21st Century Space Shuttle
Amazing Space Shuttle
The most complex machine ever built, the space shuttle has more
than 2.5 million parts, including almost 370 kilometers (230 miles)
of wire, more than 1,060 plumbing valves and connections, over 1,440
circuit breakers, and more than 27,000 insulating tiles and thermal
In 8 ½ minutes after launch, the shuttle accelerates from zero
to about nine times as fast as a rifle bullet, or 28,002.6 kilometers
per hour (17,400 miles per hour), to attain Earth orbit.
The space shuttle weighs more than 2.04 million kilograms (4.5 million
pounds) at launch — over 1.59 million kilograms (3.5 million pounds)
of propellants are entirely consumed in the next 8 ½ minutes.
If the shuttle’s main engines pumped water instead of fuel, they
would drain an average-sized swimming pool every 25 seconds.
Because liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel the main engines,
the majority of exhaust produced is water vapor.
At launch, the shuttle’s two solid rockets consume more than 9.07
metric tons (10 tons) of fuel each second and produce 44 million
horsepower, equal to 14,700 locomotives.
The three shuttle main engines produce power equivalent to 13 times
that produced by the Hoover Dam.
The shuttle's solid rockets burn powdered aluminum as fuel — a different
form of the same type of material that is used as a foil wrap in
The temperatures inside the shuttle’s main engines and solid rockets
reach more than 3,315.6º Celsius (6,000º Fahrenheit), higher
than the boiling point of iron, yet the main engine’s fuel, liquid
hydrogen, is the second coldest liquid on Earth at minus 252.8º
Celsius (423º Fahrenheit).
The discharge pressure of a shuttle main engine turbopump could
send a column of liquid hydrogen 57.9 kilometers (36 miles) into
Temperatures experienced by the shuttle range from as low as minus
156.7º Celsius (minus 250º Fahrenheit) in space to as
high as 1,648º Celsius (3,000º Fahrenheit) as it re-enters