Talk:Space Shuttle

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For discussion prior to August 29, 2006, see Talk:Space Shuttle program

Shuttle cannot fly unmanned[edit]

"As the shuttle cannot fly unmanned, each of these improvements has been "tested" on operational flights"

Must be mistaken, unless you can provide verifiable citations .From what I understand the Shuttle is perfectly capable of launching to orbit and returning to earth totally under control of the on board computer. Viralmeme (talk) 14:39, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

It is widely known the shuttle cannot fly unmanned. That's why the first mission STS-1 had a crew, despite the great risk. Recently a new contingency capability was added to allow the orbiter to deorbit and land without a crew. This is called Remote Controlled Orbiter (RCO), and is only used if a manned orbiter reaches the ISS but is deemed unsafe for manned operation to return (e.g, orbiter is flyable but damaged). In that case the crew takes refuge in ISS, the RCO hardware is installed on the orbiter, and an unmanned return is attempted. The RCO consists of cables and software which automate tasks previously done by the crew. This includes deploying air data probes, landing gear and drag chute. http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2006/06/rco-saving-a-crippled-discovery/
Seeing as how all that is needed for the shuttle to fly with no one on board is a cable harness and a software tweak, I hope it is clear to everyone that it is not proper to therefore conclude: "That's why the first mission STS-1 had a crew, despite the great risk." This mod could have easily been done for that first mission back in 1981.
The actual problem was that as soon as the shuttle was flown with no one on board, this would have proven that pilots were not necessary. NASA wanted pilots, so the switches were wired to make pilots necessary.
This is similar to what NASA went through during the Apollo days. Remember all the drama with Eagle's landing? All the tension with the fuel remaining calls? And all the training leading up to that point where the crew had the skill to fly that landing? Neil Armstrong even had to eject out of one of those trainers.
...well, there was no such drama with the precursor Surveyor landings. It was all mechanically precise automatic control. No one was on-board to drip a single drop of sweat. Now imagine if Apollo 10, say, had undocked their LM to fly all the way down to the surface with no one inside. And after the landing, the ascent stage could have been remotely commanded to launch off the lunar surface to re-dock with the CSM Charlie Brown. Doing that would surely have detracted from the accomplishment that would follow with Apollo 11. But it's not hard to imagine all the engineers who might have argued for that as a risk reduction step. And they also could have argued for testing the LM life support systems on the lunar surface without risking any human lives. NASA could have landed a couple of chimps onto the Moon. Imagine that...
"One small step for a chimp. One giant leap for chimpkind."
It was embarrassing enough for the Mercury astronauts to follow in the buttprints of the simians. Glenn, the first American to orbit, used to rib Al Shepard for having flown a mere suborbital mission, calling him "the missing link" between primates and humans. So where does that leave our shuttle with this popular notion that it cannot fly without people? The Soviets proved that Buran could be successful as an autonomous mission - no one home. The US shuttle could have done that too, as could have the Lunar Module, as the Gemini's and Mercury's actually did before that. The shuttle program could have saved a huge amount of money by eliminating the pilot positions. It could have saved even more by eliminating the shuttle itself. Probes are FAR cheaper. But if you're going to have a human spaceflight program, it's been decided that it's best to let humans fly the spacecraft. The next time anyone tries to justify human spaceflight with triumphs like Hubble repair, I'd like someone to press them to admit how much cash it would have saved to simply launch a new Hubble. Hubble is basically a spy satellite turned outward, and the NRO doesn't waste money trying to repair any of theirs. If one breaks, they replace it with a brand new one. But the NRO isn't in the business of the spiritual quest that is human spaceflight. It is far more significant to the human story to actually have a person who experienced it, enabling the rest of us to imagine what it might have been like for them.
Who today remembers that Langley was flying pilotless planes well before the Wright Brothers flew? One event was a small step in advancing technology. The other was a giant leap in expanding human consciousness. And the biggest thing that human spaceflight has done in its entire 50 year span of history is to expand our awareness of how our planet is unique in all the universe. At least what we know of it. Does anyone look back to that expansion of awareness as having happened from the images of pilotless lunar orbiter probes? What we look back to is the Big Blue Marble first gazed upon by the crew of Apollo 8 and the Earthrise they saw from behind the Moon. This was the singular event in human evolution where everything changed.
Now I'll pose a challenge to some editor here: Boil the above down to a soundbite for addition to the article to explain to everyone why the space shuttle was "never flown unmanned".--Tdadamemd (talk) 08:43, 11 May 2011 (UTC)
I think you are probably correct, but it would still be a speculative opinion and/or original research. You would need an external source for it stating the same thing, at which point it could be presented as a viewpoint. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 138.57.212.12 (talk) 18:37, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

