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.
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 (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 (talk) 18:02, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Right Margin Total Dollar Amount?[edit]

Would it make sense to add data in the top right margin sidebar that lists total dollars spent on the Shuttle? Similar to the way we list revenue and other dollar-related data for major corporations (e.g., Microsoft: "Revenue US$ 69.94 billion [2011]"). That way, readers could use Wikipedia to study areas of the economy that are arguably less or more beneficial for mankind. Your thoughts? SK (talk) 12:48, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

this probably goes somewhere in one of the articles.[edit]


It's not used on en wiki yet Penyulap 04:44, 3 April 2012 (UTC)

Payload capacity[edit]

I've noticed that the maximum payload capacity appears out of date. The 55,250 lb weight was what was set for STS post-Challenger because of the huge weight increases incurred due to all the SRB, Orbiter, and ET safety-related modifications. With the advent of the AL-LI super lightweight ET, 7,500 lbs was added back in performance. This is what allowed the very heavy-weight Columbia to carry the 50,000 lb plus Chandra/AXAF to orbit on STS-93. The then existing flight-capable orbiters also received upgrades that reduced their weight as well by varying degrees, even Columbia after her last OMDP.

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 (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. (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)

Cargo bay dimensions?[edit]

How about including the dimensions of the cargo bay? I have a source of early (1969-1970) study specs calling for 15 ft. diameter by 60 ft. long. Is this what was finally built? JustinTime55 (talk) 18:06, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Space Shuttle tile image[edit]

Hi All

Silica Space Shuttle thermal protection (TPS) tile, c 1980. (9663807484).jpg

I just uploaded this image, think it may be of use here but don't know where

Thanks --Mrjohncummings (talk) 12:39, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

Booster Stage the 0th Stage?[edit]

The three stages of the Shuttle (boosters and main engines, main engines alone and orbiter OME engines) are called the 0th, 1st and 2nd. Should be changed to 1st, 2nd and 3rd. (talk) 19:51, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

No, that is standard nomenclature; strap-on boosters which fire in parallel with main engines are considered "stage 0"; see Titan IIIC. That is programmed into the standard Template:Infobox rocket. I wold maintain that what is actually incorrect, given the definition of a rocket stage, is that the OMS doesn't actually count as a second stage (despite the fact it fires in serial to achieve orbit), because it is just as much a part of the Shuttle orbiter as the main engines are, and the latter do not detach and fall away from it. The Shuttle as built did not fit neatly into the traditional definition of a multistage rocket. JustinTime55 (talk) 15:50, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Locked - Discuss[edit]

There is currently an edit-war going on whether or not to use the wording "lost" or "destroyed" in reference to the [i]Challenger[/i] and [i]Columbia[/i] arguments. As this has gone on for four days batting back and forth without any discussion outside of edit summaries, I have full-protected the article for 72 hours. During this time, WP:DISCUSSION should take place here to determine WP:CONSENSUS on which wording to use, which can be placed into the article when the full protection expires. Please remember WP:CIVIL and that if edit-warring resumes once the protectin expires, blocks for edit warring will likely follow - WP:3RR is a privilege but not a right. - The Bushranger One ping only 02:47, 5 November 2013 (UTC)

