NASA’s Space Shuttle, officially called Space Transportation System (STS), is the United States government’s manned launch vehicle. The winged Shuttle Orbiter is launched vertically, usually carrying five to seven astronauts (although eight have been carried) and up to 50,000 lb (22 700 kg) of payload into low earth orbit.
When its mission is complete, the Shuttle can independently move itself out of orbit (by means of its maneuvering thrusters) and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. During descent and landing, the Shuttle Orbiter acts as a glider and makes a completely unpowered landing.
Its missions involve carrying large payloads to various orbits (including segments to be added to the International Space Station), providing crew rotation for the International Space Station, and performing service missions.
- Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida at 11:38 EST (16:38 UTC). Disintegration of the entire vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff.
- Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred on February 1, 2003, when shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in the death of all seven crew members.