A Versatile Vehicle
Te Space Shuttle Program is making the Visionor Space Exploration a reality. Te rst true aerospace vehicle, the Space Shuttle takes o like a rocket. Te winged orbiter then maneuvers around the Earth, like aspaceship, and lands on a runway, like an airplane.he Space Shuttle is designed to carry large andheavy payloads into space, as well as erry resident crewsto the International Space Station. But unlike earliermanned spacecra that were good or only one ight,the Shuttle orbiter and Solid Rocket Boosters can beused again and again.Te Space Shuttle is a prime carrier o components orassembly o the International Space Station (ISS). Majorelements that have been erried to the ISS are the U.S. LabDestiny, a robot arm, an airlock and trusses. Also, it hascarried Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules that containedsupplies, equipment and experiment racks.Early in its service, the Shuttle also provided the ca- pability to repair or service spacecra in orbit, or returnthem to Earth or a more extensive overhaul and anotherlaunch. Te Long-Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF),a ree-ying payload, remained in orbit almost six yearsbeore it was recovered and returned to Earth, where it yielded a wealth o new data on the space environment.An INELSA commercial communicationssatellite stranded in a useless orbit was retrieved in dra-matic ashion by Shuttle astronauts, repaired and thenreboosted to its proper orbit to begin operation.Te Hubble Space elescope was successully servicedin orbit.Sometimes interplanetary explorers, such as the Ma-gellan mission to Venus or the Galileo mission to Jupiter,have been launched rom the Space Shuttle. Tey usedan inertial upper stage to exit Earth orbit and begin their journeys to Earth’s planetary neighbors.
A Unique Vehicle
Te ability o the Shuttle to land on a runway, un-like the expensive parachute-descent and recovery-at-seatechniques used in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo hu-man space ight programs, saves both time and money.In addition, again unlike prior manned spacecra, themost expensive Shuttle components can be reurbishedand readied or another launch.Te complex and expensive orbiter returns to Earthand is processed or the next ight. Te Solid RocketBooster casings, engine nozzles and parachutes werebuilt to last or 20 launches. Only the External ank isexpended on each ight. Te high cargo capacity and ma- jor component reusability o the Shuttle make it uniqueamong space vehicles.Te orbiter is the only part o the Space Shuttle thathas a name in addition to a part number. Te rst orbiterbuilt was the Enterprise, which was designed or ighttests in the atmosphere rather than operations in space.It is now at the Smithsonian Museum at Dulles Airportoutside Washington, D.C. Five operational orbiters werebuilt: (in order) Columbia (OV-102), which was lost in anaccident Feb. 1, 2003; Challenger (OV-099), which waslost in an accident Jan. 28, 1986; Discovery (OV-103);Atlantis (OV-104); and Endeavour (OV-105).
Parts of the Space Shuttle
Te ight components o the Space Shuttle are twoSolid Rocket Boosters, an External ank and a wingedorbiter. Te assembled Shuttle weighs approximately 4.5million pounds (2.041 million kilograms) at lio.Te orbiter carries the crew and payload. Te ship is122 eet (37 meters) long and 57 eet (17 meters) high, hasa wingspan o 78 eet (24 meters), and weighs 242,000 pounds (109,771
kilograms) when it is empty. It is similarto the size and general shape o a DC-9 commercial jetairplane. Orbiters vary slightly rom vehicle to vehicle.Te orbiter carries its cargo in a cavernous payload bay60 eet (18.3 meters) long and 15 eet (4.6 meters) wide.Te bay is exible enough to provide accommodationsor ully equipped scientic laboratories such as SPACE-HAB. Depending on the requirements o the particularmission, a Space Shuttle can carry about 37,800 pounds(17,146 kilograms) into orbit.An orbiter is equipped or ight with three mainengines, each producing 394,260 pounds (1.754 mil-lion newtons) o thrust when operating at 104 percentnipulator System arm which handles elements in the payload bay.Mission operations displays and controls are on theright side o the cabin, and payload controls are on the le.Te latter are sometimes operated by payload specialists, who are usually not career NASA astronauts.Te living, eating and sleeping area or o-duty crewmembers, called the mid-deck, is located below the ightdeck. It contains prepackaged ood, a toilet, bunks andother amenities. Experiments or the ight also may bestowed in mid-deck lockers.A typical Shuttle crew includes a commander and pilot, mission specialists and occasionally payload spe-at lio (at sea level). Tis gure is derived rom ightexperience and is 2.7 percent better than the requireddesign minimum. he engines burn or more thaneight minutes, while together drawing 64,000 gallons(242,240 liters) o propellants each minute when atull power.Beore ight, the orbiter is mated to a huge externaltank, standing 154 eet (47 meters) high and 27.5 eet(8.4 meters) in diameter. Te super-lightweight tank, rstown in 1998, weighs 1,648 million pounds (745,555kilograms) at lio.wo inner tanks provide a maximum o 141,750gallons (541,482 liters
