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Innovation and Shuttle Technology
Stephen Garber

The successful launch of the first Shuttle mission demonstrated several cutting-edge technologies. First, each orbiter has three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs), which were innovative in design. Second, engineers had to solve the problem of excessive vehicle heating upon reentry into the Earth atmosphere; they did so by using a Thermal Protection System composed of special ceramic tiles on the outside of the orbiter. Third, the Shuttle has always featured an advanced Digital Fly-By-Wire control and computer system; many commercial airplanes now use avionics adapted from this system. The Shuttle also demonstrated that many other complex subsystems could work in concert. Over time, NASA has upgraded and refurbished the Shuttle with various advanced systems, such as the recent “glass cockpit” of digital displays.


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Updated November 15, 2012
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