Space Transportation System, Space Shuttle Main Engine, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 2101 NASA Parkway, Houston, Harris County, TX
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Significance: The Space Shuttle used three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) mounted to the orbiter. The SSME was designed and developed under a contract with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama. The contract was awarded in 1971 to the Rocketdyne Division of North American Rockwell Corp., Canoga Park, California. In late 2005, Pratt & Whitney purchased Rocketdyne from the Boeing Company. Rocketdyne was combined with the rocket engine contingent of Pratt & Whitney, West Palm Beach, Florida to form a division named Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
The SSME was a large reusable liquid rocket engine which used liquid hydrogen as fuel and liquid oxygen as oxidizer. Both propellants were stored in the External Tank. The SSME operated using the staged-combustion cycle, meaning propellants were initially burned in preburners in order to power the high-pressure turbopumps and were then burned again at a higher mixture ratio in the main combustion chamber. This cycle yielded a specific impulse substantially higher than previous rocket engines thus minimizing volume and weight for the integrated vehicle. Along with high efficiency and low weight came system complexity, high turbopump speeds, high chamber pressures, and a high thrust-to-weight ratio of sixty-six at full power level. ...
Survey number: HAER TX-116-I
NASA Photo Collection
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.