With a contract award on July 31, 1987 and authorization to construct the fifth space shuttle as a replacement for Challenger, Endeavour (OV-105) rolled out of the Palmdale assembly facility on April 25, 1991 and arrived at Kennedy Space Center's (KSC) Shuttle Landing Facility on May 7, 1991, piggy-backed on top of NASA's Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
For the first time, a national competition involving students in elementary and secondary schools produced the name of the new orbiter; it was announced by President George Bush in 1989. Endeavour was named after a ship chartered to traverse the South Pacific in 1768 and captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook, an experienced seaman, navigator and amateur astronomer.
Endeavour was delivered to KSC in May 1991, and flew its first mission, highlighted by the dramatic rescue of a stranded communications satellite, a year later in May 1992. OV-105 became the first space shuttle to use a drag chute during a landing -- only one of many technical improvements made to Endeavour.
In 2003, Endeavour underwent a 24-month Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP) at the Kennedy Space Center. Engineers and technicians spent 900,000 hours performing 124 modifications including recommended return to flight safety modifications, bonding more than 1,000 thermal protection system tiles and inspecting more than 150 miles of wiring. Two of the more extensive modifications included the addition of the multi-functional electronic display system (glass cockpit), and the three-string global positioning system.