Space Shuttle Atlantis in orbit
|Author(s)||Thorsten Renk, Richard Harrison|
The NASA Space Shuttle was the world's first operational space plane capable of reaching orbit. It was operated from 1981 to 2011 on a total of 135 missions during which two orbiters, Challenger and Columbia, were lost in accidents.
The Shuttle launch system components include the Orbiter Vehicle (OV), a pair of solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and the external tank (ET) containing the liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel for the engines of the orbiter. Out of these, only the external tank is expendable, the SRBs splash into the sea shortly after launch and are recovered, and the orbiter itself returns to a landing site where it lands like an airplane.
The mixture of a rocket-like launch, a spacecraft-like near ballistic early atmospheric phase and an airplane like approach and landing makes the Space Shuttle a truly unique flying experience.