Jun
9
2009

Who invented the Space Shuttle

The Space Shuttle is a spaceplane developed and operated by the US space agency NASA which is hurled into space attached to two powerful rockets and a main fuel tank, tho the rockets and the fuel tank are jettisoned before the shuttle enters orbit. Once in orbit the shuttle is capable to traveling to the International Space Station or simply release and in some cases capture satellites and then glide back to earth to land just like a regular airplane.

nasa logo Who invented the Space Shuttle

The space shuttle project is a huge undertaking and cost hundreds of billions of dollars over it’s full design and operational life, and may still cost the US billions of dollars before the fleet is retired. The space shuttle was designed and built by North American Aviation, a division of Rockwell International having been awarded the first contract in 1972.

North American had a history of experimenting with space planes being the primary contractor on the X-15 experimental rocket powered aircraft that flew between 1959 and 1968 setting several speed and height records in its time. The X-15 test flights provided valuable information for the Bell X-20 Dyna Soar, a 1960s winged test vehicle that looked quite similar to a small space shuttle but never flew.

The X-20 designer was a German rocket scientist, Walter Dornberger, who worked for Bell between 1950 and 1965 though he based his design on the research carried out by another Peenemünde rocket scientist Eugen Sänger who had been working on an atmosphere hopping bomber that was to be named Silbervogel (silver bird) for the German Air Force.

space shuttle launch Who invented the Space Shuttle

Space shuttle development was signed off by President Nixon in 1972, many years after those pioneering rocket engineers had retired or passed away, and the project was so complex that thousands of engineers were needed to invent or design the millions of components that together make up a functioning space shuttle. No one person could ever claim to have invented the space shuttle, and even the work done by post war rocket scientists wasn’t directly used in the shuttle design since their original technology was so outdated.

The research carried out since had pushed NASA’s knowledge of space flight to levels never imagined in the 1950s. Within the US space industry, spokespeople who aren’t directly involved in designing vehicles will often be assumed to be part of the design team, but in many cases they are simply appointed for their speaking and writing skills while the true inventors and designers remain behind the scenes working in their laboratories, where most of them prefer to stay.

About the Author:

Peter is the founder of WhoGuides - The History Website. He's always happy to share his passion for history. Use the contact form if you want to get in touch with him.

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