (04/09/94)
07. STS-68 (9/30/94)
08. STS-67 (3/02/95)
09. STS-69 (9/07/95)
10. STS-72 (1/11/96)
11. STS-77 (5/19/96)

Source: NASA.


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Space References (Books):
Dickinson, Terence. Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books, 1998.
Greene, Brian. Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Vintage, 2000.
Hawking, Stephen. Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition. Bantam, 1996.
Hawking, Stephen. Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe. New Millenium, 2002.
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam, 2001.
Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension.
Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Berkley Pub Group, 2001.
Sagan, Carl; Druyan, Ann. Comet, Revised Edition. Ballantine, 1997
Sagan, Carl. Cosmos, Reissue Edition. Ballantine, 1993
Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Ballantine, 1997

Space References (Videos):
Cosmos. PBS, 2000.
Stephen Hawking's Universe. PBS, 1997.
Hyperspace. BBC, 2002.
Life Beyond Earth PBS, 1999.
The Planets
. BBC, 1999.
Understanding The Universe. A&E, 1996.



Courtesy of NASA

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