Encyclopedia Astronautica
Shuttle Orbiter


Lox/LH2 propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 99,318/99,117 kg. Thrust 6,834.30 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 455 seconds.

Cost $ : 300.000 million. No Engines: 3.

AKA: Shuttle; STS (Space Transportation System).
Status: Study 1984.
Gross mass: 99,318 kg (218,958 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 99,117 kg (218,515 lb).
Height: 37.24 m (122.17 ft).
Diameter: 4.90 m (16.00 ft).
Span: 23.79 m (78.05 ft).
Thrust: 6,834.30 kN (1,536,412 lbf).
Specific impulse: 455 s.
Specific impulse sea level: 363 s.
Burn time: 480 s.
Number: 1 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Engines
  • SSME Rocketdyne lox/lh2 rocket engine. 2278 kN. In production. Isp=453s. Space Shuttle Main Engines; only high-pressure closed-cycle reusable cryogenic rocket engine ever flown. . Three mounted in the base of the American space shuttle. First flight 1981. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Shuttle ISS American winged orbital launch vehicle. Redesign of the shuttle with reliability in mind after the Challenger disaster reduced maximum payload to low earth orbit from 27,850 kg to 24,400 kg. When the decision was made to move the International Space Station to a high-inclination 51.6 degree orbit, net payload to the more challenging orbit dropped to unacceptable limits. The situation was improved by introduction of the Super Lightweight External Tank, which used 2195 Aluminium-Lithium alloy as the main structural material in place of the 2219 aluminium alloy of the original design. This saved 3,500 kg in empty mass, increasing shuttle payload by the same amount. The tank was first used on STS-91 in June 1998. More...
  • Saturn Shuttle American orbital launch vehicle. A winged recoverable Saturn IC stage was considered instead of solid rocket boosters after the final shuttle design was selected. More...
  • Shuttle American winged orbital launch vehicle. The manned reusable space system which was designed to slash the cost of space transport and replace all expendable launch vehicles. It did neither, but did keep NASA in the manned space flight business for 30 years. Redesign of the shuttle with reliability in mind after the Challenger disaster reduced maximum payload to low earth orbit from 27,850 kg to 24,400 kg. More...
  • Shuttle LRB American winged orbital launch vehicle. Shuttle with Liquid Rocket Boosters in place of Solid Rocket Boosters. More...
  • Shuttle ASRM American winged orbital launch vehicle. Shuttle using Advanced Solid Rocket Motors (development cancelled 1993). More...

Associated Propellants
  • Lox/LH2 Liquid oxygen was the earliest, cheapest, safest, and eventually the preferred oxidiser for large space launchers. Its main drawback is that it is moderately cryogenic, and therefore not suitable for military uses where storage of the fuelled missile and quick launch are required. Liquid hydrogen was identified by all the leading rocket visionaries as the theoretically ideal rocket fuel. It had big drawbacks, however - it was highly cryogenic, and it had a very low density, making for large tanks. The United States mastered hydrogen technology for the highly classified Lockheed CL-400 Suntan reconnaissance aircraft in the mid-1950's. The technology was transferred to the Centaur rocket stage program, and by the mid-1960's the United States was flying the Centaur and Saturn upper stages using the fuel. It was adopted for the core of the space shuttle, and Centaur stages still fly today. More...

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