Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Space Shuttle fuel
Name: Bob W Whitbeck
Status: Other
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A 

What kind of fuel do space shuttles use?

It depends on what you mean by "space shuttle" -- the official name is Space Transportation System (ever wonder what the "STS" stands for in the mission names?). For launch the STS uses 2 systems: the main engines in the orbiter that burn hydrogen and oxygen from the external tank (the great big orange cylinder that the orbiter is attached to for launch); and the SRBs (Solid Rocket Boosters) that burn a solid rocket propellant that is a mixture of powdered aluminum and ammonium perchlorate. These are used only for launch. The orbiter (what most people think of as "the Space Shuttle") has two propulsion systems: OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) used to change orbit and to return to earth, and the RCS (Reaction Control System) used for station- keeping and attitude control. Both systems burn hydrazine with oxygen.

Jade Hawk

Click here to return to the Environmental Science

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory