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Space Shuttle: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost of a Space Shuttle?

Space Shuttle Endeavour, the replacement orbiter for Space Shuttle Challenger , cost approximately $2.1 billion.

What are the names of the Space Shuttle orbiters?

The names, in the order they were built, are Enterprise, Columbia , Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. The Enterprise was flown only in approach and landing tests, and was never intended for space flight. Columbia completed the first five Space Shuttle missions. Challenger was originally built as a vibration test vehicle, then later upgraded to become the second operational orbiter. The Challenger and her crew were lost in an accident on January 28, 1986. ...
Their names, in the order they were built, are Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The Enterprise was flown only within Earth's atmosphere, during Shuttle approach and landing tests conducted in 1977. Columbia flew the first five Shuttle missions, beginning in April 1981, and was modified to fly extended duration missions as long as 16 days. Challenger was built as a vibration test vehicle and then upgraded to become the second operational Shuttle. ...
Their names, in the order they were built, are Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The Enterprise was flown only within Earth's atmosphere, during Shuttle approach and landing tests conducted in 1977. Columbia flew the first five Shuttle missions, beginning in April 1981, and was modified to fly extended-duration missions as long as 16 days. Columbia and its seven-member crew were lost during reentry on Feb. 1, 2003. ...

How fast does the Space Shuttle travel?

To get into orbit, the space shuttle has to be traveling about 18,000 mph. That’s 5 miles per second, or 8 kilometers per second.

What are the tiles on the space shuttle composed of?

ANSWER from Mike Eggers on April 14, 1997: The ceramic tiles are made of 99%+ compressed amorphous silica fiber (sand melted into glass fibers). They are coated with RCG or Reaction Cured Glass. This is a glass coating with boron silicide added for thermal properties (to help the tiles take the heat from re-entry). ...

Who was the oldest astronaut to fly on the Space Shuttle?

John Glenn was 77 when he flew on STS-95 in October/November 1998. Until then, the record was held by Story Musgrave who was 61 when he flew on STS-80 in November 1996.

Can the Space Shuttle fly to the Moon?

No, the Shuttle is designed to travel to low-Earth orbit (within a few hundred miles of the Earth's surface). It does not carry enough propellant to leave Earth orbit and travel to the Moon. The Shuttle also is not designed to land on the Moon since it lands like an airplane and the Moon has no atmosphere. The Shuttle could be used to carry pieces of Moon or Mars vehicles to low-Earth orbit, where they could be assembled prior to beginning their mission.

Where are the Space Station and Shuttle?

NASA has a single place for Station and Shuttle tracking, and that is the Human Space Flight Web site .

Where do I find Keplerian elements for the Space Shuttle?

These elements change too often for AMSAT's regular weekly bulletins to keep up with. Possible sources are listed on the AMSAT Keplerian Elements page .

Does the U.S. Space Shuttle have to dodge orbital debris?

Whenever a Space Shuttle is in orbit, the U.S. Space Surveillance Network regularly examines the trajectories of orbital debris to identify possible close encounters. If another object is projected to come within a few kilometers of the Space Shuttle, the Space Shuttle will normally maneuver away from the object if the chance of a collision exceeds 1 in 10,000. This occurs infrequently, about once every year or two.

What was the name of the most recent Space Shuttle that was lost?

The name of the Space Shuttle was Columbia. You can find more information on the crew, the orbiter and the accident at

How many orbits a day did the space shuttle make?

The space shuttle orbited Earth 16 times each day. During the 11-day mission, Space Shuttle Endeavour, carrying the SRTM payload, completed 176 orbits of Earth, flying tail forward at 7.5 km/sec (17,000 mph).

Where in the sky can I see the Space Shuttle?

When the Shuttle is in orbit it often passes overhead and is visible as a bright star just before Sunrise or just after Sunset. The specific times and locations vary. To learn where you can see the Shuttle in your town you can check the NASA web site via the internet, or also places like .

Why and how will PANSAT be launched from the Space Shuttle?

PANSAT will be launched from the Space Shuttle as a secondary payload through the NASA Hitchhiker Program. The Hitchhiker program was established to allow for low-cost and quick-reaction accommodation of secondary payloads on the Space Shuttle. The Hitchhiker carriers can carry payloads side mounted in the Shuttle payload bay or mounted on a cross-bay "bridge" structure. PANSAT will be mounted within a canister , attached to a small spring loaded ejection mechanism. ...

What does a space shuttle launch feel like?

