Frequent questions had been asked of our anonymity in the universe. Questions such as, what lay beyond the Earth? What surrounds our solar system? What lies between our Galaxy and the next? To propose a valid answer, I would call it a void, near-vacuum, limitless darkness, Space. This region of the vast unending void is home to multiple planets, asteroids, solar systems, galaxies, black holes and so many other astronomical constructs and effects.
Since the era of man’s domination of planet Earth as Apex predator, there presents no doubt that he would jet beyond this world and reach space in search of knowledge and a better understanding of planetary objects and phenomenons that lay beyond the grasp of his current knowledge. Now, this is where the space shuttles (space buses as I call it)and rockets come in. These piece of technologies provided man with means of space travel, and even enacting structures in space. Our goal will be to elaborate briefly on the shuttle and give you a bit of insight into how the rocket operates.
What is a space shuttle?
Think of the space shuttle as a reusable space contraption capable of conveying payloads (loads carried by spacecraft) out of Earth’s atmosphere to orbit and back to Earth. Unlike
earlier unmanned satellites and extremely limited cargo rockets, the space shuttle was the first space vehicle capable of carrying multiple humans and huge cargoes into space. This enormous flying bus could lift weights in excess of a thousand kilograms. In terms of weight, the space shuttle weighed over a thousand tonnes, with lots of in-built space. It was larger than the blue whale in both length and girth. This means the space shuttle easily hit over150 feet long with girth equivalent to that of a Boeing 747.
The insides of this space bus were like a home of its own and had chambers for the astronauts present. Labs, where research and experiments could be conducted in space, were not left out either, and a cargo area for conveying cargoes for space use out of Earth’s atmosphere was included. One of the most notable contributions of the space shuttle was the conveying of the parts that built the international space station. Each launch of a shuttle was called a mission and according to Wikipedia, the space shuttle had a total of 133 successful missions and 2 unsuccessful ones. The shuttle reigned for 30 years. From April 12, 1981-July 21, 2011.
If you take a close look at a space shuttle, it looks like a jumbo jet resting lazily on an orange hot air balloon, with two rockets to each side, and the whole contraption standing vertically. If you see this, then we mean the same thing. If you don’t, I guess a new design of the shuttle must have been manufactured in an alternate reality. Now, let’s get to business.
All the compacts of the space shuttle play important roles, and they were not put there for the
fun of it. The jumbo jet look alike is called an ‘orbiter’ and it’s what you call the body of a space shuttle. It is equally the part that does the honors of rotating around the Earth and coming back to us. The orbiter provides room for astronauts to live in space, and perform experiments in space too. It equally conveys loads, satellites, and construction parts needed for our research and advancement.
Now, a contraption as heavy as an Orbiter would require a powerful force to take it off the ground, it wasn’t positioned to be really aerodynamic, so lift won’t be possible like the normal
airplane. It would require a huge force to launch it off the ground, and this is where the double rocket engines play their parts. These rocket engines provide an enormous force capable of taking that cumbersome weight off the ground and sending it soaring through the air. It is ejected before the rest of the space shuttle leaves the Earth’s atmosphere and is picked up from the ocean where it crashed into, for reuse.
we may be wondering what a hot air balloon is doing in space travels right? But this is in fact not a balloon. It is a metallic tank, housing combustion fuel required to continue flight of a space shuttle out of Earth’s atmosphere. Because a huge amount of fuel is needed to send a shuttle into orbit, an internal fuel tank won’t be sufficient. Therefore, a disposable external tank was made and supplies the enormous fuel required for continued entry into orbit, after the
rocket engines were dropped off. This tank is useless once empty and having performed its task, it is dropped off equally and burns up on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. It is completely useless then, maybe it melts due to intense heat from re-entry.
If you are reading this, I would presume you are a science enthusiast and must have come across Newton’s third law. For those who might not know, this law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is basically the physics behind rocket
engine propulsion. A rocket engine is one in which gas is combusted and released through a nozzle at high temperature and pressure, causing propulsion in the opposite direction of the released gas. To be more elaborate, a propellant and an oxidizer is mixed together and burnt in a combustion chamber. The intense heat and reaction caused by the burning of the propellant accumulates and leads to high pressure in the chamber.
A little outlet called a ‘throat’ is present beneath the chamber and opens up to release the hot gas at a really high temperature and pressure. This now propels a movement with a force equal to that of the hot gas, in a direction opposite to that of the gas. Rocket engines have used this principle in various degrees to achieve various feats in terms of flight and speed. The nozzle of the rocket engines can be adjusted to generate movement below, equal, or more than that of sound, we haven’t manufactured anything super-luminous yet. Rocket engines have been useful in putting a man in space, helping satellites navigate in orbit, and some airplanes have been imbibed with rocket engines to help them achieve supersonic flight. This technology has been a useful addition to man’s inventory.