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External Tank (ET) History

The idea of using the large external fuel tanks of the shuttle as platforms in space has been around since the conception of the shuttle and possibly the most researched single space aerospace concept ever.

Many of the film 2001 "A Space Odyssey" technical advisors were NASA engineers who, in the 1960s, also designed the actual, wheel-shaped stations and space shuttles - which NASA, soon hoped to build. Budget cuts after the moon landings forced NASA to only develop the space shuttles and the development of space stations was dropped for over 15 years.

But NASA's best kept secret is that many of those early shuttle designers believed the shuttle program could achieve both goals. Many of those visionary designers now working with the Space Island Group are going to finally achieve this goal.

Their early Space Stations designs centered on the shuttle's hollow, orange external fuel tank, known in the industry as the ET.

While the 2 white rocket boosters attached to each side of the External Fuel Tank drop off 2 minutes after launch and parachute into the sea, the 70,000 pound, aluminum ET stays attached to the shuttle, feeding its liquid fuel to the shuttle's engines during the rest of its 8-1/2 minute flight to orbit

Few people realize that one of these airtight cylinders is carried to orbit on each shuttle flight, then destroyed when force back down in the atmosphere when its odorless fuel is gone.

NASA's engineers originally wanted to attach small engines and guidance systems to the ETs to keep them in orbit, add a connector to their lower end and join a dozen of them together to form the wheel-shaped stations.

The idea went on further with many studies and workshops on the idea of using the shuttle external Tanks as space resources.

The main change of the retrofitted Shuttle external tanks will be the addition of an extra section to the ET's lower fuselage and interior redesigns to permit easy retrofitting for human habitation.

The extra section can be outfitted in advance as living quarters for nearly a dozen people, or designed as a connector allowing the nose of one ET to be attached to the opposite end of another as the wheel-shaped station is formed.

Space Island Group is developing the project independently of NASA, but using proven space technology, and many of Aerospace and NASA engineers, who helped to developed the ET. Some of NASA's former top management has offered to assist us in any way they can.

In the year 2001, Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the original story and the film's screenplay, told the BBC and CNN that as far as he could see the Space Island Group, was the only company that could make his vision a reality in his lifetime. He's now 84 years old.

Technical Information on the use of The Shuttle External Tank

  • Space Island Technical Advisor Mark Holdermens ET Page
  • The External Tank Presentation - By Dave Hunt
  • The Assembly and Production of the External Tank presentation - By Dave Hunt
  • The Only Throwaway Componet on the Space Shuttle: The External Tank
  • The Assembly and Production of the External Tank By Dave Hunt
  • External Tanks in Orbit Technical Challenges and How to Address Them
  • Space Shuttle External Tank Used as a Space Station Study Project Perun

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