Historic Markers Across Alabama

External Tank

Marker ID:  
Location: 1 Tranquilty Base, Huntsville, AL
County: Madison
Coordinates: N 34° 42.652    W 086° 39.15
  34.71086666    -86.6525
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


External Tank
Liquid Propellent Supply for Space Shuttle Main Engines

The tank exhibited at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center is real. It was delivered to NASA in 1977 it was the first ever built for the shuttle program. The tank was used in the Space Shuttle Main Engine test program at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for more than ten years. It provided fuel for twelve test firings of the Shuttle's Main Propulsion System with a total test time of 3,810 seconds (equivalent to about eight flights). In 1988, it traversed 1,250 miles by barge over the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers to be delivered to NASA's Marshall Center here in Huntsville, Alabama.

The External Tanks fuels the Orbiters Main Engines during the first eight and a half minutes of flight with 550,000 gallons of liquid propellant. When the Shuttle nears orbital velocity at just over 70 miles above the Earth, the tank is jettisoned and tumbles back to Earth. The External Tank is the only major part of the Space Transportation System that is nor reused.

External Tank Data
Length: 153.8 ft
Diameter: 27.6 ft
Gross Lift-Off Weight: 1, 655,000 lbs.
Propellent Liquid Oxygen: 1,361,000 lbs
Propellent Liquid Hydrogen: 227,000 lbs
Prime Contractor: Martin Marietta Manned Space Systems

End of External Tank