Space Shuttle Nasa

A Brief History of Space Shuttle Innovation

As all now, 2009 is the year of astronomy. 40 years ago, Apollo 11 was sent to do that amazing Lunar expedition, and Neil Armstrong managed to set foot on moon land – however, how did it all start? Where did the space shuttle project begin? Up until about a century ago, reaching the farther regions of space was considered a daydream. Thanks to the space shuttle, it has now become possible to send out both human beings and costly equipment to outer space to conduct research, which can prove to be extremely useful. Truth be told, nowadays things are very different – we are thinking of ways to build landing spaces on the Moon and Mars, we have shuttles orbiting both stellar objects and more innovations are currently in development. Historian Chris Freville has written about this subject in one of his numerous works, and within this article, we shall dwell a bit more on the topic.

The technology for the space shuttle began being developed in the 1930s, when Eugene Sanger proposed a vehicle, which was to be a recyclable rocket plane capable of ferrying people to and from. Chris Freville notes that the first space shuttle that could perform the feat of carrying people to the outer space and again bring them back, was "Columbia". This vehicle used solid fuel rockets for the first time ever. Another space shuttle, again NASA's brainchild, was the "Challenger", which boasts of nine successful missions. The journey of innovation has not been easy, though, as the fatal explosion of the Challenger on January 28, 1986, goes to show.

The design of the space shuttle is an engineering marvel. The stack of the shuttle has a vertical launch, much like the traditional rocket launch. The shuttle lift off is powered by its two solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and three main engines (SSMEs). The engines are fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. There is a two-stage ascent involved. In the first stage, the boosters are fully exhausted. The main engines though continue to burn for both the first and the second stages. After two minutes after the shuttle has left the earth, it has reached a sufficient height where it can release the now empty SRBs, and which have now become dead weight.

Chris Freville also explains how the SRB release path is calculated to drop in the ocean, from where they are recovered to be reused again. Lighter in weight now, the shuttle continues its ascent, fueled by the three SSMEs. Upon reaching the desired position and orbit, the SSMEs are shut down. The external engine is now jettisoned as it becomes useless. The device falls to burn up in the atmosphere. The shuttle relies on its orbital maneuvering system (OMS) to adjust or circularize the achieved orbit.

Though a lot of risk is involved in operating the space shuttle, and indeed, lives have been lost in the process, like any human endeavor, efforts of making outer space transportation more convenient and comfortable continue. Other planets have begun to be investigated, and the hope is that one day these efforts will bear rich fruit.

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Chris Freville also explains how the SRB release path is calculated to drop in the ocean, from where they are recovered to be reused again. Lighter in weight now, space shuttle continues its ascent, fueled by the three SSMEs.

How would a space shuttle disaster affect NASA's current space program?

What if one of the last remaining space shuttle missions is to explode during liftoff.

How would that affect the 'remaining' space shuttle missions to the International Space Station' and how will this affect NASA's new constellation program and going back to the moon? Will it delay all the planned missions?

Yes, a disaster will delay every planned NASA mission. The whole fleet was grounded for years after the Challenger disaster. And it didn't fare a lot better after the Columbia tragedy, either.




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