Space Shuttles and its Advancements


The successful explortion of space requires a system that will reliably transport payloads into space and return back to earth; without subjecting them an uncomfortable or hazardous environment. In other words, the space crafts and its pay loads have to be recovered safely into the earth. The space shuttle used at older times were not re-usable. So NASA invented re-usable space shuttle that could launch like a rocket but deliver and land like an aeroplane. Now NASA is planning to launch a series of air-breathing planes that would replace the space shuttle.

A Brief History Of The Space Shuttle

Near the end of the Apollo space program, NASA officials were looking at the future of the American space program. At that time, the rockets used to place astronauts and equipment in outer space was one-shot disposable rockets. What they needed was a reliable, but less expensive, rocket, perhaps one that was reusable. The idea of a reusable "space shuttle" that could launch like a rocket but deliver and land like an airplane was appealing and would be a great technical achievement.

NASA began design, cost and engineering studies on a space shuttle. Many aerospace companies also explored the concepts. In 1972 NASA announced that it would develop a reusable space shuttle or space transportation programme (STS).NASA decided that the shuttle would consist of an orbiter attached to solid rocket boosters and an external fuel tank because this design was considered safer and more cost effective.

At that time, spacecraft used ablative heat shields that would burn away as the spacecraft re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. However, to be reusable, a different strategy would have to be used. The designers of the space shuttle came up with an idea to cover the space shuttle with many insulating ceramic tiles that could absorb the heat of re-entry without harming the astronauts.

Finally, after many years of construction and testing (i.e. orbiter, main engines, external fuel tank, solid rocket boosters), the shuttle was ready to fly. Four shuttles were made (Columbia, Discovery, Atlantis, Challenger). The first flight was in 1981 with the space shuttle Columbia, piloted by astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen. Columbia performed well and the other shuttles soon made several successful flights.

The space shuttle consists of the following major components:
" Two solid rocket boosters (SRB) - critical for the launch
" External fuel tank (ET) - carries fuel for the launch
" Orbiter - carries astronauts and payload

The Space Shuttle Mission

A typical shuttle mission lasts seven to eight days, but can extend to as much as 14 days depending upon the objectives of the mission.
A typical shuttle mission is as follows:
1. Getting into orbit
1.1 Launch - the shuttle lifts off the launching pad.
1.2 Ascent.
1.3 Orbital maneuvering burn.
2. Orbit-life in space.
3. Re-entry.
4. Landing.
• Primary objective is to improve access to space
• First flight was April 1981 with astronauts Young and Crippen
• Has flown approximately 100 missions carrying 1.5 million pounds of cargo and over 600 major payloads
• World’s first and only reusable space vehicle
• Can transport people, materials, equipment and spacecraft into orbit
• Also used to service and repair satellites and observatories and to conduct medical and scientific experiments
Space Shuttle Components
• Orbiter-can carry up to 7 astronauts and the payload in its 60-foot long cargo bay (Atlantis, Discovery & Endeavour)
• External tank (154 feet) which stores nearly half million pounds of liquid oxygen and hydrogen
• Solid rocket boosters which generate nearly 6 million pounds of thrust; jettisoned 2 minutes into flight.
Shuttle Missions
• Astronomy and Microgravity Science
• Astrophysics and Planetary Science
• Atmospheric Science
• Communications
• Geophysics and Solar Physics
• Life Science Research
• National Security
International Commitments
• The Shuttle has flown payloads and astronauts from may different countries including: Australia, Italy, Belgium, Mexico, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, France, Switzerland, India, Spain, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.

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