The Space Shuttle Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lisa Hanson

Lisa is a Continuous Improvement Coach for her school district and has taught in elementary school for many years. She has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BLAST OFF! The space shuttle program had many successful missions to space in United States history. In this lesson, you will learn more about the history, parts, and missions of the space shuttle.

The Beginnings of the Space Shuttle

Imagine what it would feel like to be launched in a rocket into space. The space program in the United States has worked very hard to develop ways for astronauts to be able to explore space. One way was the creation of the space shuttle. The space shuttle was the first ever reusable spaceship, which means it could be used over and over again. The other unique thing about it is it takes off like a rocket, but lands on wheels like an airplane.

The first-ever launch was in April 1981 in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The program continued for 30 years until the last mission ended in July 2011.

The space shuttle takes off in Florida.
Space Shuttle

Parts of the Space Shuttle System

There are three parts to the space shuttle system: the orbiter, the external tank, and the solid rocket boosters. The three of them together reach around 180 feet tall and weigh 4.5 million pounds. This is taller than the Statue of Liberty from the base to the torch, but weighs ten times as much.

The space shuttle has three parts. All of them have an important job.
Parts of Space Shuttle


The orbiter is the main part of the shuttle system that holds the astronauts and all of the equipment. This part is around the length of three school buses (about 120 feet long). It weighs the same as about 13 elephants (nearly 180,000 pounds), and has a wingspan of almost 80 feet. The orbiter is the main part of the spaceship that goes into outer space. It travels so fast that the crew can see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

External Tank

This is the orange brown tank of the space shuttle system. It is the only part that is not reusable; it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. It holds the fuel for the main engines. The space shuttle runs on liquid oxygen and hydrogen.

Solid Rocket Boosters

The solid rocket boosters are two cylinders located on either side of the orbiter. These provide the extra thrust, or push the space shuttle needs to launch in the first two minutes after take-off. They are also the last part to be lit before take-off, because once they are lit they can't be shut down.

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