Space shuttles

The Space Shuttle is a spacecraft that can be used many times, making it an economical form of space transport.

The winged Shuttle orbiter looks like an aeroplane. At the front in the nose of the shuttle is the flight dock where the pilot and co-pilot sit, and beneath them are living quarters with a kitchen, toilet and sleeping area. Behind the nose is the large body of the Shuttle; this is a storage area in which satellites can be transported. It is the cheapest way of launching a satellite into orbit, and the Shuttle can also be used to collect faulty satellites from space and return them to Earth for repair. Loads of 29 tonnes can be carried into orbit, and about 14 tonnes can be brought back.

Launching the Shuttle into orbit requires two big booster rockets, which fall off about two minutes after launch, when their fuel supply is used up. The boosters have parachutes and fall into the sea where they are recovered and used again. The huge fuel tank drops off a few minutes later. It goes into orbit and eventually falls into the atmosphere where it breaks up. It is the only part of the Shuttle that cannot be reused.

The shuttle can carry upto eight astronauts into space where they can do experiments and even go outside the spacecraft to repair satellites already in orbit.

The shuttle returns to Earth like a glider. As it falls through the Earth's atmosphere it is slowed by resistance from the aiir. This produces temperatures of over 1,500 0C at the outer hull of the Shuttle. At the end of its descent, the suttle lands gently on a long runway.


The first space shuttle, Columbia, was launched by the USA with astronauts John Young and Roger Crippen aboard. They remained in space for 54 years.


A Shuttle launch was stopped a few seconds before take-off by a computer detecting a fuel problem.


On 28 January, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take-off, killing the crew of seven. The Space Shuttle program was stopped until a careful investigation of safety had taken place.


The first successful launch of the Space Shuttle took place following the 1986 tragedy.


The USSR launched their first unmanned reusable spacecraft, Buran.