Space Shuttle Propulsion Systemsmanaged by the Marshall Space Flight Center
National Aeronautics andSpace Administration
Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, Alabama 35812
The Space Shuttle Main Engines
The three Space Shuttle Main Engines are clusteredat the aft end of the orbiter and have a combined thrustof more than 1.2 million pounds (5.4 million newtons)at sea level. They are high performance, liquid propel-lant rocket engines whose thrust can be varied overa range of 65 to 109percent of their ratedpower level. They arethe world’s rst reus-able rocket enginesand are 14 feet long(4.3 meters) and 7.5feet (2.3 meters) indiameter at the nozzleexit. The main engineweighs approximately7,000 pounds (3,150kilograms). Propelledby liquid hydrogen(fuel) and liquid oxygen(oxidizer), the mainengines operate duringthe entire eight-and-one-half-minute ride to orbit. Following each missionthe Space Shuttle Main Engines are taken to the SpaceShuttle Main Engine Processing Facility at the KennedySpace Center, Fla., for post-ight inspections and main-tenance in preparation for the next Shuttle mission.In April 2002, a redesigned Shuttle Main Engine – theupdated Block II Engine – began ying on Space Shuttlemissions. The Block II Engine includes a new high-pres-sure fuel turbopump, modied to eliminate welds using acasting process for the housing and an integral shaft/diskwith thin wall blades and ceramic bearings. This modica-tion makes the pump stronger and should increase thenumber of ights between required overhauls. The SpaceShuttle Main Engines are built by Rocketdyne Propulsionand Power Division of the Boeing Company in CanogaPark, Calif. The engine turbopump is built by Pratt andWhitney of West Palm Beach, Fla. The turbopumps aremade by Pratt and Whitney of West Palm Beach, Fla.
The External Tank
The External Tankis a giant cylindercontainer with arounded, or ogive,top -- higher than a15-story building, witha length of 154 feet(47 meters) and adiameter of 27.5 feet(8.4 meters). Weighingin at approximately59,400 pounds (27,000kilograms) while emptyand 1,658,900 pounds(752,000 kilograms)full of fuel and oxi-dizer, the external tank is the largest single piece of theSpace Shuttle. During launch, the external tank also actsas a backbone for the orbiter and solid rocket boost-ers to which it is attached, absorbing the thrust loads.In separate pressurized tank sections inside, the externaltank holds the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygenoxidizer for the Shuttle’s three main engines. Duringlaunch the external tank feeds the fuel under pressurethrough 17-inch (43.2 centimeter) ducts which branchoff in to smaller lines that feed directly into the mainengines. Some 62,300 gallons (235,831 liters) of fuel areconsumed by the main engines each minute. Machinedfrom aluminum alloys, the Space Shuttle’s external tankThe Space Shuttle is NASA’s reusable space vehicle designed for transport of people, spacecraft and equipmentto and from Earth orbit. The propulsion elements of the Space Shuttle, including the Main Engine, External Tankand Solid Rocket Boosters that propel the Space Shuttle into orbit are managed at the Marshall Space Flight Centerin Huntsville, Alabama.
OxidizerPreburnerHigh-PressureOxidizer TurbopumpLow-PressureFuel TurbopumpControllerPropellant ValvesHydraulicActuators
Low-PressureOxidizerTurbopumpMain InjectorFuelPreburnerHot GasManifoldHigh-PressureFuel TurbopumpMain CombustionChamber