NASA's space shuttle orbiters are the first spacecraft capable of routinely launching into orbit like rockets and then returning to Earth as gliders. They are the main element of NASA's Space Transportation System, and are used for scientific research and space applications, such as deploying and repairing satellites. During the Shuttle-Mir Program, the shuttles' space access capabilities were combined with the Mir space station's long-duration spaceflight qualities to create a new and effective combination.
On its own, a space shuttle can carry to orbit a payload of about 65,000 pounds. Typical missions have crews of about seven astronauts, orbit at altitudes of around 150 to 250 miles, and stay in space for ten days to two weeks. In special circumstances and different configurations, a shuttle can support a crew of up to ten, attain an altitude of up to 600 miles, or remain in orbit for up to 28 days.
The space shuttle system is composed of several large components: the orbiter, three main engines, the external tank, and two solid rocket boosters.
Space Shuttle Components
Space Shuttle Sub-Systems
NASA's Orbiter Fleet
Development History of Space Shuttle
A Typical Shuttle Mission
Space Shuttle Life
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