View Full Version : shuttle originally designed to use something other than solid rocket boosters?
02-07-2003, 01:57 PM
Just listening to NPR Science Friday, and a couple callers commented that NASA did not want to use solid rocket boosters with the Shuttle when it was designed in the 70's, but that the governement asked them to build a cheaper solution than the one they originally proposed, and *viola* our reliance on solid rocket boosters.
My question is - what did NASA orignally propose?
02-07-2003, 02:20 PM
One of the best online histories of the space shuttle design process I've found is here: http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4221/sp4221.htm. "The Space Shuttle Decision. NASA's Search for a Reusable Space Vehicle." This is from the NASA History Office.
02-07-2003, 05:04 PM
I don't know the exact history, but I'm sure NASA would have preferred to use liquid-fuel rockets only. The reason for this is that they can be throttled back or shut down completely, as opposed to the SRBs, which, once lit, will burn at full power until there's nothing left. However, SRBs are tremendously cheaper and simpler to build.
02-07-2003, 06:06 PM
From Diane Vaughan's The Challenger Launch Decision (Chicago, 1996, p21):
Both Liquid and Solid Rocket Boosters could be recovered and reused, but Liquid Rocket Boosters had high development costs and lower operating costs. When announcing the decision, then NASA Administrator James F. Fletcher stated candidly that the SRB choice turned on a "trade-off between future benefits and earlier savings in the immediate years ahead: liquid boosters have lower potential operating costs, while solid boosters have lower development costs." But production and schedule concerns also played a role in the design decision. Liquid Rocket Boosters dropped by parachute into the sea after launch required more refurbishment before reuse than did SRBs jettisoned in the same manner. SRBs could be ready to fly again in two weeks, fitting with the rapid turnaround time necessary to maintain the launch schedule Mathematica predicted.
Vaughan tends to take this Mathematica projection as the core of all STS planning. (I've omitted her various references.)
She has a relatively detailed discussion of the design decisions once NASA commited to SRBs. And, of course, she describes the evolution of the final design in detail.
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