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Facts About The Shuttle:
Official Name: While that name is the one that almost everyone recognizes, the full name is the Space Transportation System, or STS. The STS is comprised of the Orbiter, Solid Rocket Boosters, and External Tank.
Date started: The program was officially announced by President Nixon on 5 January 1972, and contracts were awarded for the major components that same year.
Contractors: North American Rockwell/Rockwell International (Orbiter), Rocketdyne (SSMEs) Morton Thiokol (SRBs), Martin Marietta/Lockheed Martin (ET).
Wingspan: 78 feet
Length (STS): 184 feet
Gross Take-Off Weight: 4.4 Million pounds
Empty Weight, Shuttle: 165,000 pounds
Thrust, Solid Rocket Booster: 2,650,000 pounds
Thrust, Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME): 375,000 pounds
Fuel consumption, SSMEs: 3,105 pounds per second at 100% of rated thrust
Payload capability: 50,000 lbs to low-Earth orbit
Velocity at Main Engine Cut-Off (MECO): 17,500 miles per hour
Maximum aerodynamic heating on atmospheric entry: 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit
First Flight: 12 April 1981
Longest mission: 17.5 days
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- The Space Shuttle's Thermal Protection System is comprised of over thirty thousand tiles, all of which are inspected following a mission. Though they can withstand remarkably high temperatures, they are essentially constructed of (very pure) sand! In fact, one can be heated to peak temperature, yet become cool enough to be held in a bare hand within a minute of being removed from the heat source.
- While the Shuttle's general purpose computers were state of the art at the time of their design, the average PDA today has far more raw computing power. The integrated data processors used for the Multifunction Electronic Display System ("glass cockpit"), for instance, employ 80386 processors running at 16 MHz, and the dedicated hard drive is a 300 MB model.
- The cost of the Shuttle program, while far less than that of the Apollo program, still works out to an average of $1.1 billion per launch, high enough to counter the cost effectiveness argument for Shuttle. For comparison, the Delta IV Heavy, a USAF launcher with a comparable payload, has a cost of approximately $250 million, but it is not man-rated and cannot carry humans.