Discovery was named after one of two ships that were used by the
British explorer James Cook in the 1770s during voyages in the South Pacific
that led to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. Another of his ships was the
Endeavour, the namesake of NASA's newest orbiter.
Cook also used Discovery to explore the coasts of southern Alaska and
north-western Canada. During the American Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin
made a safe conduct request for the British vessel because of the scientific
importance of its research.
Upgrades and Features
Discovery benefited from lessons learned in the construction and testing of
Enterprise, Columbia and Challenger. At rollout, its weight was some 6,870
pounds less than Columbia. Two orbiters, Challenger and Discovery, were modified
at KSC to enable them to carry the Centaur upper stage in the payload bay. These
modifications included extra plumbing to load and vent Centaur's cryogenic
(L02/LH2) propellants (other IUS/PAM upper stages use solid propellants), and
controls on the aft flight deck for loading and monitoring the Centaur stage. No
Centaur flight was ever flown and after the loss of Challenger it was decided
that the risk was too great to launch a shuttle with a fuelled Centaur upper
stage in the payload bay.
29 January 1979: Contract Award
27 August 1979: Start long lead fabrication of Crew Module
20 June 1980: Start fabrication lower fuselage
10 November 1980: Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage
8 December 1980: Start initial system installation aft fuselage
2 March 1981: Start fabrication/assembly of payload bay doors
19 October 1981: Start detailed fabrication/assembly of body flap
26 October 1981: Start initial system installation, crew module, Downey
4 April 1982: Start initial system installation upper forward fuselage
16 March 1982: Mid-fuselage on dock, Palmdale
30 March 1982: Elevons on dock, Palmdale
30 April 1982: Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman
30 April 1982: Lower forward fuselage on dock, Palmdale
16 July 1982: Upper forward fuselage on dock, Palmdale
5 August 1982: Vertical stabilizer on dock, Palmdale
3 September 1982: Start of Final Assembly
15 October 1982: Body flap on dock, Palmdale
11 January 1983: Aft fuselage on dock, Palmdale
25 February 1983: Complete final assembly and closeout installation, Palmdale
28 February 1983: Start initial subsystems test, power-on, Palmdale
13 May 1983: Complete initial subsystems testing
26 July 1983: Complete subsystems testing
12 August 1983: Completed Final Acceptance
16 October 1983: Rollout from Palmdale
5 November 1983: Overland transport from Palmdale to Edwards
9 November 1983: Delivery to Kennedy Space Center
20 June 1984: Flight Readiness Firing
30 August 1984: First Flight of Discovery (41-D)
(30 August 1984) - First Discovery mission.
Launched two communications satellites, including LEASAT F2.
STS-41-D was the first flight of Space Shuttle
Discovery and the 12th shuttle mission. The Discovery orbiter was launched on
its maiden flight on 30 August 1984. The mission lasted 6 days, 56 minutes, with
landing on Runway 17 at Edwards AFB on 5 September. It was transported
back to KSC on 10 September.
2. 51-A (8 November,
1984) - Launched two and rescued two communications satellites including
LEASAT F1. Featured the third landing at Kennedy Space Center.
(24 January 1985) - First mission dedicated
to Department of Defense. U.S. Air Force Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster
deployed. STS-51C marked the 100th human spaceflight to achieve orbit.
(12 April 1985) - Launched two communications
satellites: TELESAT-l (ANIK C-1) and LEASAT F3.
(17 June, 1985) - Sultan Salman al-Saud was the
first Saudi Arabian in space. Launched two communications satellites.
(27 August 1985) - Launched two
communications satellites including LEASAT F4. Recovered LEASAT F3.
(29 September 1988) - First 'Return to
Flight' mission after the
Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.
This was the first mission to use the original Space Transportation System
numbering system since STS-9, and the first to have all crew members wearing
pressure suits for launch and landing since STS-4.
(13 March 1989) - The 3rd mission after the
Challenger disaster. Launched TDRS.
9. STS-33 (22
November, 1989) - Launched DOD Magnum ELINT satellite.
(24 April 1990) - Launched
Hubble Space Telescope. First use of carbon
brakes at landing. Launch marked the first time since January 1986 that two
Space Shuttles had been on the launch pad at the same time - Discovery on 39B
and Columbia on 39A.
(6 October 1990) - Launched the Ulysses probe.
Ulysses was a joint venture of NASA and the European Space Agency. It was
designed to study the Sun at all latitudes. It was originally scheduled for
launch in 1986 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.
(28 April 1991) - Launched DOD Air Force Program
(12 September 1991) - Launch of Upper
Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS).
(22 January 1992) - Carried into orbit the
International Microgravity Laboratory-1 (IML-1), a pressurized manned Spacelab
module. Canada sent its first woman astronaut, Roberta Bondar, into space on
(2 December 1992) - Launched Department of Defense
16. STS-56 (8 April
1993) - Atmospheric Laboratory (ATLAS-2).
(12 September 1993) - Advanced
Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS).
