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Space Shuttle

The History of the National Space Transportation System

The First 100 missions
 

by Dennis R. Jenkins

 

 

S u m m a r y

Title, Description & Publisher: Space Shuttle - The History of the National Space Transportation System.  The First 100 missions
by Dennis R. Jenkins
ISBN: 0963397451
Media: Hardcover; 11.5 x 9" format; 524 glossy pages; black and white illustrations throughout, 20 pages in color
Price: USD$42.95 from Specialty Press
Review Type: First Read
Advantages: Profusely illustrated, dozens of unbuilt concepts, comprehensive
Disadvantages: Distracting typos, no dimensioned drawings
Recommendation: Highly Recommended

 

Reviewed by Daryl Carpenter


HyperScale is proudly supported by Squadron.com

 

Background

 

It doesn't take rocket scientist to read a book, though you'll probably need a degree in astrophysics to fully understand this massive technical history of the American Space Shuttle.

Dennis Jenkins's (author of "Hypersonic" and "Magnesium Overcast") previous book on the Shuttle was a classic with space enthusiasts upon it's release in 1996. This third edition is a nearly complete rewrite; there's more information on political and economic aspects, the development history has been greatly expanded, and numerous upgrades between 1995 and 2000 are covered.

 

 

FirstRead

 

The first three chapters describe the earliest reusable spacecraft concepts, including the German Silverbird and Von Braun's Ferry Rocket. Jenkins discusses the history of hypersonic research aircraft and lifting bodies, before describing the first designs for dynamic soaring vehicles and sub-orbital bombing/reconnaissance spacecraft.

Chapter 4 delves into "Concept Exploration", when in the early-60s the idea of a reusable winged spacecraft was first taken seriously. Many of these designs used existing hardware, while others used more exotic technology such as the Liquid Air Cycle Engine. Designs include The elegant Lockheed Starclipper (the first to use throw-away external tanks), and the "Triamese" Convair T-18.

Chapter 5 describes the fully reusable "Phase A/B" proposals for a Space Transportation System. The first arguments for a short vs long "cross-range" orbiter arose during Phase A. These designs pushed economical pound-to-orbit costs, in some evaluations to be as low as $15.

In 1971 and 1972, NASA suffered heavy budget cuts. Most of the designs in Chapter 6 closely resemble the current Space Shuttle. Rockwell eventually received the Orbiter contract, which they refined until June 1974.

The period between 1974 and early 1981 is described in Chapter 7, "Getting Ready". The modifications to the 747 carrier aircraft are discussed, along with the Shuttle Training Aircraft. The history of the first Shuttle, Enterprise, gets about 20 pages of coverage, including her periods as a glider, a structural guinea pig, a test article, a spare parts reclamation, and a museum exhibit. The agonizing "development hell"
period is further detailed, including the troublesome main engines and tiles. The proposed Skylab rescue mission, ET and SRB qualification, the choice of onboard computer, payload upper stages, and even the choosing of the Orbiter s names are discussed.

Chapter 8 covers the first 25 missions, up to the 1986 Challenger disaster. The chapter begins with a six-page description of a typical mission from launch to landing, abort modes, and payload weight to orbit characteristics.

Chapters 8 and 9 are divided up into four sections, each describing 25 missions in chronological order.
Each section begins with a table detailing important information on each mission, such as launch/landing sites, orbital parameters, weights are various phases, crew names and position, mission duration, and payload carried. Each mission is described in a capsule summary a couple paragraphs long. Major events such as delays, mission scrubs, system failures are described, along with the payloads carried. The end of Chapter VIII describes the Challenger accident and it's aftermath. The cause of the disaster is laid out, along with the findings of the Rogers Commission and the extensive modifications to the Solid Rocket Boosters and the Orbiter's safety equipment.

Chapter 9 details the return-to-flight period and the next 75 missions. The 1990 "hydrogen leak" and 1999 "wiring" groundings are discussed, though nowhere near as detailed as the Challenger stand-down. The end of Chapter 9 includes 10 tables covering topics such as ET and SRB propellant consumption, OMS burns, ground processing, ferry flights, cancelled missions, and a summary of flight crew positions.

Chapter 10 is a very comprehensive, 77-page technical description covering all aspects of the shuttle system. The first part describes the Orbiter, and include information of topics such as the fuselage construction, flight deck, life support systems, display systems, airlock, payload bay, control surfaces, orbital maneuvering systems, thermal protection, and so on. The next section describes the Space Shuttle Main Engine and it's components, the external fuel tank, and the solid rocket boosters (including the aborted filament-wound cases). The last sections cover the various Orbiter modifications through the years.

Appendix A describes the various safety improvements that were under consideration at the time of writing, such as the Liquid Fly-Back Booster. Appendix B describes the various "Stillborn" designs. These include the famous "Shuttle-C" and Advanced Solid Rocket Boosters. Finally, Appendix C is a brief history of California's Vandenberg Launch Site.

As my lengthy review proves, this is an amazingly comprehensive reference work, definately more in tune with technophiles. Jenkins writes with the professionalism of an unbiased engineer observer, never once chastising any one groups for a decision that would now be considered boneheaded.

It is also a superbly illustrated one. There are nearly 1,000 illustrations within, all of uniformly high quality. These include many technical illustrations that have cleaned up and re-annotated, color reproductions of the first 100 mission patches, artist's concepts of the early proposals, and rarely-seen photographs from the KSC archives. There are 13 pages of color photographs, all of them vibrantly reproduced. Each major component has an accompanying schematic, and the dimensions are noted in the text. Unfortunately, there is no overall cutaway view or dimensioned drawings.

My other complaint is the number of typos that slipped through the proofreading process. These aren't a problem in the first nine chapters, but they pop up with alarming regularity in the technical description and appendixes.

Like any technical history, the book is rife with acronyms. That much is easily foreseen. But phrases such as "For added protection, however, the BFS software is loaded into the MMUs in case of a BFS GPS failure and the need to IPL a new BFS GPC" tend to grate on the nerve, and come up often in the later chapters.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Hardcore enthusiasts will eat up Jenkins's nearly encyclopedic knowledge of Shuttle minutiae. It's probably the best place to start when studying the history of the vehicle itself, or clearing any misconceptions you may have about it.

Highly Recommended.

 


Review Copyright 2005 by Daryl Carpenter
This Page Created on 13 January, 2005
Last updated 13 January, 2005

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