What happens to the external fuel tank on the space shuttle after it is jettisoned?
Does it burn up on re-entry?
Does it just float away in space?
- Question MarkLv 41 decade agoBest Answer
The external fuel tank never quite makes it to orbit. It is released from the orbiter at about T plus 8 minutes (or so) by the firing of explosive bolts. Unlike the solid rocket boosters (which are released at a much lower altitude), it then largely disintegrates and burns up in the atmosphere, with fragments falling into a remote area of the Indian Ocean.
There are proposals and (naturally) pros and cons for making this tank reusable. Quoting from wikipedia, "During early shuttle development there was great debate about the optimal shuttle design that best balanced capability, development cost and operating cost. Ultimately the current design was chosen, using a reusable winged orbiter, solid rocket boosters, and expendable external tank."Source(s): http://science.howstuffworks.com/space-shuttle1.ht... http://www.answers.com/topic/space-shuttle-program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle_Derived_Launc... http://www.permanent.com/ext-tank.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_shuttle http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/technology/sts...
- ShirleyLv 44 years ago
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jakep_gonavy has it right (even if his spelling is bad). When the shuttle takes off, the first things to be jettisoned are the solid fuel boosters. These deploy parachutes and fall safely into the ocean, where they are recovered and can be re-used. Then the external tank is jettisoned. The external tank has no recovery system, and so it falls back to Earth and burns up in the atmosphere. This leaves the orbiter, which eventually returns to Earth, landing at an airfield.
- campbelp2002Lv 71 decade ago
It burns up on reentry. Some people have said that just burning the main engines a few seconds longer would put it in orbit, and that it could then be used as the shell of a space station, but the technology to open it up and clean out the unused fuel and then install the equipment to make it habitable does not exist and was deemed impractical by NASA, so they just drop it a couple seconds before the Shuttle reaches orbit and let it reenter. The Shuttle uses the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS, the two little rockets in the upper corners above the main engines, which burn fuel from small on-board tanks, not from the external tank) to make the last little push into orbit.
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- 1 decade ago
A lot of good answers here, some close...
The external fuel tank is jettisoned and it falls back into the atmosphere and burns on rentry. The SRB's are let go early enough and they fall into the ocean to be picked up and reused. Some of the close points: Everything in orbit around earth is in free fall back to earth, just with its orbital velocity, it stays up there. The external tank is let go before it reaches orbit so that its fall is not a danger to anyone below or above.
- JoanLv 44 years ago
The Fuel Tank, which is the big orange tank burns up in the atmosphere after being jettison from the Orbitor. The two rocket bosters the side of the Fuel Tank do parchute and land back in the ocean were they are recovered and reused.
- 1 decade ago
the space shuttles uses multi stage rocket to propel the craft to its orbital trajectory, the 2 booster tanks will simply land in the ocean after each launched they will be parachuted, and re covered for future use, they will not burn at reenry because they have not reached the outer space, and likewise they will not float in outer space, only the shutle will reach the outer space, henceforth will experience burning during reentry period.
the external tank will be jettisoned after 8.5 minutes of launch, and after separation it will break up during reenry.
- timelord1962Lv 71 decade ago
Actually,the external fuel tank burns up on re-entry.It's the solid rocket boosters that are recovered to be used again.
- quntmphys238Lv 61 decade ago
It stays on long enough so that when it separates, it will burn up upon re-entry. It point of release is based upon the mission's launch trajectory so that debris that is not completely vaporized will fall into the ocean.
The two SRBs are retrieved by a NASA retrieval team escorted by either US Navy or US Coast Guard ships.