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  • - [Jared] In this video, I want to show you

  • how they launched the space shuttle.

  • We'll look at all the preparation beforehand,

  • then the details of the launch pad,

  • and then their 8 1/2-minute journey into space.

  • (intense music)

  • This video was made possible by NordVPN.

  • I'll show you more about this after the video.

  • Sadly, the space shuttle is retired.

  • It no longer flies.

  • However, I think it's still really important to learn about.

  • After all, some of this technology

  • is still being used for space programs.

  • In preparation for this video, I read a few books.

  • One of them was called "Riding Rockets,"

  • and it was written by three-time astronaut Mike Mullane.

  • He does a good job of capturing

  • what it was like to ride on the space shuttle.

  • I reached out to Mike, and he was really helpful.

  • He made a lot of good suggestions

  • for what to include in this video.

  • Though before we get too far, let's review.

  • This is the Orbiter Vehicle,

  • the part that looks like an airplane

  • and carries the astronauts and payloads into space.

  • I have a video all about the inside of the Orbiter Vehicle.

  • I'll put a link in the video description down below.

  • It takes so much fuel to get into space

  • that we need a really big gas tank.

  • That's what the orange external tank is for.

  • It provides the fuel for the three

  • Space Shuttle Main Engines.

  • Even this isn't enough to launch us into space.

  • We need two extra rockets on each side.

  • These are called the Solid Rocket Boosters or SRBs.

  • It takes a lot of work to get all of these pieces

  • ready for the launch.

  • There were two launch sites for the space shuttle,

  • Kennedy Space Center in Florida

  • and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

  • Shuttle launches from the Vandenberg site ended up

  • being canceled, and as a result, all 135

  • shuttle missions were launched out of Florida.

  • So let's take a closer look

  • at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

  • It has two launch pads, 39A and 39B.

  • Shuttle missions were launched from both of these pads.

  • There's a few buildings way over here,

  • about five kilometers away from the pads.

  • The large one here is the Vehicle Assembly Building or VAB.

  • It's as tall as a 38-story building.

  • This is where they would assemble the space shuttle

  • in preparation for a launch.

  • Next to it is the Launch Control Center.

  • Notice how it's positioned

  • with a good view of both launchpads.

  • This building is called the Orbiter Processing Facility,

  • or OPF, and actually there were three OPF buildings.

  • It's where the orbiter was serviced in between missions.

  • Over here is the Shuttle Landing Facility.

  • This is where a mission ends for the space shuttle.

  • But they didn't always land here.

  • Sometimes due to weather or other circumstances,

  • the shuttle would land in California

  • at Edwards Air Force Base.

  • When this happened, we need to get the Orbiter Vehicle

  • all the way back to Florida,

  • and the shuttle can't really take off again

  • and fly like an airplane.

  • It wasn't built for that.

  • So here's what happened.

  • The Orbiter Vehicle was taken to the Mate-Demate Device,

  • or MDD, which would lift up the shuttle

  • and then load it on the back of a special airplane

  • called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

  • It was then flown across the United States

  • to get back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

  • It was then taken to one of the OPFs.

  • Once inside, the engineers would literally crawl

  • all over it to fix or replace many of the shuttle components

  • to make sure that it's safe to fly

  • for the next shuttle mission.

  • This process can take several months to complete.

  • This is part of the reason

  • why the space shuttle was so expensive.

  • Meanwhile, work starts over here at the VAB.

  • We start with the solid rocket boosters,

  • which are assembled piece by piece.

  • On the inside is the solid rocket fuel.

  • Once ignition starts at liftoff, it cannot be turned off.

  • Now it's time to lift the external tank into place.

  • Inside, there are two smaller tanks.

  • One for liquid hydrogen, and one for liquid oxygen.

  • These tanks will remain empty

  • until just a few hours before the launch.

  • Now at room temperature, hydrogen and oxygen are both gases

  • which take up an enormous amount of space.

  • But if we put them at extremely cold temperatures,

  • they will turn into liquids,

  • and we can put a lot more fuel inside of the tanks.

  • The liquids from each tank will flow through pipes

  • down to where it will connect to the orbiter.

  • This side is for the liquid hydrogen.

  • And this side is for the liquid oxygen.

  • Once the orbiter was ready, it was then transferred

  • from the OPF to the VAB.

  • This was referred to as a Rollover.

  • (bright orchestral music)

  • The orbiter was then hooked up to a crane

  • and then carefully lifted up,

  • moved over to the high bay,

  • and then mounted to the side of the external tank.

  • The fuel and electrical connections are attached

  • to the bottom of the orbiter.

  • There is also another attachment point up towards the top.

  • Once this is all ready to go,

  • we need to move it to one of the launch pads,

  • which are more than five kilometers away.

  • This is referred to as the Rollout.

  • (gentle orchestral music)

  • The weight of the entire shuttle stack

  • is supported at the base by eight Hold-Down Posts,

  • four on each of the SRBs.

  • It's then secured in place by the Hold-Down Bolts.

  • At the moment of liftoff, these will detonate

  • to free the shuttle.

