STS- 2 (English Space Transportation System) is a mission name for the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia ( OV -102) from NASA. The launch took place on 12 November 1981. It was the second Space Shuttle mission, the second flight of Columbia and the first mission in which a reusable spacecraft was launched into space again ..

  • 3.1 First start attempt
  • 3.2 Start and first Flugtag


  • Joe Engle ( first space flight), Commander
  • Richard Truly (1st space flight), Pilot

STS -2 was the last NASA mission, which consisted entirely of Space newcomers. This had been the case previously only at the Mercury flights in Gemini 4, Gemini 7, Gemini 8 and Skylab 4. However, Engle and Truly had flown the prototype Enterprise already as part of the Approach and Landing Tests. For later shuttle flights, the rule was that the commander of a mission had to have previously collected as a pilot experience in space.

Backup crew

  • Thomas Mattingly, commander
  • Henry Hartsfield, pilot


Work on the second flight of the Space Shuttle began on 28 April 1981 with the return of the orbiter Columbia from Edwards Air Force Base to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC ) in Florida on the back of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 At next day, the shuttle Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF ) was towed, where immediately complex investigations of the heat shield and began preparations for the installation of the payload.

Meanwhile, began in neighboring Vehicle Assembly Building ( VAB), the assembly of the two solid rocket boosters ( SRBs ) on the launch platform. On April 22, the External Tank arrived at the space center and was also taken to the VAB to be there subjected to a function test. It was the last white-painted tank of a space shuttle. After the tests were completed successfully, the tank on June 30 was connected to the SRBs.

On April 22, the robot made ​​in Canada reached the KSC to be installed later in the payload bay of the orbiter. In addition, the scientific payload was subjected OSTA -1 last test before it was also loaded on July 1 in the cargo bay of the orbiter. Finally, the Columbia was transferred on August 10 of the OPF in the VAB, there to be connected to the external tank and the SRB.

The finished assembly Space Shuttle was driven on its launch pad on August 31 to the launch pad 39A, where the final preparations were made. Here with hypergolic propellants, however, an incident occurred during refueling: During the filling of the front Reaction Control System tanks with nitrogen tetroxide were around ten liters of the toxic substance from damaged parts of the heat shield. A total of 380 tiles had to be replaced. The launch, which was originally scheduled for October 9, has been postponed to November 4.

Mission History

First start attempt

After all the damaged heat shield tiles were replaced began three days before the start of the countdown at T- 72 hours. When you first launch attempt on November 4, the countdown was first stopped when the pressure in the oxygen tank one of the three fuel cells was too low. The problem could be solved quickly. However, a short time later was discovered that the oil pressure in two of the three Auxiliary Power Units (APUs ) that power the hydraulic system of the orbiter, was too high. Then the countdown was stopped 31 seconds before the start, to give engineers time to solve the problem. But the weather prevented a later start on this day. In the days following the transmission of the APU were perfused and their filters replaced.

Start to the first flight day

Now Columbia should start on 12 November, the 44th birthday of the pilot Richard Truly. But first, still had a defective multiplexer / demultiplexer to be replaced, after which delayed the start time again to just under three hours, because the replacement part had to be flown in from the Boeing plant in Palmdale. Ultimately, Columbia lifted off at 15:10:00 UTC. The total launch mass was 2,027,696 kg - 5986 kg more than the first flight. Prior to this mission several changes to the starting platform and the water system at the starting complex were carried out to prevent damage to the launch site and shuttle heat shield by the pressure wave of the SRB prevent. The changes were successful. We have not lost any tiles of the sensitive heat protection and only 12 damaged.

The rise of the Columbia went smoothly. The SRB were on time by 2:05 minutes, at an altitude of 50.6 kilometers separated. They hit a little later on in the Atlantic and could, hampered by bad weather, be safe. The three main engines were working satisfactorily. When they were switched off after 8:39 minutes, the shuttle had reached a height of 118 kilometers and a speed of 26,669 km / h. Little time later, the external tank was dropped and burned up in Earth's atmosphere. Shortly after reaching the orbit unexpectedly rose to the oil temperature of one of the hydraulic power units (APUs ). Therefore, the unit had to be shut a little earlier than planned.

Shortly afterwards, the two astronauts began preparations for the time in orbit. The two were, inter alia, the fuel is no longer needed from the main engines and opened the gates of the payload bay. Also, they did the Columbia with two firings of the maneuvering system (OMS ) at T and T 10:40 41:58 minutes into the correct, 222 km high orbit for the Earth observations with the OSTA -1 structure.

Shortly before the end of the first flight days, but was a problem on which severely hampered the future of the mission: One of the three necessary for water treatment and power generation fuel cell failed. After a few hours, the cell had an increased pH value displayed. When two hours later then the performance fell off rapidly, it had to be turned off manually from the two crew members. Despite the problem Truly activated the robot and the experiments on the OSTA - 1 pallet.

During the flight was lost none of the heat protection tiles of the shuttle, but were damaged over a dozen. These ceramic tiles prevent the annealing of the space shuttle during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.


During STS -2, the first major scientific payload was transported aboard the shuttle. These were the so-called OSTA -1 payload, one of NASA's Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications designed palette of five Earth observation experiments were mounted:

  • The Shuttle Imaging Radar -A ( SIR -A) was the most important experiment of OSTA -1. It sent and received microwaves to map-like images of the earth to create. Since the radar uses its own energy sources, it is independent of day / night switching and clouds and vegetation. It was hoped that better to locate oil and other mineral deposits with the technology. SIR -A was able to obtain images with a resolution of 40 meters for eight hours. The objectives were confined mainly to the United States.
  • The Shuttle Multispectral Infrared Radiometer ( SMIRR ) supported SIR ​​-A by seeking the best spectral bands, which could be helpful in the exploration of rock types. To an infrared radiometer is used.
  • With the Feature Identification and Location Experiment ( FILE) techniques should be found to make the Earth observation experiments more efficient by the device only activated when the conditions are sufficient to collect data. With the various levels of brightness the experiment between vegetation, bare soil, water, snow or precipitation tried to distinguish.
  • The Measurement of Air Pollution From Satellites ( MAPS) experiment called the pollution of the middle and upper layers of the atmosphere by satellite -derived carbon monoxide was measured.
  • The Ocean Color Experiment ( OCE) should locate by the discovery of algae fish schools and marine pollution. The experiment was used primarily over the eastern Pacific and Atlantic.

The experiments were placed on a U-shaped pallet into the center of the payload bay. This aluminum structure was 3 meters long, 4 meters wide and weighed 1218 kg. It was organized by British Aerospace Corp.. built.