The Space Shuttle was a fairly compact transportation vehicle in terms of the amount of space available for astronauts to move around. Did they ever attempt to roll a Space Shuttle to induce artificial gravity?

If not, why? It doesn't sound hard, just pump some air through the maneuver thrusters and off you go!

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    $\begingroup$ It would have to spin too fast because it it not big enough. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Feb 15, 2017 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Why are there no spacecraft rotating for artificial gravity? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 15, 2017 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ @frayment: lesser gradient, still large. Lying down would help. The question is: what for? $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Feb 15, 2017 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ 'cause they didn't have beer on board, to pass to a friend saying "hold my beer and watch this!" ;-) No, seriously there are some mild reasons "why not" and not enough good reasons "why". $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Feb 15, 2017 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ Might be more difficult to land with footprints on the windshield. $\endgroup$
    – Steve
    Feb 15, 2017 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


There are several reasons not to do this:

  • Artificial gravity in such a small space is not very pleasant. You'll get a noticeable difference in gravity in different places, which makes it difficult to move around without banging into the walls.

  • You also get coriolis forces (thrown objects don't move in a straight line) which makes moving around non-intuitive.

  • The Shuttle wasn't designed for it. When rotating around the pitch or yaw axis, the dashboard becomes the floor, and you don't want that. There were no ladders in that direction either so you have to climb on whatever's handy to move between decks. The operator station for the robotic arm becomes inaccessible.

  • $\begingroup$ Haha fair enough. However what if there was theoretically only lets say one astronaut on board. And they were crouching. Would the gravity be much more sensible in terms of what is being exerted on parts of the persons body? $\endgroup$
    – user14355
    Feb 15, 2017 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ What would be the point of that, except to say, "yup, we can do it"? $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Feb 15, 2017 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ Fourth reason: the Space Shuttle did not possess circular symmetry around any axis, which makes it awkward mechanically. $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2017 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @LightnessRacesinOrbit it can only rotate about its center of mass so for both yaw and pitch rotation, the dashboard is farther away from it than the crew and becomes the floor of the created centrifuge. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Feb 15, 2017 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes: Okay yeah that seems unhelpful. Still, that just means you'd rotate about the remaining axis if you wanted to achieve this effect? $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2017 at 17:05

The highest rotational rate ever achieved by a shuttle in orbit was only 3 degrees/second (approximate). This was inadvertently caused when Mission Control uplinked a bad state vector during crew sleep* and caused the vehicle to go out of control.

This rotation rate was not nearly enough to induce artifical gravity.

*incident is described on pages 2-4 and 7-25 of the pdf

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    $\begingroup$ And 3 degrees per second is one full rotation every two minutes. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 15, 2017 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ A more detailed description is on page 7-25 of the same document. Out of curiosity, do you have a citation for that being the highest rotational rate? $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ Another retelling of that story: the caption file of a video of a lecture by Wayne Hale at MIT, beginning at caption 1585: ocw.mit.edu/courses/aeronautics-and-astronautics/… $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Tristan I do not have a citation for that, just my recollection. With a lot of these questions, it's not whether you know the answer, but whether you can find a public source to reference. For that one, I have not. - And thanks for the comment about page 7-25, updating the answer. $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2017 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble I find plenty of those situations as well. I almost wonder if there's a need for this site (and possibly others) to have some way to certify people who work in the industry and give answers informed by information that isn't necessarily public. The space industry is fraught with all sorts of data restrictions in this regard. Probably a good meta discussion. On a different note, I like the Wayne Hale lecture (there's video somewhere too) for the degree of storytelling that humanizes it beyond what official documents say. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:50

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