Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fun Space Shuttle Facts

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-128) launched on Friday, August 28, 2009 at 11:59pm after several delays starting Monday of that week. Here's some video from a distance (just light in the sky) -- but still amazing to see and a great memory...

Some Fun Space Shuttle facts:
  • On the launchpad, the shuttle is the same height as the Statue of Liberty but weighs 3 times as much (4.5 million pounds).
  • The shuttle burns more than 10 tons of fuel per second during takeoff. That's more than 1,000,000 pounds of fuel a minute!
  • At liftoff, the temperature inside the shuttle's engines are two-thirds the temperature of the sun's surface (Sun's surface temp is 9800 degrees F; sun's center is much hotter, at 25 million degrees F).
  • 0 to 60 mph in about 5 seconds. Sports cars can match the shuttle, but the shuttle is fighting gravity (UP) and has 4.5 million pounds to move!
  • If the space shuttle didn't roll backwards soon after launch, it would lose communications (blocked by fuel tanks), astronauts wouldn't have a clean line of sight if navigations went out, and fuel efficiency wouldn't be as great.
  • At 10 seconds (T+10 seconds) - the shuttle is traveling 900 mph. The speed of sound at sea level is 742 mph. At an altitude of 20,000 feet, the speed of sound is 660 mph (Mach 1).
  • 30 seconds - 1,200 mph; main throttle is turned down (to get through denser part of atmosphere more smoothly and with less stress on the shuttle).
  • 48 seconds - 1,400 mph; main throttle up as shuttle gets to thinner atmosphere. Fighter jets fly at this speed (Mach 2 or faster).
  • 1 minute - 2,000 mph
  • 2 minutes - 3,600 mph
  • It takes the shuttle 2.5 minutes to leave earth's "generally recognized" atmosphere of about 62 miles (100 km). (The atmosphere gradually thins, so there's no hard line that separates the earth from space.)
  • 5 minutes - 8,000 mph
  • 8 minutes - 17,500 mph, it's orbiting speed. That's 10 times the speed of most fighter jets.
  • To put this speed in perspective: a commercial airliner takes 6 hours to fly from NYC to LA. A fighter jet can travel the 2,500 miles in less than 2 hours at top speed. The shuttle would do this in less than ten minutes.
  • The shuttle orbits the earth in about 1.5 hours.
  • The shuttle must cool down and "rest" for 40 hours before they can open the bay doors and go outside.
If you are lucky enough to be in Central Florida for a rocket or shuttle launch, visit the Kennedy Space Center for an up-close view. You can also get good views from Titusville (Space View Park) or Cocoa Beach. Due to the delays, we just watched from Orlando (40 miles away) instead of Titusville (13 miles away).

Video from Titusville: