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Latest book reviews: NASA space shuttle: owners workshop manual.

Now that the Shuttle Atlantis has made its final flight, it will, along with Discovery and Endeavour be going to museums across the USA. Those museums will need a manual to keep them in proper 'working' order, and this is it. With impeccable timing, Haynes have done their usual thorough job of showing where everything is and how it works with "an insight into the design, construction and operation of the NASA Space Shuttle".

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The Shuttle project began as the way of putting into orbit the various components of the International Space Station, ISS. With an initial aim of having the ISS in operation in 1992 in time for the 500th anniversary of Columbus reaching the Americas, a succession of technical and political challenges caused both programmes to slip significantly.

The book briefly reviews the early ambitious proposals for a fleet of completely re-usable booster and orbital vehicles carrying both civilian and military payloads. The initial costs of developing two new complex vehicles were high, but the cost per launch would have been much lower. Three boosters and up to a dozen orbiters were planned. The boosters could also have been used for other projects. Washington wouldn't sanction the high initial costs and so a cheaper version, with the main engines moved to the orbiter, an external fuel tank, and two solid fuel boosters, was developed. This cut the initial costs but raised the cost per launch. (Ironically, one of the main reasons given for retiring the current fleet is the high cost per launch!)

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The development of the main parts, the Orbiter (including its engines developed from the Saturn experience), the External Tank, and the Solid Fuel Boosters is covered in some detail. An early build of an Orbiter was christened 'Enterprise' after lobbying from Star Trek fans. Although design changes made it uneconomic to modify it to full flight condition, it played a vital role in checks and tests. The first flight to orbit, five years late, came on 12 April 1981, when 'Colombia' finally left the ground; 20 years to the day after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

For launch, the Shuttle used many of the facilities at Cape Kennedy developed for the Apollo programme. These included the huge Vertical Assembly Building, VAB, and the Launch Control Center, although advances in computer support systems reduced the launch staff needed from 400 to 100. They also used the giant Crawler Transporter, CT, to take the Shuttle Assembly the three miles from the VAB to the launch pad. With the Shuttle on board the CT weighs 7400 tons, has a top speed of 2 mph (1 when cornering) and a fuel consumption of 126 gallons per mile. It's the largest tracked vehicle in the world. It takes the Shuttle to the pad for transfer to other supports for countdown and launch.

The book follows the vehicle through launch into orbit, then the complexities of re-entry and landing as a giant glider. Each mission carried a basic crew of: a commander, pilot and two mission specialists, but most flights had additional specialists or replacement ISS crew. Some of the significant missions are briefly covered along with the challenges of living and working in a weightless environment.

The modifications after the tragic events of the Challenger and Columbia disasters are described along with the subsequent changes to launch and flight procedures. As with previous Haynes publications covering significant historic vehicles, the book has many of the photographs, diagrams, and facts you wish you had kept at the time.

RELATED ARTICLE

* Title

NASA Space Shuttle-1981 onwards (all models), Owners' Workshop Manual

* Authors

David Baker

* Publisher Haynes

* Publication date 2011

* Reviewer

Colin Ledsome MEngCEngFIMechE FIEDMCMIFBISMDS

* ISBN 13:978 1844258666
COPYRIGHT 2011 Institution of Engineering Designers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Ledsome, Colin
Publication:Engineering Designer
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2011
Words:623
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