  • The platform it's on is called the Mobile Launch Platform.

  • Underneath is the Crawler-Transporter,

  • which moves everything at just under

  • 1 1/2 kilometers per hour.

  • It takes many hours to get all the way

  • to one of the two launch pads.

  • (grandiose orchestral music)

  • Then it's up the ramp and slowly into position.

  • The platform is put down on supports.

  • And the crawler goes back down the ramp.

  • (gentle orchestral music)

  • The Mobile Launch Platform has large holes

  • for the rocket flames.

  • The three main engine flames will go through this hole.

  • And the flames from the two SRBs

  • will go through these two holes.

  • Below the pad is the Flame Trench.

  • During the liftoff, the flames

  • will be deflected to each side.

  • The structure next to the shuttle stack has two main parts,

  • the Fixed Service Structure, which doesn't move,

  • and the Rotating Service Structure,

  • which can pivot around to completely

  • enclose the space shuttle.

  • (bright orchestral music)

  • Sometimes the payloads were loaded here

  • in the vertical position,

  • and other times they were loaded before this,

  • when the orbiter was on the ground at the OPF.

  • The Fixed Service Structure has a Lightning Mast on top,

  • and then three service arms.

  • Two of them are vent arms, which will collect

  • excess hydrogen and oxygen from the external tank.

  • This is the Gaseous Hydrogen Vent Arm

  • with the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate at the very end.

  • At the top is the Gaseous Oxygen Vent Arm.

  • Because the fuels are so cold,

  • the Beanie Cap is really important

  • to prevent ice buildup at the very top.

  • The third arm is called the Orbiter Access Arm.

  • At the end of it is the White Room.

  • This is how the astronauts get on board the orbiter

  • in preparation for a launch.

  • Down here are the two Tail Service Masts.

  • They have connections to each side of the orbiter.

  • On the day of the launch, this is where the fuel

  • will come in to fill the orange external tank.

  • If there is an emergency on the launchpad

  • and the astronauts need to get away in a hurry,

  • they will come over here to the Emergency Egress System.

  • It has several baskets that can quickly carry them

  • far away from the launch tower.

  • Each basket can hold three people.

  • One more feature of the Mobile Launch Platform

  • is the Sound Suppression System.

  • Beginning at just a few seconds before launch,

  • water will start pouring out from a few different places.

  • This will limit the sound shockwaves

  • from bouncing back up and damaging parts

  • of the space shuttle as it leaves the ground.

  • The water is stored in this large tower on the launchpad.

  • So let's see how this works on the day of the launch.

  • There are many things that have to happen in order.

  • I can't cover them all in this video,

  • but let me show you some of the main ones.

  • At T-5 hours and 35 minutes before the launch,

  • fuel begins loading into the external tank.

  • The fuel comes from the white spherical tanks

  • on the edges of the launchpad.

  • Remember that the SRBs already have

  • their solid fuel inside of them.

  • At T-3 hours, the astronauts leave for the launchpad

  • and begin to enter the Orbiter Vehicle.

  • Since the shuttle is vertical on the launchpad,

  • all of the seats are in the laid back position.

  • Most missions had seven astronauts,

  • three in the mid deck, and four in the flight deck.

  • There are no windows on the mid deck,

  • so some of the astronauts won't be able

  • to enjoy the view on the way up.

  • (bright orchestral music)

  • There's a lot of excitement coming up

  • to the moment of liftoff.

  • However, if there are any problems such as

  • mechanical failures or even bad weather,

  • than the launch will be delayed

  • or even canceled until another day.

  • This is called a Launch Scrub, and it can happen

  • all the way up until just a few seconds before liftoff.

  • At T-7 minutes and 30 seconds,

  • the Orbiter Access Arm is slowly retracted.

  • If there is an emergency, they can quickly

  • bring it back into place.

  • A T-3 minutes and 45 seconds,

  • the main engine gimbal test to make sure

  • that it's working correctly.

  • T-2 minutes and 55 seconds, the Beanie Cap is lifted

  • and the Gaseous Oxygen Vent Arm is retracted.

  • At T-10 seconds, activate the Hydrogen Burn Off System,

  • and no, this does not actually start the engines.

  • That happens up here inside of the combustion chamber.

  • What these sparks do is ignite any excess hydrogen.

  • This hydrogen can cause an unexpected explosion

  • at launch if it isn't taken care of.

  • At T-6.6 seconds, the three main engines ignite.

  • All three of them must work correctly,

  • or they will shut down and abort the launch.

  • At the moment of liftoff, many things happen simultaneously.

  • The Gaseous Hydrogen Vent Arm is retracted

  • from the external tank.

  • The two connections at the Tail Surface Mass will retract.

  • The eight Hold-Down Bolts will detonate,

  • which frees the shuttle,

  • and then both SRBs ignite.

  • (grandiose orchestral music)

  • For their journey into space,

  • the shuttle is mostly flown by the autopilot.

  • Of course, the astronauts can still take over

  • if they need to.

  • Shortly after clearing the tower,

  • they do what's called the Roll Program

  • to get the shuttle so that it's heads down