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Space Shuttle launch and landing

This amazing footage shows the launch of the last space shuttle, the Atlantis, the last space shuttle to fly and marks the completion of the Space Shuttle program. The shuttle was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 8 2011.  The space shuttle is now retired. Different vehicles are now used to access space, including the Russian capsule Soyuz and the Orion. More vehicles are being considered and being tested.

The footage of this space shuttle  is very cool and shows some key phases during a mission, the launch, docking, approach and landing. As an extra bonus, it’s set to some pretty cool music. Make sure you have the music up for this video.

Have you ever wondered how the space shuttle comes back to earth? After approaching through atmosphere, the shuttle was flown very much like an airplane, with some pretty major differences in scale. The shuttle, with a heavy, rectangular body, huge nose cone and shorty, stubby wings is not very aerodynamic and essentially drops like a brick on approach. It takes roughly 3 and a half minutes to descent from 37,000 feet at a descent rate of 10,000 feet per minute. 

A flying brick

A typical descent path for an airliner is 3 degrees, but the shuttle is so heavy and produces so much drag, they use a 20 degree glide slope flown at 345 miles per hour with a descent rate of 10,000 feet per minute. To give you the immense difference of scale, a typical airliner will use a descent rate of 750 feet per minute flown at about 165 miles per hour. 

The shuttle touches down at around 200 knots (225 miles per hour), faster than the flown speed on descent of an airliner. 

In fact, NASA astronauts train in a modified Gulfstream II jet which simulates how unaerodynamic the space shuttle actually is. It flies with it’s landing gear down and engines in reverse. 

The landing gear doesn’t even go down until 300 feet before touchdown! The pilots only have one shot at landing; there is no fuel or power for a go around. The landing is simply a forced approach.

How exactly does the shuttle approach earth?

Interested in more information about the approach and landing? This video explains it really well, and is very entertaining. I’ve enjoyed watching this one a few times. Enjoy!

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About Alicja

Learning to fly at CYBW, no 6 for aircraft movements in Canada. I live in the Rockies, economist, writer, skier, climber, obsessed with mountains & aviation!