The original project of the Space Shuttle was called Space Transport System. Jenkins (2002) claims, “Space Shuttle was a partially reusable low Earth orbital spacecraft system operated by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of the Space Shuttle program” (p. 43). The initial four orbital trials happened in 1981, resulting in exploratory missions that commenced in 1982. Between 1981 and 2011, NASA carried out 135 assignments using the Space Shuttle. The Space Shuttle facilitated the execution of numerous interplanetary investigations and launch of satellites. Additionally, the propulsion of Space Shuttle facilitated the renovation of the International Space Station. The United States in collaboration with the European nations installed a Spacelab in the shuttle that promoted the study of life science. This article will present a synopsis of the Space Shuttle. It will also describe the gears that fabricated the Space Shuttle.
The Space Shuttle was a product of a joint research carried out by the American military and NASA. The primary goal of the study was to improve the spacecraft that was utilized during the Apollo program. Jenkins (2002) holds, “The spacecraft consisted of a spaceplane for orbit and re-entry, fueled by expendable liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks, with reusable strap-on solid booster rockets” (p. 49). The earliest orbiter vehicle known as Enterprise was manufactured to conduct the initial descending and Landing trials. Five orbiter vehicles were used for the tests. The Space Shuttle comprised a peripheral reservoir, payload, the orbiter and two solid rocket boosters. The orbiter was the compartment that housed the pilot and other crewmembers.
Robertson (1990) alleges, “The Space Shuttle was stacked in the Vehicle Assembly Building, and the stack mounted on a mobile launch platform held down by four frangible nuts on each solid rocket booster that was detonated at launch” (p. 5). The Space Shuttle took off in a perpendicular manner like a typical missile. The energy from the rocket boosters and three chief engines propelled it. The engines drew liquid oxygen and hydrogen from the peripheral reservoir. The shuttle ascended in two-phases. The rocket boosters were significant in the initial phase. They offered the necessary push that aided the spacecraft to ascend. The solid rocket boosters were disconnected from the spacecraft after a two-minute flight. They landed into the sea and were later retrieved for restoration and recycle.
The peripheral reservoir and the orbiter proceeded with the flight on a horizontal course. The main engines switched off after the shuttle reached 7.8km/s, a speed apposite for low Erath orbit. The shuttle released the peripheral reservoir that was blazed in the atmosphere. The orbital maneuvering system engines made sure that the spacecraft did not drift from its course. After conducting the assignment, the shuttle jettisoned the orbital maneuvering system engines to assist it start descending. The Space Shuttle applied the aerobracking system to decelerate as it traveled back to the surface (Logsdon, 2011). After the development of the first Space Shuttle in the 1970s, engineers found it wise to upgrade the spacecraft to enhance safety, reliability and performance. The engineers did not alter the internal organization of the Space Shuttle apart from the introduction of the state-of-the-art avionic computers. They modified the core engines and external reservoir to reduce weight and enhance security and efficiency.
Description of Space Shuttle
Robertson (1990) maintains, “The Space Shuttle was the first operational orbital spacecraft designed for reuse” (p. 5). The shuttle shipped diverse payloads to low Earth orbit, facilitated the replenishment of the International Space Station and offered crew rotation. Besides, it assisted in the recovery of satellites and other objects from orbit. The shuttle had the ability to cover 100 assignments or function for one decade. Afterwards, the engineers prolonged the lifespan of the Space Shuttle. The orbiter was designed in a way that it could carry the biggest army and business satellites. The desire for the American government to have dynamic payload spacecraft for satellite deployment led to the use of disposable fuel tank and solid rockets. Besides, Nixon’s administration wished to minimize the expenditure of space discovery by creating a Space Shuttle with recyclable components (Robertson, 1990). The Space Shuttle encompassed three crucial components. They included the two recyclable solid rocket boosters, disposable peripheral reservoir, and reclaimable orbiter vehicle. The solid rocket booster and the peripheral tank did not get to the orbit.
