Sunday, July 17, 2005

Space Shuttle: Main Engines

Just a small reminder from Top Men at Wohba of how complex the Space Shuttle is. The three Main Engines on the Shuttle combine hydrogen and oxygen (that's what's in that big orange tank) to generate about 400,000 pounds of thrust each. The temperatures can reach as high as 6,000 degrees F. (For comparison the surface of the Sun is 10,000 degrees F.)

So quick, name something you could build the nozzle of the engine with that wouldn't melt.

Nickel? 2647 F
Titanium? 3020 F
Platinum? 3222 F
Tungstun? 6170 F
Carbon? 6332 F

So carbon or tungstun are probably too close for comfort. Instead the nozzle is lined with more than a thousand 1/4 inch stainless steel tubes. Hydrogen (the second coldest element on Earth) is pumped through the tubes to cool things during launch.

Here's a video of the three main engines lighting up.



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