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NASA

Proposed Space Shuttle Improvements
News story originally written on June 23, 1997

NASA is thinking of making a major change to the space shuttle...What is this change?

First-stage boosters that fly back to the launch site unpiloted

Lockheed Martin and Boeing Company will study the possible upgrade. These companies will be responsible for analysis and evaluation of the booster and its engine. This includes building a model of the new booster and wind-tunnel testing that model.

Current solid rocket boosters (SRB's) are attached to the sides of the external tank. The SRB's combined give 5.2 millions pounds of thrust. The SRB's burn out about two minutes after liftoff and are cast off into the ocean. There they are recovered and reconditioned to use on later flights.

The new boosters after separating from the Shuttle would glide for nine minutes. Jet engines would then start and the SRB's would return to Kennedy Space Center, FL unpiloted. The boosters would not look much different than current SRB's, but it is hoped that they would lead to improved safety and performance while reducing costs.

Other principle shuttle components would remain unchanged if the new SRB's were added.

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