S u m m a r y
|Title, Description &
||Space Shuttle - The History of the
National Space Transportation System. The First 100 missions
by Dennis R. Jenkins
||Hardcover; 11.5 x 9" format; 524
glossy pages; black and white illustrations throughout, 20 pages in
USD$42.95 from Specialty Press
||Profusely illustrated, dozens of
unbuilt concepts, comprehensive
||Distracting typos, no dimensioned
Reviewed by Daryl
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Review Copyright © 2005 by
This Page Created on 13 January, 2005
Last updated 13 January, 2005
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