This is a ridiculous argument - We had unmanned rockets first and certainly can semd up satellites without personnell in side - so why care either way ?

signed jules r. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 107.145.82.148 (talk) 18:02, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Shuttle vs. Saturn V observer footprint[edit]

I remember watching the last few Saturn V launches (on a B&W CRT television screen) from my classroom in Davie, FL. The teacher always rushed us out to attempt to observe the launches. We were never able to observe these launches in person, AFAIK.

The Shuttle was a different story, as *most* of the launches were visible from SW. Broward county, and as far South as Miami Beach (when I lived there), if the atmospheric conditions were correct. I was able to observe many of the evening (and even afternoon) shuttle launches from my driveway in Weston (Ft. Lauderdale/W. Broward), and even as far south as Miami.

What was the difference here? Both crafts used the same fuel, and the Saturn V was more powerful, but the shuttle was seemingly more easily observable from ~275+ miles away). Was it the shuttle SRB's vs. the Saturn V's J-2 engines? Must have been?

Anyhow, both were an absolutely awesome sight and will be sorely missed! A man-made machine observed ~250+ miles away. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.253.88.16 (talk) 07:19, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

There might be various explanations why you couldn't see the Saturn V launches but I think the most important factor is simply the weather.
How long did it take you to go outside after you watched the launch on TV? Maybe you were too slow. 217.224.40.121 (talk) 00:32, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
A possible explanation might be that, for the first 2½ minutes the Saturn V first stage burned kerosene-based RP, while the Shuttle main engines burned hydrogen, which probably makes a much brighter "flame". (The Saturn V also burned hydrogen, but only in its upper stages.) I doubt the SRB's would have been brighter than either the mighty F-1s or the J-2s. BTW: the last Moon shot, Apollo 17, was launched in the dark of night (half hour after midnight). You might have been able to see that, if you were able to stay up. JustinTime55 (talk) 14:48, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Hydrogen burns with a nearly invisible flame. After SRB sep you could barely tell the engines were still running. The F-1 burned kerosene and produced a bright yellow flame and a rather faint trail of blackish soot. OTOH the Shuttle's SRBs produced 45km high arcs of bright white aluminum oxide exhaust, kind of hard to miss. A(Ch) 18:57, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
you've hit it right on the head - the high visibility of shuttle (and titan iii, etc.) launches is the solid rocket plumes - it is a combination of the aluminum oxide and the hcl from the solid propellant combustion (the latter promotes water condensation). indeed back in the vietnam war, many american combat aircraft were shot down because the white plumes from their missile firings gave north vietnamese pilots a easy to follow pointer back to the launching aircraft. the u.s. military quickly developed reduced and min smoke propellants that took the aluminum powder out. the aluminum powder serves two functions - increasing the energy content of the propellant and damping acoustic oscillations inside the rocket motor (they are after all basically just like organ pipe tubes).

Orbits ?[edit]

What are the typical orbits used by the shuttles ? See List of orbits Yug (talk) 20:19, 24 March 2014 (UTC)

This is a VERY good question. Low Earth Orbit ranges between 160 km and 1200 km! That is a HUGE range. So what have been the perigree and apogee values (averages and records)? I don't think it is adequate that it simply be characterized as LEO. Surely, someone knows this?! Or can find it! FWIW, the ISS is at 380 km and the Shuttle has docked with it.Abitslow (talk) 17:07, 9 January 2015 (UTC)

"Space Shuttle is" vs. "was"[edit]

