Encyclopedia Astronautica
Shuttle Tank


Lox/LH2 propellant rocket drop tank. Loaded/empty mass 750,975/29,930 kg. Vacuum specific impulse 455 seconds. Original version.

AKA: External Tank.
Status: Study 1989.
Gross mass: 750,975 kg (1,655,616 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 29,930 kg (65,980 lb).
Height: 46.88 m (153.80 ft).
Diameter: 8.40 m (27.50 ft).
Span: 8.70 m (28.50 ft).
Specific impulse: 455 s.
Specific impulse sea level: 363 s.
Burn time: 480 s.
Number: 1 .

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Associated Countries
Associated Engines
  • None Indicates that the stage shown is a propellant tank. The engine on another stage is drawing propellants from this tank. Performance shown is for that of the engine on the other stage. First flight 1964. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • 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...
  • IHLLV American orbital launch vehicle. Same concept as Shuttle C. Shuttle orbiter replaced by recoverable pod with shuttle main engines and payload cannister. Quick way for US to obtain heavy payload capability and reduce shuttle cost per kg to orbit by 3 X. 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 C American orbital launch vehicle. NASA Marshall design for a cargo version of the shuttle system. The shuttle orbiter would be replaced by an unmanned recoverable main engine pod. The same concept was studied earlier as the Interim Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (IHLLV) and as the Class I Shuttle Derived Vehicle (SDV). The Phase I two-SSME configuration would have a payload of 45,000 kg to low earth orbit. Design carried to an advanced phase in 1987-1990, but then abandoned when it was found the concept had no cost advantage over existing expenable launch vehicles. 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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