Spaceflight Insider

The man behind the name: S.S. Rick Husband

NASA astronaut Rick Husband training for STS-107. NASA KSC photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Orbital ATK announced on March 8, 2016, that it would name the OA-6 Cygnus in honor of STS-107 commander Rick Husband. Photo Credit: KSC / NASA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — When former NASA astronaut Dan Tani announced on March 8 that the OA-6 Enhanced Cygnus spacecraft would be named the S.S. Rick Husband, in honor of Rick Husband, the commander of the ill-fated final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-107, many of those present smiled and nodded their heads in approval.

Unlike those who had other Cygnus spacecraft named after them, Husband had no clear connection with Orbital ATK. Tani helped with this noting that Husband’s first mission to orbit was commanded by Kent Rominger, who now works for Orbital ATK as well.

NASA_space_shuttle_columbia_sts107-carleton_bailie SpaceFlight Insider

STS-107 launches from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Jan. 16, 2003. Photo Credit: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

Husband was born in Amarillo, Texas, on July 12, 1957, and he graduated from that city’s High School in 1975. Husband’s interest in technology was evident from the degree he acquired – a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech University in 1980. He acquired a Master of Science degree (also in Mechanical Engineering) from Fresno State University about a decade later.

Husband was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force after he graduated from Texas Tech University. He attended pilot training at Vance Air Force Base located in Oklahoma.

Upon completing his training, he was stationed at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida where he underwent more training with the F-4 Phantom II.

Between 1982 and 1985, Husband was assigned to Moody Air Force Base where he flew the F-4E fighter. In late 1985, Husband attended F-4 instructor school back in Homestead. He went on to be assigned as an instructor/pilot for the F-4E at George Air Force Base in California in December of 1985.

Two years later, in 1987, Husband attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. Husband went on to fly the F-15.

In 1992, Husband was assigned to Boscombe Down, England, where he flew various versions of the British Tornado aircraft. Husband had logged more than 3,800 hours of flight time in over 40 different types of aircraft.

In 1994 NASA selected Husband to be an astronaut, he reported to the agency’s Johnson Space Center in March of 1995 to undergo a year of training.

Husband’s first mission was STS-96 on board Space Shuttle Discovery in 1999 where he served as the mission’s pilot. During the 10 days they spent on orbit, the crew of seven conducted the first docking with the International Space Station. The orbiter transported some four tons of supplies to the nascent orbiting lab during STS-96.

Sadly, Husband’s first command and his second flight was STS-107. The last scheduled mission to study the microgravity environment, STS-107 flew on Space Shuttle Columbia. Lasting some 17 days, the flight ended 16 minutes before the orbiter was supposed to touch down at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

Husband, along with Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, Ilan Ramon, Laurel Clark, and David Brown lost their lives when the stricken orbiter disintegrated in the skies above Texas on Feb. 1, 2003.

Husband is remembered as being a devout Christian and family man. Numerous airports, university facilities, an asteroid, and a hill on the planet Mars all bear his name.



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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