(3 February 1994) - The first mission of the US /
Russian Shuttle-Mir Program, which carried the first Russian cosmonaut, Sergei
K. Krikalev to fly aboard a Space Shuttle. The mission carried the Wake Shield
Facility experiment and a SPACEHAB module into orbit, and carried out a live
bi-directional audio and downlink link-up with the cosmonauts aboard the Russian
Space Station Mir.
(9 September 1994) - Carried the LIDAR In-Space
Technology Experiment (LITE), a project to measure atmospheric parameters from a
(3 February 1995) - The second mission of the US /
Russian Shuttle-Mir Program, which carried out the first rendezvous of the
American Space Shuttle with Mir Space Stationr. STS-63 was the first mission to
see the use of the new full-pressure Advanced Crew Escape System Pressure Suit,
which eventually replaced the partial-pressure Launch-Escape Suit.
21. STS-70 (13 July
1995) - Launch and deployment of the 7th Tracking and Data Relay
Satellite (TDRS) by means of the two-stage Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) solid
rocket. STS-70 marked the maiden flight of the new Block 1 orbiter main engine.
22. STS-82 (11
February 1997) - Second servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Discovery underwent a nine-month Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP) in
Palmdale California. The vehicle was outfitted with a 5th set of cryogenic tanks
and an external airlock to support missions to the
International Space Station. Discovery departed Palmdale, California,
riding piggy-back on a modified Boeing 747 at 10:01am EDT 28 June 1996 and
Kennedy Space Center on 29 June 1996.
23. STS-85 (7 August
1997) - Carried a complement of payloads in the cargo bay: the Cryogenic
Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes for the Atmosphere-Shuttle Pallet
Satellite-2 (CRISTA-SPAS-02); the Japanese Manipulator Flight Development (MFD);
the Technology Applications and Science-01 (TAS-1) and the International Extreme
Ultraviolet Hitchhiker-02 (IEH-02).
24. STS-91 (2 June
1998) - Final Shuttle / Mir Docking Mission.
25. STS-95 (29 October
1998) - Second space flight of John Glenn, who broke the record for
oldest person to go into space. Pedro Duque became the first Spaniard in space.
26. STS-96 (27 May
1999) - First flight to dock with the International Space Station.
27. STS-103 (19
December 1999) - Third servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
28. STS-92 (11 October
2000) - STS-92 marked the 100th mission of the Space Shuttle. An assembly
flight that brought the Z-1 Truss, Control Moment Gyros, Pressurized Mating
Adapter-3 (PMA-3) (mounted on a Spacelab pallet) and two DDCU (Heat pipes) to
the International Space Station.
29. STS-102 (8 March
2001) - Resupplying the ISS and rotating the Expedition 1 and Expedition
30. STS-105 (10 August
2001) - International Space Station crew and supplies delivery for
Expedition 2 and Expedition 3.
In 2002, Discovery underwent an over two year Orbiter Maintenance Down Period
that provided 99 upgrades and 88 special tests, including a number of changes to
make it safer for flight. Each wing contains new sensors that are able to take
20,000 samples per second and detect micrometeorite or other impacts. There are
22 temperature sensors and 66 accelerometers. Discovery also has a new 50-foot
inspection boom that can be used to check Discovery's underside for damage.
31. STS-114 (26 July
2005) - First return to flight since
Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster,
tested safety improvements and resupplied the ISS. Eileen Collins was the first
woman to pilot and command a Space Shuttle. She was the first astronaut to fly
the space shuttle through a complete 360-degree pitch maneuver. This was
necessary so astronauts aboard the ISS could take photographs of the shuttle's
belly, to ensure there was no threat from debris-related damage to the shuttle.
(4 July 2006) -
The second return to flight mission since the 2003 Space Shuttle
Tested new safety and repair techniques, delivered supplies, equipment and
European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Reiter from Germany to the ISS.
STS-116 (9 December 2006) - Delivery and
attachment of the International Space Station's third port truss segment (the P5
truss), major rewiring of the station's power system, and exchange of ISS
Expedition 14 personnel.
STS-120 (23 October
2007) - Delivered the Harmony module and reconfigured a portion of the
station in preparation for future assembly missions.
- International Space Station crew rotation and assembly (carried and
assembled the Kibo JEM PM module).
- ISS crew rotation and assembly of a fourth
starboard truss segment (ITS S6) and a fourth set of solar arrays and batteries.
37. STS-128 (28 August 2009)
International Space Station crew rotation and ISS resupply using the Leonardo
Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. Also carrying the C.O.L.B.E.R.T treadmill named
after Stephen Colbert.
STS-131 (5 April
Multi-Purpose Logistics Module loaded with supplies and equipment
for the International Space Station
February 2011) Planned International Space Station flight. Final mission
for Discovery and last flight of the Space Shuttle program.
Did you know?
Other famous ships have carried the name Discovery, including one used by Henry
Hudson to explore Hudson Bay in Canada as well as search for what was hoped to
be the northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1610 and 1611.
Another, based on whaling ship design, was used by the British Royal
Geographical Society for an expedition to the North Pole in 1875. This
organization then built another Discovery in 1901 to conduct its Antarctic
expedition that concluded in 1904. This ship still exists and is being preserved
by the Society.
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