112 votes
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How does the Space Shuttle slow down during re-entry, descent, and landing?

If you're interested in a more visual, and less technical, explanation of Space Shuttle reentry and landing, I gave a talk titled How to Land the Space Shuttle... from Space at the Stack Overflow ...
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82 votes
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If Space Shuttle flies "like a brick", why does it need the wings?

The small wings make it fly like a brick. Without the wings it would fly like a stone. Seriously, you are taking the expression too literally. The Space Shuttle is landing like a glider plane with a (...
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62 votes
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From this cockpit picture I cannot identify this aircraft. Any ideas?

That is the cockpit of the Shuttle Training Aircraft, a modified Grumman Gulfstream II. Here is higher resolution picture: (Wikipedia) The STA is a "highly modified Gulfstream-2 aircraft," ...
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  • 45k
50 votes
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Why did the space shuttle use bias-ply tyres instead of radials?

Simply put, for the weight bearing factor bias-ply is a lighter tire, and when building a spaceship weight is the top concern. The reason they were thin and single use also had to do with weight, ...
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  • 96k
49 votes

How does the Space Shuttle slow down during re-entry, descent, and landing?

The procedure for the space shuttle for re-entering the earth's atmosphere is roughly as follows: The shuttle is usually flying upside- down, with the vertical tail facing the earth and nose in the ...
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  • 98.6k
45 votes
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What's the point of using T-38 to instill flight proficiency in Space Shuttle pilots?

What the T-38 airplane provides NASA is currency and proficiency in high performance aircraft operations in a jet which has many of the same characteristics as the shuttle in this respect ie high wing ...
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45 votes
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Was the Space Shuttle aerodynamically neutral while piggybacking, or did the combination act like a giant biplane?

This podcast with one of the pilots answers just about every question on the shuttle carrier you could have and it's worth a full listen. But to cover the flight dynamics, I would skip to 50:33 ...
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  • 96k
41 votes
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Could the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft do a transatlantic flight with a Space Shuttle orbiter on its back?

Short Answer A procedure had been established to return from a Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) using the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). The maximum weight that ...
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  • 67.7k
38 votes

If Space Shuttle flies "like a brick", why does it need the wings?

As everyone has pointed out, it's a joke. Others have answered the lifting-body question (it didn't meet design requirements), so I just wanted to expand some thoughts on the spirit of the "flying ...
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34 votes
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What is the stall AoA for the space shuttle?

As far as I can tell, NASA has never given a straight-forward answer to this question. The theoretical stall AoA is likely in the 33-40° range (see reason for that guess below). However, at ...
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28 votes

Could the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft do a transatlantic flight with a Space Shuttle orbiter on its back?

Yes, it was possible and NASA had a plan. Enterprise was taken on a European tour in 1983, visiting the UK, France, Germany and Italy. To get there, it crossed the Atlantic on the back of the Shuttle ...
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28 votes

Why would landing the space shuttle on water have been unsurvivable?

The shuttle lands at 220 mph and would break up. This is 40% faster than airliners with twice the energy to dissipate and the shuttle structure is a great deal lighter. The orbiters were designed to ...
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  • 16.6k
27 votes
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Was the Shuttle Orbiter in contact with air traffic control during its descent & landing?

Well, sort of. The Kennedy Space Center, where the shuttle operations were conducted, has an ATC. but then, the show was run by NASA, not FAA. The shuttle operations were coordinated through the ...
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  • 98.6k
23 votes
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Why would landing the space shuttle on water have been unsurvivable?

The wiki line provides no citation nor any elaboration but is largely correct. It was found that the orbiter actually had a favorable shape to ditch, The Langley report does state that the Orbiter ...
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  • 96k
21 votes

If Space Shuttle flies "like a brick", why does it need the wings?

In addition to its poor glide ratio the shuttles name also stems from the materials its made from as much as it does its poor glide performance. The Space Shuttle's heat shield was made out of LI-900 ...
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  • 96k
20 votes
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Was the Space Shuttle landing sequence executed manually or automatically?

Since that's really three questions, I'll address them separately. 1. Did the shuttle have or use autoland? The space shuttle did have autoland capability, in theory. When the shuttle was being ...
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20 votes
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Would deploying the Space Shuttle's landing gear early have improved safety?

Inflight Crew Escape System At an altitude of about 9,150 meters (30,000 feet), astronauts would pull a handle that turns on the depressurization valve in the crew compartment bulkhead. This ...
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  • 2,377
20 votes

Would deploying the Space Shuttle's landing gear early have improved safety?

What good options would it add? Remember that the Shuttle was a glider, and a spectacularly bad one at that. You say "committed to landing" as if there was any point from re-entry onwards ...
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  • 2,274
19 votes

What's the point of using T-38 to instill flight proficiency in Space Shuttle pilots?

I flew the T-38 in pilot training. (They ended Vietnam and tossed most of us out before we could finish since they no longer needed pilots. Which also means I am now officially old.) Reasons to use ...
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  • 191
18 votes
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What pilot certificates were needed to fly the Space Shuttle?

FAA considers space shuttle either a military aircraft or spacecraft and hence its rules don't apply on space shuttle. However, requirements to be a pilot for a space shuttle are: ... at least 1,...
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  • 29.1k
17 votes

What pilot certificates were needed to fly the Space Shuttle?

@Farhan covers the NASA requirements but legally, According to the FAA FAR's §460.5 Crew qualifications and training. .... (b) Each member of a flight crew must demonstrate an ability ...
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  • 96k
16 votes

What was the Space Shuttle's glide ratio?

As far as I know the space shuttle is no longer in use. However, the glide ratios (more than one in different configurations) can be found on the Wikipedia page: Space Shuttle Wikipedia page. There ...
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16 votes
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Was the runway upgrade at Mataveri Airport on Easter Island really related to the Lee Correy novel "Shuttle Down"?

As much as I enjoyed reading the novel after reading the Wikipedia article about Mataveri Airport I am somewhat disappointed by my answer. The novel was published in 1980 and the official agreement ...
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13 votes

How does the Space Shuttle slow down during re-entry, descent, and landing?

To initiate the landing process, the shuttle executes a deorbit burn When it is time to return to Earth, the orbiter is rotated tail-first into the direction of travel to prepare for another firing ...
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  • 15.1k
13 votes
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Was the unmanned flight and landing of the Buran spacecraft in 1988 exceptional?

Your question is very subjective, but I think there are two ways to look at it: Building a working space plane is pretty exceptional. or There's really nothing it did that wasn't done by something ...
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12 votes
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What was the Space Shuttle's glide ratio?

The NASA website quotes an approximate ratio of 1 The shuttle was designed with a low L/D ratio (~ 1) because during the descent the spacecraft must be slowed from about 17,300 mph to about 250 mph ...
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12 votes

Could the Space Shuttle take off like an airplane?

Despite the scene in Moonraker the Shuttle orbiter carried no fuel for the main engines. Further, the orbiter sat nose down on its landing gear, lacked the elevator authority to raise the nose off ...
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  • 14.4k
11 votes

If Space Shuttle flies "like a brick", why does it need the wings?

"Flies like a brick" is merely a figure of speech. It comes from personal feelings of the pilot when comparing it to an actual plane. It's just like the saying that someone is "dumb as a rock". ...
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