The Space Shuttle, 1972–1991

J. D. Hunley

in U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780813031781
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038568 | DOI:
The Space Shuttle, 1972–1991

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The space shuttle marked a radical departure from the general pattern of previous launch vehicles. Not only was it, unlike its predecessors, a (mostly) reusable launch vehicle; it was also part spacecraft and part airplane. In the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launch vehicles, astronauts had occupied the payload of the rocket, but astronauts on the shuttle rode in and even piloted from a crew compartment in the launch vehicle itself. Also, the shuttle commander landed the orbiter portion of the craft and did so horizontally on a runway. The orbiter had wings like an airplane and set down on landing gear as airplanes do. Indeed, the very concept of the space shuttle came from the idea of airliners, which were not discarded after each mission the way expendable launch vehicles had been but were refurbished, refueled, and used over and over again, greatly reducing the cost of operations. Because of the multifaceted character of the space shuttle, its antecedents are much more diverse than those of the expendable launch vehicles and missiles discussed in the first volume of this two-volume series and in the rest of this book. This chapter focuses on features most comparable to those of earlier launch vehicles—propulsion, guidance and control, and, to a lesser extent, structure.

Keywords: space shuttle; rocket technology; space-launch vehicle technology; propulsion; guidance

Chapter.  19887 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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