Boeing celebrates more than 30 years of shuttle operations
As the completion of the Space Shuttle Program approaches, Boeing celebrates more than 30 years of shuttle operations and our integral involvement in the design and construction of the orbiters.
The space shuttle is the world's only spacecraft capable of delivering and returning people, large payloads and scientific experiments to and from space. The shuttle launches like a rocket, maneuvers in Earth orbit like a spacecraft and lands like a glider. The space shuttles have been essential to the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) and the space shuttle fleet will retire in 2011.
The space shuttles were designed and manufactured by Rockwell International, located in Downey and Palmdale, Calif. Boeing provides design engineering and work that has supported the shuttle program since the first flight in 1981. In 1996, The Boeing Company purchased the aerospace assets of Rockwell International, and later moved the Downey operation to Huntington Beach, Calif. Boeing is the major subcontractor to United Space Alliance (USA), NASA's prime contractor for space shuttle operations. Boeing Space Exploration, a division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, is headquartered in Houston and operates facilities in support of the Space Shuttle Program in Huntington Beach and Palmdale, Calif., and Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
NASA put five orbiters into operational service: Columbia, OV-102; Challenger, OV-099;Discovery, OV-103; Atlantis, OV-104; and Endeavour, OV-105. The first orbiter built,Enterprise, was never flown in space, but was instrumental in achieving the early atmospheric flight test program objectives.
The space shuttle's main elements -- the orbiter, external tank (ET), and twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) -- are assembled from more than 2.5 million parts, 230 miles of wire, 1,060 valves, and 1,440 circuit breakers. Weighing approximately 4.5 million-pounds at launch, the space shuttle accelerates to an orbital velocity of 17,500 miles per hour -- 25 times faster than the speed of sound -- in just over eight minutes. Once in orbit, the orbiter protects its crew from the vacuum of space while enabling astronauts to conduct scientific research, deploy and service satellites, and assemble the ISS. At the end of its mission, the shuttle uses the Earth's atmosphere as a brake to decelerate from orbital velocity to a safe landing at 220 miles per hour.
Each space shuttle is about the size of a small commercial airliner and normally carries a crew of seven, including a commander, pilot, and five mission or payload specialists. The shuttle can accommodate a payload the size of a school bus.
Height: 184.2 ft
Gross Liftoff Weight: 4,500,000 lbs*
Total Liftoff Thrust: 7,145,000 lbs
Maximum Cargo to Orbit: 63,500 lbs
Orbit: 115 to 400 statute miles (185 to 643 kilometers)
Velocity: 17,500 mph (28,164 kph)
Length: 122.17 ft (37.2 meters)
Height: 56.58 ft (17.2 meters)
Wingspan: 78.06 ft (23.8 meters)
Landing Weight: 242,000 lbs
Main Engines: (3) 375,000 lbs of thrust each at sea level
Cargo Bay: length - 60 ft, diameter - 15 ft
*weight will vary depending on payloads and on board consumables.