Encyclopedia Astronautica
STS-107



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STS-107
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STS-107 Re-entry
STS-107 disintegrates during re-entry.
Credit: Amateur video
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STS-107 Patch
STS-107 Mission Patch
Credit: NASA
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STS-107
Credit: www.spacefacts.de - www.spacefacts.de
Crew: Anderson, Brown David, Chawla, Clark, Husband, McCool, Ramon. First Israeli astronaut. Conducted experiments in Double Spacehab module. Crew perished when shuttle broke up during re-entry. Cause was damage to a leading-edge RCC from foam breaking off of external tank bipod strut.

The last solo shuttle earth orbit mission ended in tragedy when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18. Launch delayed from May 23, June 27, July 11 and 19, November 29, 2002.

Columbia was the oldest shuttle in the fleet. As the heaviest, it was never modified for International Space Station on assembly missions. Instead it was extensively refurbished during a 17-month stay in Boeing's factory in California and primarily destined for solo shuttle earth orbit missions to low inclination orbits (Spacelab and Spacehab; Hubble Space Telescope repair and upgrade). The first flight after the refurbishment was the Hubble repair mission STS-109 in March 2002.

STS-107 was a mission specifically mandated by the US Congress. NASA had expected to fly the experiments aboard on the International Space Station, but certain members of Congress pushed to test microgravity experiments with commercial potential. These could not have been done on the Station for some time due to ISS construction work and crew limitations. STS-107 was originally to have been launched in 2001. However it had lower priority than the Hubble mission and was finally scheduled for July 2002 as the second Columbia flight after its refurbishment. A further delay of seven months resulted from the reshuffling of missions after the shuttle fleet was grounded for a time in 2002 due to cracks in main engine fuel-liners. Following resolution of that problem, ISS assembly and resupply missions (STS-110, -111, -112, -113) had priority.

Finally the turn of the STS-107 crew came. What appeared to be a nearly flawless mission was launched on-schedule in perfect weather at both the launch site and the contingency abort landing sites. A concern during lift-off was the observation that a chunk of insulation had broken off the external tank during ascent and may have struck the bottom of the left wing of the shuttle. A NASA assessment concluded that no significant damage was done. No request was made of the US intelligence services for the underbelly of the shuttle to be examined by reconnaissance satellite or ground-based cameras. In any case, there were no means on board for examination or repair of any damage to the tiles of the heat shield.

The mission continued without major problem with the series of experiments in the Double Spacehab module being conducted 24 hours a day by two shifts (Red Team and Blue Team). Closeout and preparation for landing went smoothly as well. Again weather was flawless over the south-eastern United States and there was no delay in landing (as on many other shuttle missions).

The re-entry OMS burn was nominal. However nearly as soon as Columbia began braking in the earth's atmosphere and heating of its belly began, problems began cropping up. A cascading series of drop-outs of sensors in the left elevon, wing, and then left wheel-well and tires were detected over a period of five minutes. At 14:53 GMT ground controllers noted the loss of data from four temperature sensors on the inboard and outboard hydraulic systems on the left side of the spacecraft. Such drop-outs had been noted on earlier missions, usually due to minor failures of avionics handling the sensor inputs. The shuttle was functioning normally otherwise and the crew was not notified. Three minutes later other sensors detected a rise in temperature and pressure in the tires on the shuttle's left-side landing gear. This was certainly a cause for concern, as it would indicate a loss of heat shield integrity and heating of the shuttle's internal aluminium structure. It also would have set off an alarm in Columbia's cockpit.

At 14:58 GMT data was lost from three temperature sensors embedded in the shuttle's left wing. At 14:59 Columbia was at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18.3. Houston mission control radioed "Columbia, Houston. We see your tire pressure messages and we did not copy your last." Flight Commander Husband replied, "Roger, uh ..." and transmission ceased. Amateurs watching and filming the re-entry over Texas and Louisiana at that moment saw one major chunk being shed from the shuttle. Seconds later the main body disintegrated into five or more pieces. Thousands of pieces of the Columbia survived re-entry and impacted a wide area of east Texas and Louisiana.

