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Student Mathematics Activity: Carry That Weight
Student Background
The orbiter must travel through more than 60 miles of the Earth's
atmosphere to reach space. The total weight of the orbiter, its
crew, payload, fuel tanks, rocket fuel and other miscellaneous items
must not be greater than the amount of thrust it would take to propel
it to an orbit just outside the thermosphere.
Using mathematical calculations, rocket researchers have been
able to determine just how much thrust is needed to launch a certain
amount of weight. With a fully loaded orbiter and fuel tanks, it
takes 5 million pounds of thrust to launch the orbiter into space.
To determine this amount of thrust NASA must consider the weight
of every item being taken on each mission. The approximate weight
of each item is listed in the chart below.
Space Shuttle Mission Weight Chart
Item Description 
Weight (in kilograms) 
Orbiter (empty) 
43,092 
Payload (standard maximum weight) 
24,948 
External Tank (full) 
750,980 
Solid Rocket Booster (each) 
589,670 
(x2 = ) 
1,179,340 
Other:
Crew members (310)
Additional fuel for use during mission
Liquids & gases for electrical production & environmental
conditioning

14,850 
Student Math Activity:
Carry That Weight
Student Math Activity:
Carry That Weight  Key
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