Space Shuttle Projects
This photograph shows a liquid oxygen tank for the Shuttle External Tank (ET) during a hydroelastic modal survey test at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The ET provides liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to the Shuttle's three main engines during the first 8.5 minutes of flight. At 154-feet long and more than 27-feet in diameter, the ET is the largest component of the Space Shuttle, the structural backbone of the entire Shuttle system, and is the only part of the vehicle that is not reusable. The ET is manufactured at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, by the Martin Marietta Corporation under management of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
The Space Shuttle program was the United States government's manned launch vehicle program from 1981 to 2011, administered by NASA and officially beginning in 1972. The Space Shuttle system—composed of an orbiter launched with two reusable solid rocket boosters and a disposable external fuel tank— carried up to eight astronauts and up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). When its mission was complete, the orbiter would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and lands as a glider. Although the concept had been explored since the late 1960s, the program formally commenced in 1972 and was the focus of NASA's manned operations after the final Apollo and Skylab flights in the mid-1970s. It started with the launch of the first shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, on STS-1. and finished with its last mission, STS-135 flown by Atlantis, in July 2011.