NASA followed procedures established for such a contingency. All data were secured, all production and processing of shuttle flight components was stopped, the shuttle fleet was grounded, and an independent investigation commission was named. Congress, true to form, announced its own investigation. Congress, of course, did not investigate itself -- which lobbyists, aides, and Congressman pressured NASA to conduct the solo mission. NASA believed the experiments aboard STS-107 would have been best performed aboard the ISS.

The ISS provided a 'space infrastructure' which would have allowed several ways to handle a situation if damage to the tiles was suspected. Columbia could have been flown in an orbit that allowed it to rendezvous with the ISS in an emergency (albeit with reduced payload). The ISS crew could have inspected the shuttle for damage. If damage had been seen, the shuttle could have rendezvoused (although not docked) with the station and the crew could have transferred to the station to wait for a repair or rescue mission.

The grounding of the shuttle fleet left the three-person crew aboard the ISS without the planned ride home. However they had a Soyuz lifeboat docked to the station and sufficient consumables to wait until June for a relief mission. This arrived in May aboard Soyuz TMA-2, which brought up the first of a series of two-man skeleton crews that would keep the ISS operating over the next two years until shuttle flights and station assembly resumed in July 2005.

The ISS was not cancelled, but the disaster should give fresh impetus to NASA's project to develop a much smaller manned Orbital Space Plane as a lifeboat and eventual shuttle replacement. This finally began full-scale development at the end of 2006 as the Orion space capsule, which was to provide American human access to space after the completion of station assembly and the retirement of the shuttle in 2010.

NASA Official Mission Summary

STS-107
Mission: Migrogravity Research Mission/SPACEHAB
Space Shuttle: Columbia
Launch Pad: 39A
Launched: January 16, 2003, 10:39 a.m. EST

Crew Members: Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon.

Launch

Jan. 16, 2003, at 10:39 a.m. EST, Columbia lifted off on time on the first shuttle mission of the year. It carried seven crew members, including the first Israeli astronaut, on a marathon international scientific research flight.

Landing

KSC landing was planned for Feb. 1 after a 16-day mission, but Columbia and crew were lost during reentry over East Texas at about 9 a.m. EST, 16 minutes prior to the scheduled touchdown at KSC. A seven-month investigation followed, including a four month search across Texas to recover debris. The search was headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La. Nearly 85,000 pieces of orbiter debris were shipped to KSC and housed in the Columbia Debris Hangar near the Shuttle Landing Facility. The KSC debris reconstruction team identified pieces as to location on the orbiter, and determined damaged areas. About 38 percent of the orbiter Columbia was eventually recovered.

Mission Highlights

As a research mission, the crew was kept busy 24 hours a day performing various chores involved with science experiments.

Experiments in the SPACEHAB RDM included nine commercial payloads involving 21separate investigations, four payloads for the European Space Agency with 14 investigations, one payload/investigation for ISS Risk Mitigation and 18 payloads supporting 23 investigations for NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR).

In the physical sciences, three studies inside a large, rugged chamber examined the physics of combustion, soot production and fire quenching processes in microgravity. These experiments provided new insights into combustion and fire suppression that cannot be gained on Earth.

An experiment that compressed granular materials in the absence of gravity furthered our understanding of construction techniques. This information can help engineers provide stronger foundations for structures in areas where earthquakes, floods and landslides are common.

Another experiment evaluated the formation of zeolite crystals, which can speed the chemical reactions that are the basis for chemical processes used in refining, biomedical and other areas. Yet another experiment used pressurized liquid xenon to mimic the behaviors of more complex fluids such as blood flowing through capillaries.

In the area of biological applications, two separate OBPR experiments allowed different types of cell cultures to grow together in weightlessness to elevate their development of enhanced genetic characteristics -- one use was to combat prostate cancer, the other to improve crop yield. Another experiment evaluated the commercial usefulness of plant products grown in space.