Shouldn't this technically go back to the original 'lost' version before being locked? Sorry editors - I wasn't counting the reversions. Usually I can count to 3 and back off before this sort of thing happens. Here is my position - The use of the term 'lost' is an archaic maritime use for a destroyed vessel that can too easily be misinterpreted to mean that no-one knows where it is. Despite the prevalence in science fiction of maritime naval usages for spacecraft, Space Shuttle crews nearly all have Air Force insignia and ranks, so the use of the term 'lost' to describe a Space Shuttle that everyone saw explode is euphemistic and idiomatic at best - both of which are no-nos according to the MOS. I changed to 'destroyed' and was quite surprised to see that change so rigorously resisted, especially when the reasoning forthcoming for such resistance kept shifting. I looked at alternates but still think 'destroyed in mission accidents' is best. It is simple and accurate, almost impossible to misinterpret, unlike 'lost.' Mdw0 (talk) 05:40, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
  • The two main versions of the text have been, "Challenger and Columbia were lost in mission accidents" and "Challenger and Columbia were destroyed in mission accidents". With the other text in the sentence, there's no real way to misinterpret these. Lost is a common term in aviation and is not uncommon overall. So 'lost' is fine. Since meaning is clear, either wording choice is OK to me. -Fnlayson (talk) 19:41, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm with "Mdw0", even if their logic regarding the originating service of the crews is flawed. Both terms may be fine, but only one can be best, and that's the one less likely to be misinterpreted and relies less on idiom or jargon. I think this is pretty clear and objective. If I were writing a book, I'd use "lost" for flavor, but this is an encyclopedia, so a more literally accurate and descriptive term is called for. I actually thought of this comparison when I noticed the wording of the crews having "died" rather than being "lost", which might be more common and expected in a news story. "Died" (EDIT: or better yet: "killed") and "destroyed" are more accurate and therefore more appropriate for an encyclopedia, even if they don't give you a warm-fuzzy. Ezriilc (talk) 23:12, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
  • I'll agree with Fnlayson: either term is fine. They mean the same thing. Apparently Mdw0 thinks that the Air Force doesn't use the term, but I assure you that when they talk about an incident involving loss of aircraft, they don't mean that the pilot forgot where he parked it. This is common usage.
With that said, however, since both terms do say the same thing, we might as well go with "destroyed": it will satisfy the people who are confused by the word "lost," and doesn't change the meaning of the article. Geoffrey.landis (talk) 19:42, 8 November 2013 (UTC)
Seeing how it was destroyed and not "lost" I think that "destroyed" should be used. It's hardly going to be found down the back of the sofa, is it? Torqueing (talk) 15:02, 6 November 2013 (UTC)
According to NASA, a primary source, the term is lost: (talk) 22:26, 7 November 2013 (UTC)
But NASA is talking about the crew on that page, not the vehicle. While I think the sofa argument is unlikely to find many adherents, I'm with Torqueing and others. There is good evidence that the vehicle was destroyed; 'lost' may be a euphemism more acceptable to those whose colleagues, friends and relatives have been killed in service, but seems capable of complete misinterpretation. 'Destroyed' is therefore a more accurate and relevant term here, I feel. Navy/Air Force common usage seems irrelevant to me: this page is for everyone who reads English (some as a second or subsequent language), not just people who know 'correct' service jargon. Worse still, 'lost' could be an invitation to conspiracy theorists who think the US Government may be covering up abduction by aliens or something! (Stranger theories are out there...) Tagilbert (talk) 11:57, 8 November 2013 (UTC)
  • The NASA page actually refers to both the shuttle and crew. The sentence says "The orbiter and its seven crewmembers ... were lost". -Fnlayson (talk) 18:48, 8 November 2013 (UTC)
  • If I may chip in my two cents despite being the originally protecting admin - now that that has expired - I'd support "lost" as the phrasing here. While it could seem "euphamistic", it's also the commonly used term for this sort of thing. For instance, a ship sunk is referred to as "lost at the battle of X", aircraft use the same terminology, and so do spacecraft. - The Bushranger One ping only 00:42, 9 November 2013 (UTC)
Lost is not the commonly used term. If a car or train is destroyed in an accident it is not lost. It is used commonly only in the services. It is not commonly used outside of this limited scope. If anything, Wikipedia's preference for the commonly used term rules against lost.Mdw0 (talk) 02:44, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
I disagree: "lost" is indeed the commonly-used term, and I've never heard of anybody misunderstanding the word in this context. The shuttle is not a car or a train. But even in that context, when your insurance company declares your car a total loss, it doesn't mean that the car was misplaced. Geoffrey.landis (talk)
The mention of context is appropriate. Context matters. This context is not a technical study, or military documentation, or an industrial pamphlet. It is much broader than that. A Wikipedia article must assume a lay reader, especially in the opening section. The normal, most common use of 'lost' implies no-one knows where it is. It does not matter than a less common, more technical definition of 'lost' is often used in a totally different, more limited context, because that context does not apply here. Who are we writing for?Mdw0 (talk) 10:44, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
Sigh ... I was in the "lost" camp and was all set to argue in favor of it; I believe at least 99% of native English speakers are well familiar with the idiomatic meaning, and it would have been my choice. But then I read WP:IDIOM: "Clichés and idioms are generally to be avoided in favor of direct, literal expressions." Even though "lost" doesn't appear on the list of idioms referenced on the IDIOM entry, I would have to say that the spirit of the MOS guideline says we should avoid it, and give the point to Mdw0. JustinTime55 (talk) 17:32, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Speaking as someone who's "mother's tongue" is not English, let me add my 2 cents: I would highly recommend using literal language and going for "destroyed". "Lost" might be common usage in the space industry, but this is not a space industry wiki. And this article is not about the language of the space industry (such an article would be an interesting addition to this wiki), but this article should describe the Space Shuttle to both average and expert wiki-readers. I would suspect that "lost" can possibly imply for the majority of readers that the craft was actually lost, as in "left Earth orbit, can't be located, and so on". Tony Mach (talk) 09:39, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Technospeak needs to be explained for the uninitiated[edit]

