Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Space Shuttle Challenger payload bay liner, photo, and brochure

This week another relic, this time from the space shuttle Challenger, together with some items from around the time of her rollout.

Challenger, OV-099, was the third space shuttle built, and the second  to fly in space. She was named after a Royal Navy corvette which, commanded by Captain George Nares, undertook a pioneering oceanographic survey of 1872–76 now known as the “Challenger expedition”. Construction began on 21 November 1975 at the Rockwell International plant in Palmdale, California (today, part of Boeing) originally as a structural test article, STA-099. This piece of test equipment was a full-scale airframe that would be subjected to various loads so that stresses could be measured throughout the structure. These actual, measured values would then be compared to the values predicted by computer modelling for the design.

NASA planned to refit the prototype space shuttle Enterprise to a fully functional orbiter at the conclusion of a series of glide and vibration tests. However, cost analysis showed that it would be cheaper to refit STA-099 instead. This work began on 28 January 1979 and was completed by 21 October 1981. Challenger was rolled out on 30 June 1982. This photo shows a Rockwell International worker painting the shuttle’s name on the starboard side of her forward fuselage just prior to rollout:

The following pamphlet was published by Rockwell International in June 1982 and might have been available to guests at the rollout:

Challenger is represented in my collection by a sample of fabric that was used to line the shuttle’s payload bay on her first mission, STS-6 in April 1983:

It is a cream-coloured piece of beta cloth 10 cm × 9 cm (4″ × 3½″) supplied to me by David Bryant of The Space Station in the UK, together with copies of the provenance of the sample from NASA to him. Note that this fabric was removed during routine servicing and is not debris from the destruction of the spacecraft in the accident of 28 January 1986 that claimed her and her crew on her tenth mission.

Although I prefer not to include material in these posts that is not actually in my collection, a photo from NASA’s archives provides a sombre epilogue this week.  Following the accident, divers from USS Opportune recovered a 2.9 m × 4.9 m (9′ 7″ × 16′) fragment of Challenger’s starboard wing with part of her name still visible, photographed when it was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center Logistics Facility on 18 April 1986:


This is the same section of wing visible in the Rockwell International pamphlet presented above, right under the heading “Challenger The Second Orbiter”.

Copyright information: the print of the worker painting Challenger’s name that I hold in my collection came from a news archive and is a work of Rockwell International, circulated to the media in 1982 without a copyright notice. The pamphlet is also a work of Rockwell International, dated 1982 and published without a copyright notice.  As works published in the United States prior to 1989 without such notices, these items would be in the public domain. If copyright still exists in these items, it would now belong to Boeing, and use here is claimed to be fair use for the purpose of education and commentary in a non-commercial setting as permitted by 17 U.S.C. § 107. The NASA photo is a work of the US federal government and therefore in the public domain.

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