Why doesn't the space shuttle external fuel tank stay in orbit?

When the space shuttle reachs orbit and main engine shut down and after release of external fuel tank why doesn't the fuel tank stay in orbit?

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    When the space shuttle's main engines stop, it is not yet in a perfectly stable orbit. At that point, the orbit they are in will take them into the atmosphere within about 45 mins to an hour. About 30 minutes after jettisoning the tank, the shuttle reaches its apogee. Here it performs the OMS-2 burn of it's OMS engines, which raises it's perigee outside of the atmosphere into a stable orbit. The tank, however, having been jettisoned previously, is destined to re-enter typically over the indian ocean.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    You'll notice from the camera onboard the fuel tank that when it is jettisoned away, the tank is underneath the shuttle. The shuttle & tank are positioned just under the orbital alignment necessary to rendezvous with the ISS. When the fuel tank is released, the shuttle "floats" upwards very slightly into orbit and the tank simply falls away, because it is not held in alignment.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    NASA considers dumping them into the atmosphere to be safer than having another hundred and twenty-six pieces of space junk floating around up there. Plus, if a tank hit someithing and residual fuel in it exploded, there would be millions of dangerous bits everywhere to take out the shuttle, the station, and valuable satellites.

  • 4 years ago

    The shuttle wasn't actually in orbit yet - it kept its engines firing and so continued to climb out of Earth's atmosphere.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Because they let it let it go in the stratosphere, and some people have sky dived from there. So, they're simply not far enough to stay in orbit.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Because it will be reused for other space shuttle missions.

    And also because that would be a huge junk of space debris in space.

  • 1 decade ago

    because for it to stay in orbit it has to reach orbit...which doesn't happen.

    It is jettisoned before orbit.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    gravity causes objects to fall towards the surface of the earth

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