Orbiter Vehicle Designation
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The suffix is composed of two parts: the series and the vehicle number.
- 0 - Non-flight ready shuttles
- 1 - Flight ready shuttles
The vehicle number is sequentially assigned within the series, beginning with 1. Therefore, there can never be an OV-100 as it would read "Orbiter Vehicle Series 1 Vehicle 0".
Many proposals to build a second generation of orbiters, externally compatible with the current system but internally new, refer to them as "OV-200" or "OV-2xx" in order to differentiate them from the "current generation", the OV-100s. This terminology is informal, and it is unlikely that any Shuttle-derived vehicle built will be given such designation.
- OV-099 - Space Shuttle Challenger, originally STA-099
- OV-101 - Space Shuttle Enterprise
- OV-102 - Space Shuttle Columbia
- OV-103 - Space Shuttle Discovery
- OV-104 - Space Shuttle Atlantis
- OV-105 - Space Shuttle Endeavour
Challenger was originally intended to be used as a Structural Test Article, rather than a flight-capable orbiter; as such, the numbering was changed when she was rebuilt. Enterprise, on the other hand, was intended to be rebuilt into a flight-capable orbiter; it was found to be cheaper to rebuild STA-099 than OV-101, so she remained unflown. The designations were not altered, despite these changes in plans.
Note that while Pathfinder is referred to as OV-098, she should not be confused with MPTA-098 - the Main Propulsion Test Article, a steel frame (looking nothing like an Orbiter) used to test the Space Shuttle Main Engines. Pathfinder was originally a "fit check" unit, a simple mockup resembling the production Orbiters in size, shape and weight, intended to be used to ensure that ground handling facilities would be sized to handle Orbiters. She was later rebuilt to resemble them cosmetically, and is currently on display with the external tank used during the propulsion tests (designated MPTA-ET). To further add to the confusion, it appears that Pathfinder was never formally numbered, and the OV-098 designation is both unofficial and retroactive. MPTA-098 was later rebuilt into the Shuttle-C mockup during the 1990s; it is currently in storage at the Stennis Space Center.
In keeping with this theme, other pieces of ground hardware used by the Space Shuttle program have been given OV-xxx designations; these include:
- OV-095 - a mockup in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) at Johnson Space Center.
- MPTA-098 - the Main Propulsion Test Article, as above
- OV-106 - an administrative name given to the set of structural components manufactured to replace those used in the construction of Endeavour; however, the contract for these was cancelled shortly afterwards, and they were never completed.
Additionally, three structural mockups have been given unofficial and honorary OV-xxx designations:
- OV-098 - Space Shuttle Pathfinder, a mockup in Huntsville, AL
- OV-100 - Space Shuttle Independence, formerly Explorer a mockup in Houston, TX
- OV-09?? - Space Shuttle Inspiration, a mockup owned by the city of Downey, CA and currently on display at the Astronaut Hall of Fame near Kennedy Space Center.