The Space Shuttle
The Space Travelers Web Site!
This is not just science fiction. Here is a site map for your convenience
Home References History Rockets Craft Planets Orbits Aliens Future Support Time
Here is a section map for your convenienceMercury Gemini SkyLab Apollo Lander Rover Shuttle UN SpaceLab
Detail of the U.S. Space Shuttle and external tank
* The craft section is 122 feet long 57 feet high and 78 feet across the wing tips. It has an empty weight of 165,000 pounds. That does not include the payload, which is about 65,000 pounds. The shuttle has a 15 ft diameter, 60 ft long cargo bay.
* Reinforced carbon-carbon Insulation: Gray - 9.15 lb./sq. ft. surface to
3000 F for the nose and leading edge.
* High temperature reusable surface insulation: Black - 1.89 lb./sq. ft.
surface to 2,300 F for most of the bottom area.
* Low temperature reusable surface insulation: Off White - 0.82 lb./sq. ft. surface to 1,200 F
* Reusable Nomex Felt surface insulation: White - 0.33 lb./sq. ft. surface to 370 F The felt covers most of the top skin. It is as thin as 0.144 inches and as thick as 1.1 inches in some areas. It is delicate and easy to penetrate. The cabin is the only part of the shuttle that can be inhabited. Not a lot of people know that.
* The external tank (ET) is 154 feet long, 27.5 feet in diameter, 78,000 pounds empty. It contains 143000 Gallons (1,359,000 pounds) of oxygen liquid. Use a density of 9.5 pounds per gallon, that will cover air traps other things that are not visible. The lower (larger) section holds 383,000 gallons (226,000 pounds) of hydrogen liquid. Use a density of 0.6 pounds per gallon for calculations. The engines are mounted on the shuttle and return with it. They are reusable for 55 missions. They produce 375,000 pounds of thrust and can varied from 65% to 109% of the rated value. These will burn for 8 minutes 30 seconds at an average of 85% rated output. Expect and plan on 5% residual in the tank.
* The orbital maneuvering system (OMS) has a thrust of 6,000 pounds and burns fuel: mono methyl hydrazine and oxidizer: nitrogen tetroxide. The reaction control system (RCS) for turns and slides, use the same propellant as the OMS to provide 38 thrusters with 870 pounds thrust. The RCS thrust is applied as torque about the center point of the craft in orbit.
* Each of the solid rocket boosters (SRB) provide a two minute burn of 2,650,000 pounds thrust, weigh 1,300,000 pounds and are 149 feet long, 12 feet in diameter. Empty weight is 185,000 lb each. The propellant is fuel: Aluminum Powder 16%, Oxidizer: Ammonium Per chlorate 69.83%, Catalyst: Iron Oxide Powder 0.17%, Other 14%. It is the thickness of the diameter that gives a 2 minute burn because it burns from the center, out to the edge. The SRB lifts the tank and the tank fuel lifts the shuttle.
* Ready for Launch, it weighs about 4,500,000 pounds on the launch pad, booster and all.
* To give you a point of reference for flight calculations; 2 min.:12 sec. (calculate a 2 minute burn) mach 4.5, 28 miles above earth, the SRB's are released. 6 min.:30 sec. Into the flight, the shuttle is traveling at mach 15 and is 80 miles above earth. It will continue to accelerate for two min. as it drops to 72 miles above earth where it releases the ET. Then the OMS kicks in until the perigee velocity is obtained. 1/2 an orbit later it will fire again at the Apogee to obtain a circular orbit at about 250 miles above earth. Ellipse orbits are on the planet section of the site. The shuttle does not exceed a 3G acceleration at any point in the flight. Re-entry begins at 75 miles above earth and 16,500 miles per hour. The energy is consumed by friction and the craft will now glide to its landing. While you are doing calculations, watch your units if you convert to feet per second. Including the launch pad (just sitting there) and final orbit ellipse data, you have 4 known points for your equations. Split the OMS energy into thirds, to orbit, in orbit and out of orbit. It is permissible to consider the gravity to be linear, between the points listed, for rough calculations. You now have everything you need to calculate the reactions that place the space shuttle in orbit. It is a nice algebra problem. Remember the fuel is expended at a constant rate, then the shell is released from the mass of the vehicle. Use basic physics to establish the new acceleration and velocity. F = ma, F gets you moving and gravity keeps pulling you back to earth.
External tank details for possible modifications for future construction. Hydrogen must be purged before oxygen can be allowed into the tank.
Home References History Rockets Craft Planets Orbits Aliens Future Support TimeMercury Gemini SkyLab Apollo Lander Rover Shuttle UN SpaceLab