Canadarm's in-flight test during STS-2
|Mission type||Test flight|
|Mission duration||2 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes, 12 seconds|
|Distance travelled||1,730,000 kilometres (1,075,000 mi)|
|Spacecraft||Space Shuttle Columbia|
|Launch mass||104,647 kilograms (230,707 lb)|
|Landing mass||92,650 kilograms (204,260 lb)|
|Payload mass||8,517 kilograms (18,777 lb)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||12 November 1981, 15:09:59UTC|
|Launch site||Kennedy LC-39A|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||14 November 1981, 21:23:11UTC|
|Landing site||Edwards Runway 23|
|Perigee altitude||222 km (138 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||231 km (144 mi)|
Engle (left) and Truly
STS-2 was the second Space Shuttle mission conducted by NASA, and the second flight of the orbiter Columbia. The mission launched on 12 November 1981 and landed two days later on 14 November. STS-2 marked the first time that a crewed, reusable orbital vehicle returned to space. This mission tested the Shuttle Imaging Radar as part of the OSTA-1 payload, along with a wide range of other experiments including the Shuttle robotic arm, commonly known as Canadarm. Other experiments or tests included Shuttle Multispectral Infrared Radiometer, Feature Identification and Location Experiment, Measurement of Air Pollution from Satellites, Ocean Color Experiment, Night/Day optical Survey of Lightning, Heflex Bioengineering Test, and Aerodynamic Coefficient Identification Package (ACIP). One of the feats accomplished was various tests on the OMS including starting and restarting the engines while in orbit and various adjustments to its orbit. The OMS tests also help adjust the Shuttle's orbit for use of the radar. During the mission, President Reagan called the crew of STS-2 from Mission Control in Houston.
In the early planning stages of the Space Shuttle program, STS-2 was intended to be a reboost mission for the aging Skylab space station.[note 1] However, such a mission was impeded by delays with the Shuttle's development and the deteriorating orbit of Skylab. Skylab ultimately de-orbited on 11 July 1979, two years before the launch of STS-2.
|Commander||Joe H. Engle|
First NASA spaceflight
|Pilot||Richard H. Truly|
Engle had been the original selection as Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17, but was bumped in favor of Harrison Schmitt when it became clear that the mission would be the last lunar landing. As a consequence, both Engle and Truly were rookies during STS-2 (Engle had flown the X-15 above 80 kilometres (50 mi) and so had earned USAF astronaut wings, but was still considered a NASA rookie), constituting the first all-rookie crew since Skylab 4. Engle and Truly had also served as one of the two Shuttle crews during the ALT program in 1977.
|Commander||Thomas K. Mattingly II|
|Pilot||Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr.|
This crew would later fly on STS-4.
The second Space Shuttle mission launched from Kennedy Space Center on 12 November 1981, with liftoff occurring at 10:10 am EST, 7 months after STS-1. The planned launch time of 7:30 am was delayed while a faulty data transmitting unit on Columbia was replaced with one from new Space Shuttle Challenger, which had been shipped overnight from Palmdale, California where Challenger was still under construction.
Originally, the launch had been set for 9 October, but it was delayed by a nitrogen tetroxide spill during the loading of the forward Reaction Control System tanks. The spill necessitated the removal, decontamination and reapplication of over 300 thermal tiles. The tiles could be reached from platforms at Launch Complex 39A, allowing the work to take place without destacking Columbia and returning it to the Orbiter Processing Facility. It was next scheduled for 4 November, but was again scrubbed when high oil pressures were discovered in two of the three Auxiliary Power Units (APU) that controlled the orbiter's hydraulic system. That issue was attributed to hydrazine seepage contaminating the lubrication system in the APUs.
