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Q. How long does it take a shuttle to reach space? — Tammy G.
A. About eight minutes to space. Here's a timeline:
In the first stage of its flight, a shuttle thunders up and away from the launch pad with its main engines and solid rocket boosters at full power, reaching the point where maximum dynamic pressure on the shuttle is greatest at about one minute after liftoff, at an altitude of 33,600 ft. That's just above six miles.
In the second stage of the flight, at just beyond two minutes into the flight, the solid rocket boosters drop off at an altitude of about thirty miles.
Space is said to start at 100 kilometers altitude, which is 62 miles.
At about eight minutes into the flight, at an altitude of about 60 miles, the main engine cuts off. A brief firing of the orbiter's two orbital maneuvering thrusters changes the trajectory and orbit is achieved just after the external tank is jettisoned with the orbiter flying upside down in relation to Earth.
An additional firing of the thrusters then places the orbiter into its planned orbit, which can range from 115 to 600 miles above the Earth.
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