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Let's learn about the Space Shuttle.


The American Space Shuttle was an amazing spacecraft vehicle. It was partially reusable. The orbiter portion, which is what most people like to call, "the actual shuttle part" (even though the entire thing was actually called the Space Shuttle, yes, the side boosters and huge external fuel tank) would be reused by performing a de-orbit burn in space, which would take the orbiter out of orbit to fall back down somewhere on earth, then land at a runway for the crew to then be evacuated. The two solid-fuel powered boosters on the sides of the orange external fuel tank were retrieved from parachuting into the ocean and then would undergo refurbishment. The orange external fuel tank would not be re-used, and a new one was made for every launch.





There were 5 space shuttles that flew to orbit and back.





All of the Space Shuttles that flew to Orbit and landed back on planet Earth.




Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour still exist, but unfortunately, Columbia and Challenger ended in disaster.





During liftoff, the two solid rocket side boosters provided most of the thrust for the Space Shuttle to actually lift off. After the solid fuel for the two side boosters is no longer producing sufficient thrust, they are jettisoned. The 3 main RS-25 Engines will continue to push the orbiter to Earth orbit.





The 3 main RS-25 engines (the 3 big engines on the back of the space shuttle), used fuel from the orange external fuel tank, and no where else. Once the external fuel tank was jettisoned from the orbiter, the 3 main RS-25 Engines were fully shut down. For the rest of the Space Shuttle's flight, it would use it's OMS, also known as it's Orbital Maneuvering System. The OMS used hypergolic liquid-propellant rocket engines, which weren't nearly as powerful as the main engines or the two side boosters on the orange external fuel tank. The OMS was only used in the vacuum of space. The OMS engines were the engines used to perform the de-orbit burn. After the de-orbit burn is completed, when the orbiter lands on the runway, it is not a powered landing. The orbiter was basically a glider weighing around 90 tons to glide down softly to a runway and land.





For those who didn't know, the Space Shuttle Program was retired in 2011, and a Space Shuttle hasn't flown since. SpaceX's Dragon capsule riding atop the Falcon 9 Rocket has been the only spacecraft to launch from US Soil with a crew on board since 2011.





FUEL:





When the Space Shuttle launched, it used Liquid Hydrogen and Liquid Oxygen as fuel for the three main RS-25 Engines. The two side boosters used solid rocket fuel, composed of ammonium perchlorate and aluminum powder. The OMS used hypergolic fuels, composed of Dinitrogen tetroxide and Monomethylhydrazine. The Orbiter's RCS System, also known as the Reaction Control System, used Helium Gas as fuel.





POWER/ELECTRICITY:





Before the Space Shuttle is launched, it receives power from ground power supplies. When the Space Shuttle is in flight, it is powered by on-board fuel cells which generate electricity through a chemical reaction.





THRUST:





When the Space Shuttle launched, it produced about 30,000 kN (kilonewtons) of thrust. 30,000 kN = 6,745,000 pounds of force.





ATMOSPHERIC RE-ENTRY PROTECTION:





Unlike most spacecraft capsules which use ablative heat shields, the Space Shuttle orbiter portion used carbon-carbon tiles for heat shield protection, because an ablative heat shield could not be re-used as easily.


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