Table 2-57. Chronology of Shuttle Orbiter Development and Operations *



NASA sponsored three studies of reusable spacecraft: North American Aviation (NAA) and Boeing studied the feasibility of reusable launcher vehicles capable of carrying 90 000 kg to earth orbit; Lockheed Missiles & Space studied recoverable 10-passenger orbital transporters.


Lockheed and General Dynamics (GD) submitted a joint study to NASA of reusable orbital shuttles.


Martin Marietta concluded a study for NASA on a reusable spacecraft design.


NASA conducted its own study of a fully reusable two-stage transporter.

Feb. 1968

NASA officials told members of Congress of their interest in a reusable spacecraft- launch vehicle system.

Jan. 1969

NASA awarded four nine-month contracts (phase A) for studies of an Integral Launch and Reentry Vehicle (ILRV): Lockheed, General Dynamics (GD), McDonnell Douglas, and North American Rockwell (NR). Reports were received in November.


The Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) began an in-house study of a straight-wing, two-stage, fully reusable shuttle.

Apr. 1969

NASA and the Department of Defense (DoD) began a three-month joint study of how an earth orbital shuttle would serve the needs of both agencies. In June, the two organizations endorsed the idea of sharing the same design. In February 1970, a joint NASA-USAF committee was established.

Apr. 5, 1969

NASA Hq. established a Space Shuttle Task Group in the Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF).

Sept. 1, 1969

President Nixon's Space Task Group, which was established to advise the President on space program goals for the next decade, recommended funding for a reusable shuttle craft to be operational by 1975-1977. Funding for a space station, the other half of an ambitious Space Transportation System that NASA wanted to implement during the next 10 years, was not approved.

Feb. 18, 1970

NASA issued a request for proposals (RFP) for phase B Shuttle definition studies, due in March. NR teamed with American Airlines and McDonnell Douglas with TRW to conduct their 11-month studies under phase B funding.

March 1970

NASA Hq. established a Shuttle Program Office within OMSF.

June 1970

NASA announced that it would also be funding 11-month studies on alternate Shuttle designs. Contractors chosen were Grumman with Boeing; Lockheed; and Chrysler. TRW received a contract for an auxiliary propulsion system definition study.

July 1970

The Langley Research Center (LRC) awarded a contract to McDonnell Douglas for the study of the cost of a Shuttle reentry thermal protection system, and the Mar-shall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and MSC chose the same contractor to study high and low pressure auxiliary propulsion systems.

Dec. 11, 1970

NASA held a mid-term review to assess the studies being conducted by NR and McDonnell Douglas.

Jan. 5, 1971

President Nixon officially endorsed the development of Shuttle.

Jan. 19-20, 1971

Of the designs under study, NASA officials determined the desirability of a delta- wing designed to accommodate 29 000 kg.

Feb. 1971

Boeing proposed an externally mounted H2 tank for the Shuttle orbiter. This feature was incorporated into the phase B and phase A alternate studies under way.

March 1, 1971

NASA's Mississippi Test Facility was named as the test site for testing the Shuttle main engines; Saturn facilities would be modified for the Shuttle tests. NASA issued RFP's to Aerojet Liquid Rocket Company, Pratt & Whitney, and Rocketdyne for Shuttle main engine development.

May 17, 1971

MSC issued an RFP for a Shuttle thermal protection system.

June 10, 1971

It was announced that MSC had overall responsibility for the Shuttle program; MSFC was assigned the booster stages and the main engine; KSC was responsible for designing the launch and recovery facilities.

June 16, 1971

Primarily for budget reasons, NASA announced that it would adopt a phased approach to Shuttle development. A fly-back booster for the orbiter would be postponed in favor of an interim conventional booster system. The phase B and alternate studies were extended to take this phased approach into consideration.

July 12, 1971

MSFC announced that Rocketdyne had been selected as designer and fabricator of 35 Shuttle main engines.

July 14, 1971

McDonnell Douglas, General Electric, and Lockheed received contracts for the development and testing of a ceramic insulator for Shuttle thermal protection. NR was awarded a feasibility study contract to examine a low-cost, reusable chemical stage for the Shuttle booster.

Aug. 1971

NASA adopted the external tank configuration for the orbiter, with reentry protection to be provided by an ablative thermal protection system.

Aug. 3, 1971

Pratt & Whitney requested an investigation by the General Accounting Office (GAO) of NASA's selection of Rocketdyne as builder of the Shuttle main engine. NASA's definitive contract to Rocketdyne was held pending the investigation; an interim 4-month contract was signed in September, with extensions granted in February and March 1972.

Sept. 1971

Phase B contractors presented their mid-term study results: Boeing&emdash;reusable Saturn V first stage with added tail, wings, and crew compartment with attached Grumman orbiter (44 m long, 27-m wingspan) with external tank; Boeing&emdash;Saturn IC stage expendable booster that supported orbiter with external tank, plus a solid propellant booster.

Oct.7, 1971

Phase B contractors were given another extension to study the feasibility of using ballistic recoverable boosters.

Jan. 28, 1972

MSC issued an RFP for the development of low-density ablative materials.

Feb. 1, 1972

MSC called for a design study of an orbital maneuvering system.

Feb. 22, 1972

NASA began evaluations of phase B configurations that reflected the addition of solid propellant boosters.

Mar. 7, 1972

MSC issued an RFP for the study and development of containerized payload systems.

Mar. 17, 1972

NASA issued an RFP for the development of a Shuttle, with design due in May.

Mar. 31, 1972

The GAO determined that NASA had fairly chosen Rocketdyne as contractor for the Shuttle main engine and gave NASA permission to proceed with the contract. The definitive contract was processed on August 16, 1972.

Apr. 14, 1972

It was announced that the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, would be the two Shuttle launching sites.

