Space Shuttle fuel
Name: Bob W Whitbeck
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.
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Update: June 2012