Separated EFT - External Fuel Tank

Separated EFT - External Fuel Tank American History Geography History Aviation & Space Exploration STEM Tragedies and Triumphs Disasters

This photo, from an early shuttle mission, depicts an external fuel tank which has separated from the orbiter it helped to launch. 

The external fuel tank - effectively the "gas tank" of the mission - is the only part of the shuttle which was never reused.  NASA explains why:

When the Solid Rocket Boosters separate at an altitude of approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles), the orbiter, with the main engines still burning, carries the external tank piggyback to near orbital velocity, approximately 113 kilometers (70 miles) above the Earth.  The now nearly empty tank separates and falls in a preplanned trajectory with the majority of it disintegrating in the atmosphere and the rest falling into the ocean.

This jettisoned external fuel tank is white, so we can conclude it was used in one of the first two shuttle missions.  Beginning with the third flight, the shuttle's external fuel tank was orange.

Media Credits

Image, NASA.


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"Separated EFT - External Fuel Tank" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Nov 20, 2019.
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