Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterThe Space Shuttle Endeavor is one of only three remaining Space Shuttles owned by NASA. Actually, the correct spelling is Endeavour, but I guess this mistake is forgivable considering that even NASA also committed a spelling error on the launch pad back in the 2007 mission.
As such, we’ll be using both spellings interchangeably throughout the entire article. The orbiter got its name from the ship used by Captain James Cook during his first voyage – the HMS Endeavour. It is spelled that way because Cook was British.
Space Shuttle Endeavor has a length of 37.237 m, a wingspan of 23.79 m, and a height of 17.86 m. When empty, its weight is 78,000 kg. However, it is capable of lifting off with a gross weight of 110,000 kg. The shuttle is mainly powered by three Rocketdyne Block II SSME engines. When in flight, it can reach a top speed of 27,870 km/h.
Endeavour was the last orbiter built by NASA for its Space Shuttle fleet and one of only three that are currently capable of flying off to space; the other two being Atlantis and Discovery. It was supposed to be to be the last Shuttle to carry out the fleet’s final mission. However, additional funding for one more mission has now put Discovery into that role.
NASA built Space Shuttle Endeavor to replace Challenger, the ill-fated orbiter that broke apart in mid air on January 28, 1986. The US Congress gave the green light for its construction in 1987. It then flew its first mission on May of 1992 under mission designation STS-49.
On the STS-49 mission, Endeavour captured and redeployed Intelsat VI. The orbiter went on to perform 23 more missions. Its most recent was STS-130, which was launched on February 8 of this year (2010). That mission saw the Endeavor taking part in the International Space Station assembly by delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and the ELC-3 to the space station.
The entire Space Shuttle fleet, including Space Shuttle Endeavor, launched a total of 130 manned orbital space flights. 129 were considered successful. These orbiters were responsible for launching satellites and interplanetary probes. They were also used in conducting space-related experiments as well as in the servicing and building of space stations.
Want to read more about the only failed mission in the Space Shuttle fleet’s history?
We invite you to read two Universe Today articles:Take Time To Remember Our Heroes and Teacher -Astronaut’s Legacy Uncovered 22 Years After Challenger Disaster.
There’s more here: The Challenger Accident and Remembering Challenger.
Astronomy Cast has an episode on the US Space Shuttle.