The Space Shuttle
The creation of NASA's first reusable space shuttle was a key point in history. Discover all the secrets of NASA's Space Shuttle with this short VideoJug film.
The Space Shuttle
During the late 1960s and early 70´s Space travel was very expensive with a 'use once' and discard rocket. A re-usable vehicle was what was needed.
The answer came in 1977 when NASA displayed their very first Space Shuttle to the world.
Its official title is STS (Space transportation system) and all flights are numbered starting with STS.
The first shuttle was named Enterprise in respect of the television 'Star Trek' space ship. Although this was not destined to fly into space it was purely a display model.
The first shuttle to fly into space was Columbia on 12th April 1981.
The shuttles main role is in the building of the international space station and delivery of satellite's into orbit. It played a remarkable role when it was found that the hubble space telescope was faulty. Astronauts carried out repairs to it that could only be done in space.
A total of 5 space shuttles have been built: Discovery, Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia and Endeavour.
A Space Shuttle is made from 4 major parts. The orbital vehicle itself. This is where the crew sit and also where the payload is carried inside the cargo bay.
The giant orange fuel tank which makes up the bulk of the shuttle carries the fuel for the 3 main engines on the orbiter.
And the two solid rocket boosters each side of the fuel tank provide 80% of the lift during launch.
Only the fuel tank is not reused after each flight. For the first two flights it was painted white but now it is left in its original orange/brown colour saving over 300kilos in weight.
The fuel is liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Liquid because it takes up less room.
The solid rocket boosters use a mixture of chemicals that have been formed into a paste. Once lit the Solid Rocket boosters can not be switched off. These lift the shuttle to an altitude of about 150,000 ft. Then they separate from the shuttle and parachute back into the sea to be collected and reused.
The shuttles own engines, fueled from the giant fuel tank then continue to take the shuttle up to over 27000 mph to reach orbit.
In space the shuttle is highly maneuverable using tiny thruster jets.
It has a mechanical arm inside the cargo bay that can be used to grasp satellites and deliver sections to the Space Station.
On its return to earth, the space shuttle has no means of power and simply glides back for a landing. The underneath and also the leading edges are covered in black, heat resistant tiles to protect it from the immense heat that occurs during re-entry.
Its immense speed is reduced for landing simply by means of friction against the atmosphere. If it is unable to land at Cape Canaveral then it can be transported on the back of a specially designed Boeing 747.
The shuttle can carry between 5 and seven crew although in emergencies it could accommodate up to 11.
On 28th January 1986 the shuttle Challenger was due to take the first civilian, school teacher Christa McCaulliffe into space. But 73 seconds after launch a leak in the solid rocket booster 'O' ring caused the shuttle to explode, killing all seven crew members.
The shuttle fleet was grounded for the next 3 years and construction of the International Space Station was disrupted.
In 2003, on its return to earth, the shuttle Columbia was destroyed after a hole was caused in the left wing. A piece of insulating foam had broken off during lift off and hit the leading edge. The crew of seven all perished.
The shuttle fleet is due to be retired in 2010 after almost 30 years and over 100 launches.