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From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: What's the max altitude the Shuttle is capable of?
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 14:44:35 GMT

In article <>,
Cary Martynuik  <> wrote:
>What is the MAXIMUM possible altitude the Shuttle is capable of
>achieving? I am talking NO PAYLOAD aboard and obviously with the maximum
>fuel load.

It depends on whether you assume the existence of "OMS Kits", fuel pallets
built to fit in the cargo bay.  While the basic design for the OMS Kit was
done, none were ever built.

With no OMS Kits -- the current situation -- I believe the altitude needed
for the Hubble servicing flights, about 600km, is about maximum.  They
gave Hubble the highest possible altitude, for the longest possible life.
That orbit is high enough that the servicing flights have very limited
tolerance for problems, e.g. if you botch the first rendezvous there may
not be enough fuel left to try again.

If I recall correctly, with three OMS Kits it was theoretically possible
to achieve a circular orbit about 1100km up.  Radiation exposure would be
high -- the inner Van Allen belt starts to get serious at about 1000km --
and you wouldn't want to do it without very good reason.  Somewhat higher
altitudes would be feasible at the peak of an elliptical orbit.
The good old days                   |  Henry Spencer
weren't.                            |      (aka

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