The Orbiter Vehicle
According to Jenkins (2002), the orbiter vehicle was akin to an ordinary aircraft. It comprised double-delta wings that maintained stability during the flight. Besides, it encompassed a perpendicular stabilizer principal frame that leaned backward at a 500 angle. The vehicle comprised four elevons attached to the sprawling rim of the wings. It also had speed brake secured to the edge of the stabilizer. The body flap, elevons, and speed brake controlled the orbiter vehicle when descending and landing. The orbiter had a sixty-foot pay that constituted of the fuselage. The bay was capable of housing massive cylindrical payloads. The payloads were usually packed straight to enable the orbiter to stand upright on the launch stand (Robertson, 1990). The orbiter had an automatic remote manipulator arm that dislodged the payloads vertically once the vehicle entered the near-weightless orbital atmosphere. The orbiter vehicle comprised three core engines. The engines were organized methodically. The body of the orbiter was made mainly from aluminum alloy. Conversely, the structure of the engine was manufactured from titanium alloy. The orbiters that have played a critical role in space exploration include orbiter vehicle-102 Columbia and orbiter vehicle-103 Discovery among others.
The principal role of the peripheral reservoir was to store fuel. The external reservoir stored hydrogen and oxygen in liquid form that were vital in running the Space Shuttle. Besides, the tank reinforced the propulsion vehicle. Logsdon (2011) maintains that the external tank offered the connection points for the orbiter and the dual rocket boosters. The peripheral reservoir was the sole constituent of the Space Shuttle that was expendable. Nevertheless, the team flying in the shuttle could bring the tanks to the orbit and reuse them. A case in point, they used the tank’s materials to refurbish the space station.
Solid Rocket Boosters
The Space Shuttle comprised two solid rocket boosters. Each booster offered 12,500 kilonewtons of push when the Space Shuttle was taking off. The boosters were detached from the Space Shuttle shortly after taking off. The boosters landed in the sea to be reclaimed for potential use. The outer cover of the solid rocket booster was manufactured of steel. The engineers could recycle the solid rocket boosters severally (Robertson, 1990). Individuals who had experience with numerous spacecraft alleged that Space Shuttle did not deliver a smooth ride like Soyuz and Apollo. The rocket boosters made the shuttle to tremble due to fuel combustion. The vibrations subsided after the boosters were detached from the spacecraft.
The orbiter vehicle can constitute numerous add-ons according to its mission. An example of the add-ons is the Spacelab. The Spacelab was a critical component of the Space Shuttle agenda. An assembly of European states donated the Spacelab. The countries were in charge of the Spacelab with the help of the United States and other global associates. Jenkins (2002) alleges, “Supported by a modular system of pressurized modules, pallets, and systems, Spacelab mission executed in multidisciplinary science, orbital logistics, and international cooperation” (p. 49). The Space Shuttle participated in at least 29 missions whose objectives ranged from the analysis of microgravity, life science, to astronomy. The Spacelab hardware also facilitated assignments like refurbishment and replenishment of space station. A symposium organized in Brussels in 1973 authorized the official use of Spacelab. In about a decade, Spacelab was launched and supplied the United States and Europe with a hardware system and an orbital seminar. Indeed, Spacelab facilitated the success of discovery, science and global collaboration.
America built the original Space Shuttle to facilitate interplanetary investigations. The Space Shuttle was important in sending different satellites to space and refurbishing the International Space Station. The Space Shuttle comprised three main assemblies, which were the external tank, solid rocket boosters, and the orbiter. The external reservoir helped to store fuel. The reservoir was not reusable. The solid rocket boosters aided in lifting the Space Shuttle from the ground. The orbiter vehicle comprised a cabin that housed the pilot and other crewmembers.
Jenkins, D. (2002). Space shuttle: The history of the national space transportation system (3rd ed.). New York: Voyageur Press.
Logsdon, J. (2011). Was the Space Shuttle a mistake?
Robertson, D. (1990). The space shuttle in perspective: Making a good space shuttle better. NASA Activities, 21(1), 4-7.