o liquid oxygen and 384,071gallons (1,450,000 liters) o liquid hydrogen. Te tankeeds these propellants to the main engines o the orbiterthroughout the ascent into orbit, and the tank is thendiscarded.Most o the Shuttle’s power at lio is provided byits two Solid Rocket Boosters. Each booster is 149.2 eet(45.5 meters) high and 12.2 eet (3.7 meters) in diameter,and each weighs 1.38 million pounds (6.3 million kilo-grams). Teir solid propellant consists o a mixture o aluminum powder as the uel, aluminum perchlorate asthe oxidizer, and iron oxide as a catalyst, all held togetherby a polymer binder.Flight experience indicates that within 0.7 secondsaer ignition, the boosters each produce about 2.908million pounds (12.935 million newtons) o thrustbeore gradually declining or the remainder o a two-minute burn. ogether with the orbiter’s three mainengines ring at 104 percent, total thrust o the SpaceShuttle at lio is 6.999 million pounds (31.131 millionnewtons).In-orbit maneuvering capability is provided by twosmaller Orbital Maneuvering System engines located onthe orbiter. Tey burn nitrogen tetroxide as the oxidizerand monomethyl-hydrazine as the uel, rom on-boardtanks carried in two pods at the upper rear. Te OMSengines are used or major maneuvers in orbit, and orslowing the vehicle during re-entry at the end o themission.
Normal crew size or a Shuttle ight is seven people.Te crew occupies a two-level cabin at the orward end o the orbiter. Tey operate the vehicle rom the upper level,the ight deck, with the ight controls or the missioncommander and pilot located in the ront.A station at the rear, overlooking the payload baythrough two windows, contains the controls a missionspecialist astronaut uses to operate the Remote Ma-cialists. Te commander and pilot are selected rom the pilot astronaut corps, highly qualied individuals with atleast 1,000 hours o pilot-in-command time in jet aircra,and they must meet other rigorous qualications. Mis-sion specialists are scientists, physicians or other highlyqualied specialists.Payload specialists are persons other than NASAastronauts – including international citizens – whohave specialized on-board duties. Tey may be added toShuttle crews i activities are involved that have uniquerequirements.Shuttle crews experience a maximum gravity loado 3 g's during launch, and less than 1.5 g's during re-entry. Tese accelerations are about one-third the levelsexperienced on previous U.S. human spaceights. Manyother eatures o the Space Shuttle, such as a standardsea-level atmosphere, make spaceight more comortableor the astronaut.
Typical Shuttle Mission
Te rotation o the Earth has a signicant eect onthe payload capabilities o the Space Shuttle. A due-eastlaunch rom the Kennedy Space Center in Florida usesthe Earth’s rotation as a launch assist, since the groundis turning to the east at that point at a speed o 915 miles(1,473 kilometers) per hour.Spacecra and other payload items arrive at the Ken-nedy Space Center or nal processing and are checkedout in special buildings beore being loaded into theorbiter. Each Shuttle arrives at the pad as a set o as-sembled components.Te Solid Rocket Booster propellant segments arereceived and checked out in a special acility, then takento the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and stacked on aMobile Launcher Platorm to orm two complete rockets.Te External ank is received and prepared or ight inthe VAB, then mated to the solid rockets.An orbiter is prepared in the Orbiter Processing Facility, then moved to the VAB and attached to theExternal ank. A giant Crawler-transporter picks up the
A special silica-based insulation in the form of tiles and blankets serves as the primary heat shield for theorbiter. This material sheds heat so readily that one side can be held in bare hands while the opposite side isred-hot. These lightweight tiles are made to survive temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,260
degrees Celsius). Previous crewed spacecraft used heat shields that ablated – aked away in small piecesto carry off heat from the surface – during the ery entry into Earth’s atmosphere. In 1996 a fourth tile mate
rial was introduced, using small quantities of alumina ber. Fibrous Insulation Blankets, made of silica felt
sandwiched between silica fabric and S-Glass fabric, also replaced a majority of the white tiles on the upper
surface. Currently, each orbiter has about 24,300 tiles and 2,300 exible insulation blankets.
Just after sundown, Space Shuttle Endeavour ap
-proaches touchdown on KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility
Runway 33 to complete the STS-99 mission, launching
the Shuttle Radar Topography spacecraft.Astronaut James F. Reilly, STS-104 mission spe-cialist, looks over supplies in the Quest Airlock
aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Reilly was one of two assigned spacewalkers on
the STS-104 mission. The third extravehicular activity utilized the new airlock, marking its rst