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Ask an Explainer

Q:

On the Space Shuttle when its sent up into space, what are the extra pieces that fall off?

A:

The Space Shuttle has three parts: the orbiter, the external tank and the solid rocket boosters. The solid rocket boosters gives the Space Shuttle the thrust it needs to overcome Earth’s gravity and reach space. Shortly after the launch, the boosters fall off and land in the ocean, where a special boat picks them up for reuse. The external tank carries fuel for the Space Shuttle. It falls off the after the orbiter uses all its fuel and burns up in the atmosphere. The only part that does not fall off is the orbiter, the part that carries the astronauts.