Endeavour was Launched on its Maiden Flight 27 Years Ago Today

The Endeavour was launched for the first time on May 7, 1992.
The Space Shuttle Endeavour is launched for the first time from Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Centre on May 7, 1992 | Image credit: NASA

On May 7, 1992, the Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched for the first time. Endeavour was the last shuttle ever built and would be used for 25 missions between 1992 and 2011, including the penultimate mission of the shuttle program, STS-134.

Construction of the Space Shuttle Endeavour began in February 1982 with the assembly of the crew module, a spare that had been built alongside Discovery and Atlantis. In 1987, the contract for the final assembly of the shuttle was awarded to Rockwell International. It was delivered to NASA in May 1991 and after a year of testing was ready for its maiden launch.

The shuttle was named after the HMS Endeavour (the ship that Captain James Cook used on his first voyage of discovery), which is why it’s spelt as it would be in British English rather than the American English, Endeavor. This decision would cause confusion with many throughout the shuttle’s service including with NASA itself which misspelt a sign on the launch pad in 2007.

On May 7, 1992, Endeavour sat on Pad B of the Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39 ready for its first mission, STS-49. At 23:40 UTC, Endeavour blasted off into the night’s sky carrying a crew of seven. The shuttle would spend almost 9 days in orbit successfully completing the mission’s primary objective of recovering the malfunctioning Intelsat VI, fitting it with a new upper stage, and finally redeploying it.

STS-49 was historic on several fronts in addition to being the maiden flight of Endeavour. It was the first shuttle mission to feature four extravehicular activities (EVAs) and the first mission to feature an EVA that included three astronauts working outside of a spacecraft simultaneously.

STS-49 set several records for extravehicular activities.
STS-49 was the first orbital flight to feature four EVAs and the first to involve 3 crew members working outside the spacecraft simultaneously | Image credit: NASA
STS-49's primary mission was to capture and redeploy INTELSAT VI (F-3).
The primary mission of STS-49 was to capture and redeploy the INTELSAT VI (F-3) communication satellite | Image credit: NASA
STS-49 was completed with the touchdown of Endeavour on May 16, 1992.
Endeavour touches down at Edwards Air Force Base on May 16, 1992, completing STS-49 | Image credit: NASA
The six-member crew of STS-49: Daniel Brandenstein, Kevin Chilton, Richard Hieb, Bruce Melnick, Pierre Thuot, Kathryn Thornton, and Thomas Akers.
The crew of STS-49 poses in front of Endeavour for a post-flight shot. Left to right are astronauts Richard Hieb, Kevin Chilton, Daniel Brandenstein, Thomas Akers, Pierre Thuot, Kathryn Thornton and Bruce Melnick | Image credit: NASA
Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.