Space Shuttle launch

Space Shuttle launch

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Credit: DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Space Shuttle launch, computer enhanced image. This is mission STS-99, flown by the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It launched on 11 February 2000. Space Shuttles, flown by NASA since 1981, are reusable spacecraft launched with an external fuel tank (orange) and two booster rockets (white) on either side of the external tank. Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel from the external tank is used to run the Shuttle's main internal engines (blue exhaust gases). Most of the thrust is from the two booster rockets that use an explosive solid fuel mixture. The external tank is discarded, but the booster rockets parachute back to Earth and are reused. An ascent takes about 9 minutes. The Shuttle uses its wings to glide back to Earth after it has re-entered the atmosphere.

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