A facility for forming protein crystals more purely and with fewer flaws than is possible on Earth may lead to a drug designed for specific diseases with fewer side effects.

A commercially sponsored facility housed two experiments to grow protein crystals to study possible therapies against the factors that cause cancers to spread and bone cancer to inflict intense pain on its sufferers.

A third experiment looked at developing a new technique of encapsulating anti-cancer drugs to improve their efficiency.

Other studies focused on changes, due to space flight, in the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems; in the systems which sense and respond to gravity; and in the capability of organisms to respond to stress and maintain normal function.

NASA also tested a new technology to recycle water prior to installing a device to recycle water permanently aboard the International Space Station.

The European Space Agency (ESA), through a contract with SPACEHAB, flew an important payload focused on astronaut health, biological function and basic physical phenomena in space. These experiments addressed different aspects of many of the same phenomena that NASA is interested in, providing a more thorough description of the effects of space flight, often in the same subjects or specimens.

ESA performed seven in-flight experiments, and one ground-based, on the cardiopulmonary changes that occur in astronauts.

Additional ESA biological investigations examined bone formation and maintenance; immune system functioning; connective tissue growth and repair; and bacterial and yeast cell responses to the stresses of space flight.

A special facility grew large, well-ordered protein and virus crystals that were expected to lead to improved drug designs. Another studied the physical characteristics of bubbles and droplets in the absence of the effects of Earth's gravity.

SPACEHAB was also making it possible for universities, companies and other government agencies to do important research in space without having to provide their own spacecraft.

The Canadian Space Agency sponsored three bone-growth experiments, and was collaborating with ESA on two others.

The German Space Agency measured the development of the gravity-sensing organs of fish in the absence of gravity.

A university was growing ultra-pure protein crystals for drug research. And another university was testing a navigation system for future satellites.

The U.S. Air Force was conducting a communications experiment. Students from six schools in Australia, China, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein and the United States were probing the effects of space flight on spiders, silkworms, inorganic crystals, fish, bees and ants, respectively.

There were also experiments in Columbia's payload bay, including three attached to the top of the RDM: the Combined Two-Phase Loop Experiment (COM2PLEX), Miniature Satellite Threat Reporting System (MSTRS) and Star Navigation (STARNAV).

There were six payloads/experiments on the Hitchhiker pallet -- the Fast Reaction Experiments Enabling Science, Technology, Applications and Research (FREESTAR), which was mounted on a bridge-like structure spanning the width of the payload bay. These six investigations looked outward to the Sun, downward at Earth's atmosphere and inward into the physics of fluid phenomena, as well as tested technology for space communications.

FREESTAR held the Critical Viscosity of Xenon- 2 (CVX-2), Low Power Transceiver (LPT), Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX), Space Experiment Module (SEM- 14), Solar Constant Experiment-3 (SOLCON-3) and Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment (SOLSE-2). The SEM was made up of 11 separate student experiments from schools across the U.S. and was the 14th flight of a SEM on the space shuttle.

Additional secondary payloads were the Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Local Exhaust Experiment (SIMPLEX) and Ram Burn Observation (RAMBO). During the debris recovery activities, some of the Columbia experiments were found. Scientists have indicated valuable science will still be produced. Much of the scientific data was transmitted to experimenters on the ground during the flight.

Payload Details

Commercial Payload:

  • Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System
  • Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System
  • U.S. Air Force Technology Demonstration Experiment
  • Commercial and Macromolecular Protein Crystal Growth
  • Combined Two-Phase-Loop Experiment
  • Quick External Science Tray
  • Space Technology and Research Students (STARS) Program
  • Star Navigation
  • Osteoporosis Experiment in Orbit
  • European Research In Space and Terrestrial Osteoporosis

Human Life Science Experiments:

  • Physiology and Biochemistry Experiments Team (PhaAB-4)
  • Enhanced Orbiter Refrigeration Freezer (EOR/F)
  • Thermoelectric Holding Module (TEHM)
  • Orbiter Centrifuge

