STS-2 Fact Sheet

By Cliff Lethbridge

STS-2 — Columbia

2nd Space Shuttle Mission

2nd Flight of Columbia


Joe H. Engle, Commander

Richard H. Truly, Pilot

Backup Crew:

Thomas K. Mattingly, Commander

Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr., Pilot

Orbiter Preparations:

Tow to Orbiter Processing Facility – April 29, 1981

Rollover to Vehicle Assembly Building – August 10, 1981

Rollout to Launch Pad 39A – August 31, 1981


November 12, 1981 – 10:09:59 a.m. EST. Launch had been scheduled for October 9, 1981, but was rescheduled when a nitrogen tetroxide spill occurred during fueling of Columbia’s forward reaction control system.

A launch attempt on November 4, 1981 was delayed and then scrubbed when the countdown computer called for a hold in the count due to apparent low readings on fuel cell oxygen tank pressures. During this hold, high oil pressures were discovered in two of Columbia’s three auxiliary power units that operate the Shuttle’s hydraulic mechanisms. Subsequent maintenance to the units caused a launch reschedule.

November 12 launch was delayed 2 hours, 40 minutes in order to replace a multiplexer/demultiplexer and an additional 9 minutes, 59 seconds to review systems status.


November 14, 1981 – 1:23:11 p.m. PST at Runway 23, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Rollout distance was 7,711 feet. Rollout time was 53 seconds. Mission duration was 2 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes, 12 seconds. Landing occurred during the 37th orbit.

Mission Summary:

The second test flight of a Space Shuttle was cut short by about three days due to the failure of one of three of Columbia’s fuel cells that produce electricity and drinking water. However, 90% of all mission test objectives were met, including the first use of the Shuttle’s remote manipulator system.

In addition, scientific objectives were met using the first Shuttle payload, Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications-1 (OSTA-1), an Earth observation unit mounted in Columbia’s payload bay Spacelab pallet. No heat resistant tiles were lost, and only about a dozen were damaged during the flight.