Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle
Discovery lifts off at the start of the STS-120 mission.
FunctionCrewed orbital launch and reentry
Country of originUnited States
Project costUS$211 billion (2012)
Cost per launchUS$450 million (2011)[1]
Height56.1 m (184 ft)
Diameter8.7 m (29 ft)
Mass2,030,000 kg (4,480,000 lb)
Stages1.5[2]: 126, 140 
Payload to low Earth orbit (LEO)
(204 km (127 mi))
Mass27,500 kg (60,600 lb)
Payload to International Space Station (ISS)
(407 km (253 mi))
Mass16,050 kg (35,380 lb)
Payload to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)
Mass10,890 kg (24,010 lb) with Inertial Upper Stage[3]
Payload to geostationary orbit (GEO)
Mass2,270 kg (5,000 lb) with Inertial Upper Stage[3]
Payload to Earth, returned
Mass14,400 kg (31,700 lb)[4]
Launch history
Launch sites
Total launches135
First flight12 April 1981
Last flight21 July 2011
Boosters – Solid Rocket Boosters
No. boosters2
Powered by2 solid-fuel rocket motors
Maximum thrust13,000 kN (3,000,000 lbf) each, sea level (2,650,000 liftoff)
Specific impulse242 s (2.37 km/s)[5]
Burn time124 seconds
PropellantSolid (ammonium perchlorate composite propellant)
First stage – Orbiter + external tank
Powered by3 RS-25 engines located on Orbiter
Maximum thrust5,250 kN (1,180,000 lbf) total, sea level liftoff[6]
Specific impulse455 s (4.46 km/s)
Burn time480 seconds
PropellantLH2 / LOX
Type of passengers/cargo

The Space Shuttle is a retired, partially reusable low Earth orbital spacecraft system operated from 1981 to 2011 by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of the Space Shuttle program. Its official program name was Space Transportation System (STS), taken from a 1969 plan for a system of reusable spacecraft where it was the only item funded for development.[7]

The first (STS-1) of four orbital test flights occurred in 1981, leading to operational flights (STS-5) beginning in 1982. Five complete Space Shuttle orbiter vehicles were built and flown on a total of 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. They launched from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Operational missions launched numerous satellites, interplanetary probes, and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), conducted science experiments in orbit, participated in the Shuttle-Mir program with Russia, and participated in the construction and servicing of the International Space Station (ISS). The Space Shuttle fleet's total mission time was 1,323 days.[8]

Space Shuttle components include the Orbiter Vehicle (OV) with three clustered Rocketdyne RS-25 main engines, a pair of recoverable solid rocket boosters (SRBs), and the expendable external tank (ET) containing liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The Space Shuttle was launched vertically, like a conventional rocket, with the two SRBs operating in parallel with the orbiter's three main engines, which were fueled from the ET. The SRBs were jettisoned before the vehicle reached orbit, while the main engines continued to operate, and the ET was jettisoned after main engine cutoff and just before orbit insertion, which used the orbiter's two Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engines. At the conclusion of the mission, the orbiter fired its OMS to deorbit and reenter the atmosphere. The orbiter was protected during reentry by its thermal protection system tiles, and it glided as a spaceplane to a runway landing, usually to the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC, Florida, or to Rogers Dry Lake in Edwards Air Force Base, California. If the landing occurred at Edwards, the orbiter was flown back to the KSC atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a specially modified Boeing 747 designed to carry the shuttle above it.

The first orbiter, Enterprise, was built in 1976 and used in Approach and Landing Tests (ALT), but had no orbital capability. Four fully operational orbiters were initially built: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. Of these, two were lost in mission accidents: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003, with a total of 14 astronauts killed. A fifth operational (and sixth in total) orbiter, Endeavour, was built in 1991 to replace Challenger. The three surviving operational vehicles were retired from service following Atlantis's final flight on July 21, 2011. The U.S. relied on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS from the last Shuttle flight until the launch of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission in May 2020.[9]

  1. ^ Bray, Nancy (August 3, 2017). "Kennedy Space Center FAQ". NASA. Archived from the original on November 2, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2022.
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference jenkins was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ a b "Inertial Upper Stage". Rocket and Space Technology. November 2017. Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
  4. ^ Woodcock, Gordon R. (1986). Space stations and platforms. Orbit Book co. ISBN 978-0-89464-001-8. Retrieved April 17, 2012. The present limit on Shuttle landing payload is 14,400 kg (31,700 lb). This value applies to payloads intended for landing.
  5. ^ Cite error: The named reference SRB_largest was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  6. ^ Kyle, Ed. "STS Data Sheet". Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved May 4, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ Launius, Roger D. (1969). "Space Task Group Report, 1969". NASA. Archived from the original on January 14, 2016. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  8. ^ Malik, Tarik (July 21, 2011). "NASA's Space Shuttle By the Numbers: 30 Years of a Spaceflight Icon". Archived from the original on October 16, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  9. ^ Smith, Yvette (June 1, 2020). "Demo-2: Launching Into History". NASA. Archived from the original on February 21, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2021.

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