From the ground up

imagesCAB6OK7FWe know, of course, about the large number of satellites overhead, including the International Space Station. Their presence has become almost a matter of second nature.

But how exactly did they get up there? What occurs to get them from the ground to orbit?

Let’s look at the most crucial 9 minutes in the life of a satellite, using the Space Shuttle as an example.

T-9:00 minutes – Strangely enough, the 9th minute before a launch actually lasts about 45 minutes. During this pause, flight controllers examine their data and give their ok for the launch to proceed.

T-7:30 – The countdown resumes and the walkway that astronauts and technicians use to enter the Shuttle is pulled away. If there is an emergency, the walkway can be moved back into position in as little as 15 seconds.

T-5:00 – If everything is going the way it should, the Shuttle Commander turns on the 3 generators, called APUs (for Auxiliary Power Units), which provide power to the Shuttle’s hydraulic systems.

T-2:00 – Members of the crew close the visors on their helmets.

T-0:31 – Countdown control is transferred from Mission Control to the Shuttle’s computers.

T-0:16 – Very large tanks are prepared to release water onto the base of the launch pad to absorb the vibration and shockwaves that the engines create during liftoff.

T-0:06 – The water from the tanks attached to the launch pad begins to flow and the Shuttle’s 3 Main Engines are ignited. Each of these engines produce 418,000 lbs of thrust at liftoff. That’s so powerful that when the Shuttle clears the top of the Launch Tower, it’s already going about 75 MPH. For comparison, that’s faster acceleration than most drag racing cars.

T-0:00 – At the moment of liftoff, the Solid Rocket Boosters attached to the sides of the external fuel tank are ignited. At the same instant, the large bolts that hold the Shuttle in place are released with explosives and the ascent begins!

Now that the Space Shuttle has been retired, new rockets are constantly begin developed to perform tasks like satellite placement and Space Station resupply flights.

Remember, the end of one thing is always the start of another, and there are lots of opportunities coming up for everyone.



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