Formed by the merger of Rockwell-Standard and North American Aviation (NAA) in September 1967, North American Rockwell—later known as Rockwell International—was one of the country’s leading aerospace contractors. The company sold its aerospace and defense assets (which included what was once NAA and Rocketdyne) to Boeing in 1996.
Rockwell was involved with the manned spaceflight program from the former’s inception, taking over the agreements NASA had already made with NAA. These included contracts to build the second stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle, also known as S-II, and the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM). By the time Rockwell arose, however, NASA was ready to use these products for manned space missions, not just tests. The CSM made nine flights to the Moon. Rockwell also modified the craft to serve as a rescue vehicle for the Orbital Workshop space station. In 1972, Rockwell won its own contract to build the Space Shuttle Orbiter. The prototype spacecraft, Enterprise, first flew on August 12, 1977. Rockwell then produced five operational shuttles: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor. (The Challenger and Columbia orbiters were destroyed during missions in 1986 and 2003, respectively.) Between 1981 and 2011, the spacecrafts embarked on 135 orbital flights.