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Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103)

Reusable Space Shuttle Orbiter

Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103)

Reusable Space Shuttle Orbiter


Space Shuttle Discovery became the third American shuttle to enter service, joining the Columbia and the Challenger - both later lost in accidents.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1984
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Boeing Company / Rockwell International - USA
OPERATORS: United States (retired)

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 122.18 feet (37.24 meters)
WIDTH: 78.08 feet (23.8 meters)
HEIGHT: 56.59 feet (17.25 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 171,961 pounds (78,000 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 242,508 pounds (110,000 kilograms)
ENGINE: 3 x Rocketdyne Block II SSMEs developing 393,800lbs of thrust (1,181,400lbs at launch); 2 x Orbital Maneuvering Engines developing 12,000lbs of thrust.
SPEED (MAX): 17,318 miles-per-hour (27,870 kilometers-per-hour; 15,049 knots)
RANGE: 1,249 miles (2,010 kilometers; 1,085 nautical miles)
CEILING: 1,049,869 feet (320,000 meters; 198.84 miles)


Series Model Variants
• Space Shuttle Discovery - Base Designation
• OV-103 - Orbiter Vehicle Designation


Detailing the development and operational history of the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) Reusable Space Shuttle Orbiter.  Entry last updated on 5/21/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
Six reusable space shuttle orbiters were built for the United States space program by Rockwell International - these becoming Atlantis, Challenger, Colombia, Discovery, Enterprise and Endeavor. Two were lost during missions (Colombia and Challenger) while four served their terms and retired as museum showpieces. Discovery, given the Orbiter Vehicle Designation of "OV-103", was born through a contract awarded on January 29th, 1979 and recorded its first mission on August 30th, 1984. Its final mission occurred on February 24th, 2011.

A total of 39 missions were flown by Discovery and involved some 252 crewmen covering just over one year of time in space (365 days, 22 hours). Her retired frame is on exhibit at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia (2016).

Discovery was of a slightly modified, lighter design compared to Columbia by the time it entered formal service, benefitting from testing completed on the frames of Columbia, Challenger and Enterprise prior. In 1983 she was to receive the liquid-fueled "Centaur-G" booster system but the Challenger incident derailed this installation. In 1995, she underwent a major refit to keep her a viable spacecraft for the near future.

During her time aloft, Discovery managed several notable achievements for itself, her crews and the United States space program. STS-41-D marked the second American woman in space, Judith Resnick (she would tragically perish in the Challenger disaster later). STS-31 saw the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope and STS-63 marked the first time the shuttle would be piloted by a female. STS-95 marked the return of astronaut John Glenn into space, then aged 77, making him the oldest man to accomplish the feat. STS-96 saw Discovery become the first shuttle to dock with the International Space Station (thirteen total docking actions were eventually recorded) and STS-92 became the 100th mission completed by the space shuttle program. STS-133 went down in history as Discovery's final mission.

On several occasions, and during warmer ties with the Russians, Discovery also docked with the Soviet-Russian space station "Mir".

STS-26 and STS-114 became notable missions in their own right for it was Discovery that put the American space program back on track following the mission disasters of Challenger and Columbia.

The end of Discovery's career finally arrived on March 9th, 2011 when she was formally decommissioned from active service in the NASA orbiter fleet. The enter fleet has since been retired from active service.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 20000mph
Lo: 10000mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (17,318mph).

Graph average of 15000 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (1)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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