NASA/ESA Barter Payload:

  • Biopack Experiment
  • Facility for Absorption and Surface Tension
  • Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility
  • Biobox Experiment

NASA ISS RME Payload:

  • Vapor Compression Distillation Flight Experiment

NASA Code U Payload:

  • Combustion Module-2
  • Space Acceleration Measurement System - Free Flyer
  • Mechanics of Granular Materials
  • Bioreactor Development System-05
  • Ergometer Hardware

Human Life Science Experiments:

  • Microbial Physiology Flight Experiments (MPFE)
  • Automated Microbial System (AMS)
  • SLEEP-3
  • Astroculture (Plant Growth Chamber)
  • Astroculture (Glovebox)
  • Commercial Protein Crystal Growth-PCF
  • Zeolite Crystal Growth-1
  • Fundamental Rodent Experiments Supporting Health-Two
  • Gravisensing and Response System
  • Biological Research in Canisters
  • Commercial ITA Biomedical Experiments

AKA: Columbia.
First Launch: 2003.01.16.
Last Launch: 2003.02.01.
Duration: 15.94 days.

More... - Chronology...


Associated People
  • Ramon Ramon, Ilan (1954-2003) Jewish-Israeli pilot payload specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-107. First Israeli astronaut. Perished in Columbia shuttle disintegration during re-entry. More...
  • Brown, David Brown, David McDowell (1956-2003) American physician mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-107. Perished in Columbia shuttle disintegration during re-entry. More...
  • Husband Husband, Rick Douglas (1957-2003) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on STS-96, STS-107. Perished in Columbia shuttle disintegration during re-entry. More...
  • Anderson Anderson, Michael Phillip (1959-2003) African-American physicist mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-89, STS-107. Perished in Columbia shuttle disintegration during re-entry. More...
  • Clark Clark, Laurel Blair Salton (1961-2003) American physician mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-107. Physician. Perished in Columbia shuttle disintegration during re-entry. More...
  • Chawla Chawla, Dr Kalpana (1961-2003) Indian-American engineer mission specialist astronaut. Flew on STS-87, STS-107. She perished with the rest of the crew of the shuttle Columbia on 1 February 2003. More...
  • McCool McCool, William Cameron 'Willie' (1961-2003) American test pilot astronaut. Flew on STS-107. Perished in Columbia shuttle disintegration during re-entry. More...

Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Columbia American manned spaceplane. 28 launches, 1981.04.12 (STS-1) to 2003.01.16 (STS-107). Columbia, the first orbiter in the Shuttle fleet, was named after the sloop that accomplished the first American circumnavigation of the globe. More...

See also
Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...

Associated Programs
  • STS The Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle) was conceived originally as a completely reusable system that would provide cheap, routine access to space and replace all American and civilian military launch vehicles. Crippled by technological overreach, political compromise, and budget limitations, it instead ended up costing more than the expendable rockets it was to have replaced. STS sucked the money out of all other NASA projects for half a century. The military abandoned its use after the Challenger shuttle explosion in the 1980's. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...

STS-107 Chronology


2003 January 16 - .
2003 January 16 - .
2003 January 16 - . 15:39 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39A. LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Shuttle. LV Configuration: Space Shuttle STS-107.
  • STS-107 - . Call Sign: Columbia. Crew: Husband; McCool; Anderson; Chawla; Brown, David; Clark; Ramon. Payload: Columbia F28 / Spacehab. Nation: USA. Related Persons: Husband; McCool; Anderson; Chawla; Brown, David; Clark; Ramon. Agency: NASA. Manufacturer: Boeing. Program: STS. Class: Manned. Type: Manned spaceplane. Flight: STS-107. Spacecraft: Columbia. Duration: 15.94 days. Decay Date: 2003-02-01 . USAF Sat Cat: 27647 . COSPAR: 2003-003A. Apogee: 276 km (171 mi). Perigee: 263 km (163 mi). Inclination: 39.0000 deg. Period: 89.90 min. Summary: The last solo shuttle earth orbit mission ended in tragedy when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18. Launch delayed from May 23, June 27, July 11 and 19, November 29, 2002..

