How does the space shuttle maneuver?

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Offline Tay Sharpe

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How does the space shuttle maneuver?
« on: 01/03/2011 10:30:03 »
Taylor Sharpe  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hello Naked Scientists!

My name is Taylor and I'm from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.

I newbielink: [nonactive] and newbielink: [nonactive].

Since Discovery has just completed it's last launch, I've come up with a couple questions that I was hoping you guys could answer.

1. Why is it that the Shuttle's 3 main engines look like the very clean, directional flame from a jet lighter but the explosions coming out of the solid rocket boosters look like a huge mix of orange and yellow flame just bursting out? 

2. How does the space shuttle maneuver at each point in it's flight? (liftoff, primary ascent, in orbit, re-entry)?? Does it use conventional avionics? thrusters positioned on the craft? engine throttling?

Thanks so much! I hope to hear the answers on the air!!

Keep up the newbielink: [nonactive] guys, and for pete's sake, Chris.... get some sleep! you work too hard! hahaha.

Taylor Sharpe

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 01/03/2011 10:30:03 by _system »


Offline graham.d

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How does the space shuttle maneuver?
« Reply #1 on: 01/03/2011 13:09:09 »
The space shuttle engines burn liquid hydrogen (with liquid oxygen) so the flames are very clean. The solid fuel boosters are (obviously) solid fuel and don't burn with the clear blue flame of hydrogen.

As far as steering, like any modern rocket the rear jet thrusters have directional control which can alter the thrust direction and push the mass ahead in the direction required. The control of such systems are now well developed; they rely on sets of gyroscopes to act as a reference. For more delicate manoeuvres, and also when in orbit, there are numerous small thrusters (at least 40 I think) situated all over the shuttle and a very sophisticated control system to simplify their usage by the pilot. On re-entry the shuttle is a glider and relies on normal aeroplane control surfaces to eventually manoeuvre the craft onto a runway.