The following factors have to be taken into account while designing the space shuttle:
Weight – Lightweight materials must be used as far as possible. This reduces launch cost.
Launch stress- the body of the space shuttle needs to be sturdy enough to survive the force of launching.
Temperature conditions- In the hostile environment of space the temperature varies from 120 0 C to -120 0 C. Therefore temperature resistant materials must be used for its construction.
From the above factors we see that the key point for the good performance of the space shuttle is to use lightweight materials as far as possible, but their structure should be such that they would be able to withstand high load and stress.
The first point states that shuttle must have minimal mass. Therefore materials such as composites and light metals such as aluminum are preferred. A lighter construction material enables the vehicle to attain higher altitude with the same amount of energy supplied by the engine.
Next requirement is that shuttle must be strong enough to withstand the accelerations and vibrations of launch. Common construction materials are carbon composites, fiberglass, Kevlar and metals such as copper, aluminum and steel.
To withstand the extreme temperature changes, protective thermal blankets are used. They reflect heat from spacecrafts components facing the sun and store heat near components facing away from the sun.
After having seen the materials and the factors for choosing the materials to be used in the construction of the vehicle, let us proceed to design the vehicle.