When it lands, is it still a "Space Shuttle"?
Space Shuttle Program Patch
Space Shuttle Program Patch

The "Space Transportation System" (The STS in the Mission Numbers), commonly known as the Space Shuttle, has three major components.

  1. The Orbiter (Discovery, Atlantis, or Endeavour)
  2. The External Tank (ET)
  3. The Solid Rocket Bosters (SRB)

In the VAB (Vertical Assembly Building), "The Stack" comes together. Once assembled, The Stack becomes a Space Shuttle. What the public doesn't realize is, once the Solids drop off after two minutes of flight, it is no longer considered a Space Shuttle. NASA launches a Space Shuttle, but recovers an Orbiter. ("Recovering" an aircraft by having it land is a military term adopted by the space agency)

The reasoning behind it, we suspect, is the number of Contractors that provide parts for just the SRBs who are considered Space Shuttle parts providers. Once you drop the SRBs, you lose alot of your Team. The Program Patch for the Space Shuttle shows all three major components.

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