Howdy! This is the part of our page that is about the space shuttle. Hopefully you all know that NASA uses this craft to send astronauts into space. But I don't think you are familiar with the main parts or the shuttle's history. Well that's why we built this page. To inform YOU! I hope you enjoy your stay at this page, but right know I need to ask you to make sure that your tray tables are in their full upright and locked position, because its time to BLASTOFF!!!
The space shuttle was selected in the 1970's as the principal space launcher and carrier vehicle to be developed by NASA. It was planned to be the replacement for the very expensive, expandable booster rockets used since the late 19050's for launching commercial and government satellites. Together with launch facilities, mission control and supporting centers, and a tracking and and data relay satellite system, NASA's new space transportation system would be completed. The program was authorized on January 5, 1972. In 77'-78' the first shuttle, Enterprise, made five test landings after being carried aloft by a Boeing 747 airplane. Testing was also underway for the engines and boosters; the first flight readiness firing took place on February 20, 1981 when the three main engines of columbia were fires together at Kennedy Space Center. The first launch was made February 12,1981. The shuttle landed successfully at Edward's Air force Base on April 14.
After various delays the program finally got under way in the early 1980's. Despite a number if problems, the craft demonstrated its versatility in a series of missions. In January 1986, a fatal launch disaster forced a long delay until the program resumed in late 1988. This tragedy is known as the Challenger Explosion. It happened on January 28,1986.
Though there have been some terrible tragedies, the Space Shuttle is still used today and will probably be used for a number of years to come.
The space shuttle has three main parts: the orbiter, the solid rocket boosters, and the external tank. Without just one of these, the space shuttle would not be able to escape earth's gravitational pull. The shuttle weighs 4.5 million pounds at launch and stands 184.2 feet tall. On one mission it can carry up to 65,000 pounds of cargo.
The orbiter is probaly the part that you are most familiar with. It is the white glider like thing sitting on the external tank. From wing tip to wing tip the orbiter is 78.06 ft across, and it is 122.2 ft long. During launch it is a rocket stage, in orbit it is a spaceship, and on reentry it is a hypersonic glider. A two deck crew compartment and an attitude thruster module are located in the nose, the mid body is the cargo hold, or payload bay, and the tail holds the three main engines plus maneuvering engine pods. Each engine, burning hydrogen and oxygen, produces up to 470,000 pounds of thrust.
THE EXTERNAL TANK
The external tank is actually two tanks in one. It is an oxygen tank and a hydrogen tank combined by a load bearing inner tank. the external tank serves as the structural backbone for the shuttle. Measuring 27.56 ft wide and 154.2 ft tall, it carries 1,565,000 lb. of liquefied propellants for the main engines.
THE ROCKET BOOSTERS
Two solid rocket boosters, each 12.14 ft wide and 149.16 ft tall, are located on the sides of the shuttle. Each one produces an average thrust of 2.65 million lb.. During a typical mission they are jettisoned 2 min 12 sec after liftoff to fall back down to earth and land in the sea. After that they are recovered, repaired, and used again during a different launch.
Clearly the shuttle is a work of technical magic.
Just imagine, if we built this during the 1907's, think what the
shuttles will look like in the 2070's!