i've seen 1 link that would direct me to a site that gave an equivalent of what would happen if a SATURN 5 let go on the pad, but not the Shuttle, was wondering what the force equivalent would be if the Shuttle would have exploded on the pad (SRB's, external tank, and the Shuttle itself lettin go all at once)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ That depends mostly on whether the SRBs would explode. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_perchlorate can explode, but in the SRBs it's in a form that resists explosion quite well... $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Aug 10 '18 at 16:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ i"ve heard some say the force of a "small" nuclear weapon, but they may just be guessing $\endgroup$ – Rick Jensen Aug 18 '18 at 2:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Since most, if not all, mechanical energy of the orbiter come from chemical combustion, you should be able to estimate a lower bound by calculate it. $\endgroup$ – Mys_721tx Feb 10 '19 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ @RickJensen: Note that "small nuclear weapon" goes all the way down to "10-20 tonnes TNT equivalent". $\endgroup$ – Vikki Oct 21 '19 at 0:57

Partial answer:

Volume 2 of a March 1981 study (links below) by the DOD gives the External Tank explosive force on the pad as equivalent to 54,000 pounds of TNT.

enter image description here

Rationale for the calculation is described in the paper.

If you want to read some interesting predictions about what would have happened if one SRB came off during first stage, etc, etc, these papers are for you.


  • 2
    $\begingroup$ These are very cool! $\endgroup$ – Mark Omo Jul 2 '19 at 22:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.