2003 January 17 - .
2003 January 18 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #04 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson; Bowersox; Brown, David; Budarin; Chawla; Clark; Husband; McCool; Pettit; Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. Space shuttle Columbia's astronauts pointed two Israeli cameras over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean today in search of small dust particles that might impact the weather and began experiments in human life sciences in the third day of the STS-107 scientific research flight. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 19 - .
2003 January 20 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #06 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson; Bowersox; Brown, David; Budarin; Chawla; Clark; Husband; McCool; Pettit; Ramon; Ross. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. Columbia's astronauts conducted scientific studies ranging from the behavior of granular materials in weightlessness to the effects of microgravity on fungi, and filmed the sprites associated with thunderstorms across the globe as their scientific research flight continued in its fifth day. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 21 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #07 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson; Brown, David; Chawla; Clark; Husband; McCool; Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. Summary: The seven astronauts aboard Columbia continued to conduct scientific studies 24-7 today, concentrating their efforts on combustion in weightlessness, the growth of cell cultures, and measurements of the ozone layer.. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 22 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #08 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson; Brown, David; Chawla; Clark; Husband; McCool; Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. The seven astronauts aboard Columbia beamed down television views of their smallest companions in orbit today, including insects, spiders, fish, bees and silk worms that are part of the Space Technology and Research Students package of experiments designed and developed by students in six countries. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 23 - .
2003 January 24 - .
2003 January 25 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #11 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson; Bowersox; Brown, David; Budarin; Chawla; Clark; Husband; McCool; Pettit; Ramon; Tani. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. Space shuttle Columbia's astronauts completed an experiment studying the activity of bone cells in microgravity and began final tests with a technology demonstration designed to investigate the behavior of capillary-pumped loops in space as the 16-day international science mission completed Flight Day 10. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 26 - .
2003 January 27 - .
2003 January 28 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #14 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson; Brown, David; Chawla; Clark; Husband; McCool; Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. The Red team of astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia accomplished repairs on the third and final combustion experiment of STS-107 this afternoon, and support scientists on the ground were looking forward to working with the Blue team on the first scientific runs. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 29 - .
2003 January 30 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #16 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Chawla; Husband; McCool; Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. Summary: Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia are completing their final runs on experiments in the Spacehab Research Double Module and beginning preparations for Saturday's landing.. Additional Details: here....

2003 January 31 - .
2003 February 1 - .
  • Loss of STS-107 - . Return Crew: Husband; McCool; Anderson; Chawla; Brown, David; Clark; Ramon. Nation: USA. Related Persons: Husband; McCool; Anderson; Chawla; Brown, David; Clark; Ramon. Program: STS. Flight: STS-107. The shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry at an altitude of 63.15 km and a speed of Mach 18. All hands aboard were lost. The loss grounded the shuttle fleet pending a failure investigation and left the crew of Bowersox, Pettit and Budarin aboard the International Space Station with a Soyuz emergency return vehicle but without means of major station resupply.

2003 February 1 - .
2003 February 2 - .
  • International Space Station Status Report #03-4 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Bowersox; Budarin; Pettit. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. Summary: A Russian Progress 10 resupply craft lifted off today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying supplies and new scientific systems hardware to the International Space Station.. Additional Details: here....

2003 February 2 - .
  • STS-107 MCC Status Report #20 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Anderson; Bowersox; Brown, David; Budarin; Cabana; Chawla; Clark; Husband; McCool; Pettit; Ramon. Program: ISS. Flight: ISS EO-6; STS-107. Aided by federal and local agencies, NASA stepped up its inquiry into the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts. Multiple investigative teams continue to pore over engineering data in an effort to uncover the cause of the breakup of the orbiter over Texas on Saturday 16 minutes from landing. Additional Details: here....

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