May 12, 1972

Four companies answered the RFP for a Shuttle design: NR, McDonnell Douglas, Grumman, and Lockheed.

May 24, 1972

MSC issued an RFP for the development of a thermal protection system capable of withstanding temperatures of 1922 kelvins.

Jul. 20, 1972

McDonnell Douglas was awarded a 12-month contract for a definition study of the orbital maneuvering system.

Jul. 25, 1972

NASA selected NR as the prime contractor for the Shuttle (other contenders, in the order of how their proposals were judged were Grumman, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed). NR subcontracted with Grumman and McDonnell Douglas for engineering support services. NASA's definitive contract with NR was signed on April 16, 1973, superceding a letter contract that was issued on August 9, 1972.

Aug. 9, 1972

NASA was given the authorization to proceed with a space Shuttle orbiter contract.

Oct. 1972

NR announced that their baseline design was an orbiter 38.3 m long with a wing span of 25.5 m, weighing 108 000 kg at launch. Two solid boosters would assist the Shuttle main engine; the propellant tank would be mounted externally.

Nov. 13, 1972

In a program requirements review, NASA Hq., MSC, and NR personnel made some changes to the baseline configuration, increasing the total weight and thrust by a small amount.

Mar. 29, 1973

Rockwell International (formerly NR), let four major subcontracts: vertical tail unit to Fairchild Republic Division of Fairchild Industries, Inc.; double delta wings to Grumman; mid-fuselage to Convair Aerospace Division of GD; orbital maneuvering system to McDonnell Douglas.

Apr. 2, 1973

NASA issued an RFP to McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, and Martin Marietta for the external tank. Chrysler also replied to the RFP.

June 26, 1973

Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 engines were chosen for use on Shuttle during its approach and landing tests.

Aug. 16, 1973

NASA chose Martin Marietta as the manufacturer of the external tank for the or-biter.

May 17, 1974

The Johnson Space Center (JSC, formerly MSC) awarded IBM a contract to provide ground-based computing and data processing system software design for Shuttle support.

Oct. 18, 1974

NASA announced that the Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, California, would be used as the landing area for the first several Shuttle missions before at-tempting to use facilities at KSC.

Jan 1975

Program officials announced that a modified Boeing 747 would be used in drop flight tests of the orbiter.

Feb. 1975

A Shuttle Preliminary Design Review was held.

Mar. 13, 1975

Rocketdyne completed the first Shuttle main engine.

Apr. 9, 1975

JSC awarded a contract to Martin Marietta for the development of a manned maneuvering unit for Shuttle EVA.

May 6, 1975

NASA announced that Canada would finance the development and manufacture of a remote manipulator system for Shuttle.

June 11, 1975

First in a series of Shuttle main engine tests was conducted successfully.

Aug. 1975

At Rockwell's Downey, California, factory, the final assembly and mating of Or-biter 101 was begun.

Sept. 24, 1975

JSC announced that a new Shuttle Payload Integration and Development Program Office would manage all orbiter payloads.

Sept. 29, 1975

A supplementary agreement between NASA and Rockwell called for an additional $1.8 million for the completion of orbiters 101 and 102, bringing the total Rockwell contract value to $2700 million.

Dec. 16, 1975

NASA announced that the Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests would begin in April 1977 at the Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB.

Dec. 20, 1975

The shuttle main engine completed its first 60-second duration test.

Mar. 12, 1976

Orbiter 101 assembly was completed.

Sept. 17, 1976

Orbiter 101, named Enterprise, was rolled out of the Rockwell factory doors for inspection.

Nov. 4, 1976

Modifications were completed to the Boeing 747 that would be used in the Approach and Landing Tests.

Jan. 14, 1977

The modified Boeing 747 was delivered to the Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC), Edwards AFB.

Jan. 31, 1977

Orbiter 101 was transported to DFRC.

Feb. 8, 1977

Orbiter 101 and its carrier aircraft were mated.

Feb. 18, 1977

The first inert captive flight (2 hr., 5 min.) of Shuttle orbiter 101 was conducted.

Feb. 22, 1977

Second inert captive flight (3 hr., 13 min.).

Feb. 25, 1977

Third inert captive flight (2 hr., 28 min.).

Feb. 28, 1977

Fourth inert captive flight (2 hr., 11 min.).

Mar. 2, 1977

Fifth inert captive flight (1 hr., 39 min.).

June 18, 1977

First manned captive active flight (55 min.).

June 23, 1977

The first main engine was delivered to the testing site in Mississippi.

June 28, 1977

Second manned captive active flight (1 hr., 2 min.).

July 8, 1977

The second main engine was delivered to the testing site.

July 26, 1977

Third manned captive active flight (59 min.).

Aug. 12, 1977

First free flight approach and landing (5 min.).

Sept. 13, 1977

Second free flight approach and landing (5 min.).

Sept. 23, 1977

Third free flight approach and landing (5 min.).

Oct. 12, 1977

Fourth free flight approach and landing (2 min.).

Oct. 26, 1977

Fifth and last free flight approach and landing (2 min.).

Jan. 1978

NASA completed its flight test program with Orbiter 101.

Mar. 3, 1978

Rockwell completed the assembly of Orbiter 102.

Mar. 31, 1978

Orbiter 102's external tank was delivered to MSFC for vertical ground vibration tests.

Mar. -Dec. 1978

Vertical ground vibration tests were conducted on Orbiter 101.

July 1978

Orbiter 102, named Columbia, was rolled out of Rockwell's factory for inspection.

Aug. 1978

Columbia was delivered to KSC.

*For additional information, see table 1-39, and the series of annual chronologies published by NASA: Astronautics and Aeronautics: Chronology of Science, Technology, and Policy for the years 1969-1978 (Washington, 1970-1984).

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