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Model, Space Shuttle, Final Orbiter Concept

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

NASA used this Space Shuttle orbiter concept model in wind tunnel tests to learn about the flight characteristics of the vehicle's shape. Although the orbiter would spend most of its time in space, its aerodynamic shape would affect its passage through the atmosphere during launch and descent. Straight wing designs were considered and tested; however a delta wing design was finally chosen, in part to meet U.S. Air Force requirements for high cross-range maneuverability during final descent. Delta wings meant a heavier orbiter and more surface heating during reentry, but they also permitted the orbiter to glide farther without power to reach a runway. NASA transferred a variety of wind tunnel and concept models to the Museum after settling on the final Space Shuttle design.

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