I think the IP user who made this tense change is correct. For reference, consider the lead sentence of Spirit of St. Louis:

The Spirit of St. Louis (Registration: N-X-211) is the custom-built, single engine, single-seat monoplane that was flown solo by Charles Lindbergh on May 20–21, 1927, [... etc.] JustinTime55 (talk) 14:30, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
The first sentence was already done this way "The Space Shuttle is a partially reusable low Earth orbital spacecraft that was operated by..." -Fnlayson (talk) 15:22, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I know. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear; I didn't mean to imply I thought his edit was sufficient as it stood; thanks for clarifying it. I just thought the point should be brought out here. The Lindbergh plane article sets the precedent for the idea that a not-currently-operational craft still exists. JustinTime55 (talk) 15:34, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
  • That's good and I agree. I was mainly replying to the original post that seemed to have missed the "was operated" change I made. -Fnlayson (talk) 16:49, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure the Spirit of St. Louis example is a sensible precedent - this is talking about a single individual aircraft - if we were in this article talking about an individual space shuttle and not all of them then using 'is' would, I believe, be universally acceptable. I have looked at a number of historic (retired) aircraft articles in wikipedia and these tend to use 'was' even when some examples are still flying. It appears to be that once enough time has passed and the original use has turned into a museum piece 'was' tends to be used. I suspect time is an issue here. The closest analogue of the Space Shuttle I could think of is Concorde, both this and the Space Shuttle were retired recently, all at the same time, and a limited number of examples built. Plus individual examples of both the shuttle and Concorde were known as 'The' rather than 'A' in normal speak. "I went for a trip on Concorde", "the Astronaut went on the Space Shuttle", I" went to Frankfurt on a 747".
The Concorde article uses 'is' however it does make it absolutely clear that the type is retired - I think a similar qualifier should be used in the space shuttle article. I would also expect that sometime in the future the 'is' will become 'was', and nobody will think the change strange - but I guess we are not at that point yet.Andrewgprout (talk) 21:12, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Shuttles do still exist - they weren't scuttled. They simply aren't in use any longer (except as museum exhibits). — Preceding unsigned comment added by 5.68.34.196 (talk) 12:34, 22 October 2014 (UTC)
  • Yes, that's what the first sentence says (or is meant to say) now. -Fnlayson (talk) 15:21, 22 October 2014 (UTC)
  • They exist, but they are no longer in use as launch system/spacecraft. -Fnlayson (talk) 16:06, 20 November 2014 (UTC)

Shuttle Engine Specs[edit]

Everywhere you look the shuttle has completely different specs for thrust. NASA: SL 375k lbs; VAC 470k lbs [1] Space Shuttle Page: SL 394k lbs; no VAC stats [2] Space Shuttle Main Engine Page: SL 418k lbs; VAC 512k lbs [3] Can anyone confirm which numbers are correct so all of the pages can have accurate data?Wllm t (talk) 19:09, 23 October 2014 (UTC)

The NASA page lists the thrust at 100% RPL (only used for the first few flights), the Space Shuttle page lists the thrust at 104 or 104.5% RPL (actual power level used for nearly all launches), the SSME page lists thrust at 109% RPL (certified for abort modes only) A(Ch) 21:17, 8 November 2014 (UTC)

WHat does the shuttle really cost - cited either 450 million or 1.5 BILLION[edit]

Can some one cite the references to each figure i have found? EIther way its a lot more than what Elon Musk charges ! — Preceding unsigned comment added by 107.145.82.148 (talk) 18:00, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

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Re-entry and landing[edit]

According to Richard Feynman the landing of the shuttle was always automatic once the landing program was initiated. The astronaut only pressing a button to lower the undercarriage. After the Rogers Commission even this process was automated which caused consternation as the lowering of the undercarriage was what was considered flying (landing) the shuttle. As far as I understand the shuttle was never flown manually during missions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 79.75.30.29 (talk) 14:55, 1 September 2016 (UTC)


Specifications[edit]

Why does only one of the shuttles ('Atlantis') have a technical specification outline? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.65.85.167 (talk) 12:47, 4 May 2017 (UTC)

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