It is a very exciting, noisy, shaky ride for the first two minutes. Then the solid rocket boosters drop off and it gets a lot smoother, but there still is a strong push on the back of the astronauts' seats from all the power in the three main engines. Those three main engines burn fuel at an incredible rate -- approximately 3,785 liters (1,000 gallons) every second. The shuttle goes from standing still on the launch pad to more than 27,359 kilometers per hour (17,000 mph) in just over eight minutes. ...

Why doesn’t GoSatWatch show the space shuttle?

The space shuttle data set generally only becomes available a few days prior to launch. Once available you will be able to make pass predictions. GoSatWatch will only start displaying the shuttle when the orbital data becomes valid typically an hour or so after launch.

Where are the SR-71 and Space Shuttle Enterprise ?

The Space Shuttle Enterprise and SR-71 Blackbird are on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center . Back to Frequently Asked Questions

Is the refuge open during Space Shuttle Launches?

Most of the refuge is closed 24 hours prior to a Shuttle Launch with the exception to the area north of Haulover Canal which remains open. All areas except for Canaveral National Seashore normally open within minutes after a shuttle launch. The seashore opens the day after the launch. The refuge remains open for Shuttle Landings but visitors may experience temporary road closures. The refuge does not close for launches at the “Cape” (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station). See our “Next Launch” box for current launch schedules. ...

How can I see a test firing of a space shuttle main engine?

The public may view test firings of a space shuttle main engine when they occur during the visitor center's hours of operation and at scheduled public test fire viewings that will be announced through local media and on the Stennis Web site. To find out if a test is scheduled to occur on a day when you would like to visit, call the visitors center at 1-800-237-1821 in Mississippi and Louisiana, or (228) 688-2370.

How can my school talk to a space shuttle crew over ham radio?

Teachers should send e-mail to the Amateur Radio Relay League at

What is the Space Shuttle's speed, altitude and amount of fuel used?

The speed of a Space Shuttle in low Earth orbit is about 17,500 miles an hour. An orbiter can fly at various altitudes, from below 190 to about 350 miles above sea level, depending on the mission requirements. Spacecraft or other payloads that must operate at higher altitudes have rocket motors attached. These are fired after the spacecraft is a safe distance away from the orbiter. ...

Can the Space Shuttle be used to dispose of hazardous wastes?

The Space Shuttle is designed for scientific missions in the fields of space research, exploration and technical and scientific applications.

Did you take showers on the Space Shuttle?

There is no shower on the Space Shuttle. "Bathing" is like a sponge bath. Just squirt warm water into a bag of body bath and wipe yourself clean and dry off. We also use a "rinseless"shampoo. Just lather it into your hair, moisten, rinse, and wipe off. It actually works much better than it sounds.

Could the Space Shuttle be used to repair or retrieve CGRO?

This option has not been thoroughly explored. There are some astronaut safety issues, but these could probably be managed. The CGRO spacecraft, but not the science instruments, was designed for astronaut servicing.

What is the average velocity for a space shuttle to travel in space according to past launches?

The average velocity for a space shuttle is around 18,000 miles per hour at an altitude of 200 miles above the earth, which would orbit the earth every hour and a half. The same is true of the shuttle.

Does the space shuttle navigate on GPS or does it navigate by the stars?

ANSWER from David Melendez on April 9, 1997: Actually there are two parts to this issue: "State Vector" and "Attitude" (or trajectory and orientation). The state vector contains information on where the Orbiter is and how fast it is moving at a given instant in time. This navigation information is supplied by the onboard Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs). The IMUs also provide Orbiter attitude information (i.e., nose forward payload bay to earth, tail forward payload bay to space etc.). ...

Where in the sky can I see the Internation Space Station or the Space Shuttle?

The naked-eye visibility charts for the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle during a mission can be found through the Space Flight home page at . NASA's Liftoff! home page also has an automated prediction e-mail service which will e-mail you about the times when you can see the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle or any of 500 satellites at .

What happens to used spacecraft? Where is the Enterprise, the first Space Shuttle?

In early human space flight programs such as Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, the spacecraft underwent detailed post-mission analysis that often yielded important new information on the rigors of traveling in space. Most of these vehicles are displayed for the public at NASA Centers and science museums across the country. For example, the Apollo 11 command module is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. ...

How much does the Space Shuttle cost?

The Space Shuttle Endeavour, the orbiter built to replace the Space Shuttle Challenger, cost approximately $1.7 billion.
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