"In the unlikely case that two out of four computers simultaneously failed (a two-two split), one group was to be picked at random." Huh ? group ? picked at random ? I'm guessing that the functions performed by the lost two computer were reassigned to the remaining two, at random rather than a predefined cascade e.g. 1 -> 2 -> 3 -> 4; 2 -> 3 -> 4 -> 1 etc, but whatever it was needs to be explained unambiguously in layman's terms.Rcbutcher (talk) 06:05, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

I have re-worded the paragraph. Does this explain it in a way that is understandable? Yes check.svg Done Makyen (talk) 07:35, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
Yes, the wording now makes sense to me. I understand it means that if two computers output x and two output y, either x or y would be chosen at random. Correct ? Were computers in fact "voted out" of the system permanently after a single anomaly, or was the anomaly output for that single event simply voted out and the computer allowed to continue ? This would make more sense, and perhaps allowing three strikes rather than one before kicking a particular computer out would to me be more reasonable. Rcbutcher (talk) 09:36, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
q1: Yes, that is correct.
I do not know enough about the Space Shuttle's computer system to speak authoritatively on your second question. However, I can speak from my understanding. I would expect that computers were voted out permanently after a single anomaly, until a human did something to reset/test the system. All four of these computers were doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. They are not people. What they are doing is extremely deterministic, very simple code (compared to "normal" desktop/laptop software). If one is getting a different result from the other three then something is significantly wrong with it. Consider, if you had 4 desktop calculators into which you entered exactly the same 4 + 4 =, then three of them showed 8 and one showed 7. Lives depend on this. Why would you trust the one that produced 7 again until such time as someone reset and tested it?
Keep in mind that the next operation will normally depend on the previous result (the correct answer to which is not back-loaded into the failing computer). You know that one of the computers has a problem. If you have not permanently removed it, the computer might be correct some of the time, or happen to produce the same wrong answer as a second failing computer. If the first was not permanently removed, and if it produced the same wrong answer as a second failing computer then the result would be the need to guess as to which group of two is correct. You would be guessing, and might be wrong, when you could have known you were choosing the correct 2 answers out of 3. It is much better to disable the computer that produced the anomalous result until it is reset/tested by a human.
One of the reasons for this type of system was the possibility of errors occurring due to a high energy particle happening to hit exactly right within one of the computers to cause a transient error. The system was intended to make calculations in real-time. There is no time for the computers to reset themselves, run a diagnostic to determine that the error was a transient occurrence, and then perform the calculation again. I would be surprised if there was not a way for the astronauts to perform a reset and diagnostic at a time of their choosing, if it was needed. It just can't happen in the middle of critical flight operations when any delay could ruin everyone's day. Makyen (talk) 11:39, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
Good, thanks. The article now clearly reflects this. A complete separate article on the Shuttle computer systems would be really good if somebody was brave enough to write it ! Rcbutcher (talk) 12:04, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

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 (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 (talk) 18:00, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

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