Q:

How fast does the space shuttle go?

A:

Quick Answer

According to NASA, the space shuttle had to be going 17,500 miles per hour to maintain orbit around the Earth. As a comparison, the equator is 24,901.55 miles long.

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Full Answer

The speed of the space shuttle varied according to how far it is from the Earth. To reach those high speeds, the space shuttle used a mixture of very cold oxygen with hydrogen as fuel. The ship also uses hydrazine, monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. The fuels burn so hot that the shuttle had a necessary heat protection system, which was made mostly of sand formed into tiles. Because the shuttle was able to go so fast, astronauts got to see more than their share of sunrises and sunsets as one or the other happens every 45 minutes.

NASA actually built six space shuttles to orbit the Earth. The six space shuttles were Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. Enterprise never flew in space, although all the others did. Both Columbia and Challenger were destroyed in accidents, killing the crews aboard, Challenger on takeoff and Columbia on reentry. However, Atlantis was flown for the last time in July of 2011 as the program was retired after almost four decades. At the time the program was ended, only Atlantis, Endeavor, and Discovery were still being used by NASA. It was an expensive program. Each takeoff cost NASA almost half a billion dollars.

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