|Attempt||Planned||Result||Turnaround||Reason||Decision point||Weather go (%)||Notes|
|1||4 Nov 1981, 7:30:00 am||Scrubbed||—||Technical||(T-31)||APU's 1 & 3 lube oil outlet pressure high at 100 to 112 PSIA. Flushed APU's 1 and 3 gear boxes and changed
|2||12 Nov 1981, 7:20:00 am||Delayed||7 days, 23 hours, 50 minutes||Technical||Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) OF3 failed delaying launch by 2 hours 40 minutes while a replacement from the Challenger orbiter was flown in. An additional 10-minute delay was introduced for a confidence review of systems
|3||12 Nov 1981, 10:09:59 am||Success||0 days, 2 hours, 50 minutes|
The flight marked the first time an orbital crewed space vehicle had been re-flown with a second crew. Prior to launch, Columbia spent 103 days in the Orbiter Processing Facility. It again carried the DFI package, as well as the OSTA-l payload (named for the NASA Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications), which consisted of a number of remote-sensing instruments mounted on a Spacelab pallet in the payload bay. These instruments, including the Shuttle Imaging Radar-A (SIR-A), successfully carried out remote sensing of Earth's resources, environmental quality, and ocean and weather conditions. In addition, the Canadian-built "Canadarm" Remote Manipulator System (RMS) was successfully operated in all its various operating modes for the first time.
During the mission, the Mission Control Center was visited by President Ronald Reagan. He was supposed to visit during STS-1, but was forced to cancel due to an assassination attempt on 30 March 1981.
Although the STS-2 mission had been planned for a duration of five days, with a few hours a day spent testing the Canadarm, the flight was cut short when one of the three fuel cells that produced electricity and drinking water failed. The mission was shortened to two days, and the Canadarm tests were canceled. The crew stayed awake during a scheduled sleep period and tested the arm anyway, working during the Loss-Of-Signal (LOS) periods when they were not in contact with Mission Control. The deorbit and reentry phase of this mission differed from STS-1, in that while the first shuttle entry was flown as a "middle of the road" test of the automatic guidance, the success of that mission allowed for the STS-2 crew to explore the stability margins of the vehicle's performance. Twenty-nine planned Programmed Test Inputs (PTIs) were manually flown in the Control Stick Steering (CSS) mode, with Engle making use of his past experience in the X-15. These PTIs provided useful data for subsequent engineering modifications. Contrary to the interviewer's assertion in a JSC Oral history conversation with Engle, he hand flew manoeuvres throughout the entire entry speed range, but not for the entire duration. As a consequence of STS-1 entry anomalies, the first roll manoeuvre was flown manually and the elevon scheduling was adjusted to offload the body flap.
Chase 1 crewed by astronauts "Hoot" Gibson and Kathy Sullivan escorted Columbia on final approach. Landing took place on Runway 23 at Edwards Air Force Base at 1:23 pm PST, 14 November, after a 37-orbit flight which covered a total of 1,075,000 miles (1,730,000 km) over the course of 2 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes and 13 seconds.
Despite the truncated flight, more than 90 percent of the mission's objectives were achieved. Moreover, modifications of the water sound suppression system at the pad, to absorb the solid rocket booster overpressure wave during launch, were effective; no tiles were lost and only 12 were damaged. Columbia was flown back to the Kennedy Space Center on 25 November 1981.
STS-2 was the first Space Shuttle flight where O-ring blow-by was observed. After the damage was discovered, another O-ring was intentionally damaged to a further degree. It was then put through a flight simulation at three times the flight pressure. It survived the test, and was endorsed as flightworthy. This same problem would occur on fourteen more Shuttle flights, before contributing to the loss of orbiter Challenger in 1986.
STS-2 was the last shuttle flight to have its external fuel tank (ET) painted white. In an effort to reduce the Shuttle's overall weight, STS-3 and all subsequent missions used an unpainted tank, saving approximately 272 kilograms (600 lb) of launch weight. This lack of paint gave the ET a distinctive orange-brown color, which eventually became emblematic of the Space Shuttle. Decades later some questioned if the white paint might have prevented the ice-soaked foam shedding issue that led to the loss of Columbia nearly two decades later.
STS-2 payloads or experiments:
They also tested the OMS engines.
|Day 2||"Pigs in Space"||The Muppets|
|Day 3||"Columbia, Gem of the Ocean"||Flight Operations Directorate group Contraband|
Columbia on launchpad
The Lut Desert as seen from orbit by STS-2
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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