The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) so-called space shuttle system is a small fleet of reusable spacecraft designed to transport people and cargo from Earth to low Earth orbit and back. In the 21st century, its primary function has been to build and service the International Space Station (ISS). What is typically referred to as a space shuttle consists of an orbiter (technically, an orbiter vehicle, or OV), a pair of solid rocket boosters (SRBs), and an external liquid fuel tank (ET). Each orbiter is powered by three liquid-fueled space shuttle main engines (SSMEs) that are integrated into the vehicle. From its inception, the U.S. space shuttle program has been the subject of considerable media coverage, in both good times and bad.

NASA's space ...

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