In chapter 6 of SP-4221 "The Space Shuttle Decision" they are talking about the fall of the "Two-Stage Fully Reusable Shuttle".

In one paragraph they talk about how this Two-Stage Shuttle would work:

Fueled and cleared for launch, the Shuttle would thunder into the air with the thrust of 12 SSMEs in the base of the booster. The orbiter would separate and fly onward, propelled by its own SSMEs. The booster, empty of fuel, would come down through the atmosphere and return to a runway at the Cape, with power from up to 12 jet engines. After completing its mission in space, the orbiter would reenter and land on the same runway. Preparations for the next flight, covering both the booster and orbiter, would take as little as two weeks.

From what I can understand here it meant that there were plans to create a booster with 12 engines and 12 jet engines as well?

Were they talking about a booster with SSMEs as engines? What were the jet engines they were talking about? I've never heard anything about using jet engines in a booster before.

Also are there any pictures or prototypes ever created of such design?


1 Answer 1


There were literally dozens of different designs proposed. Page 100 of the referenced book lists more than fifty different designs, and then there are 7 pages showing thumbnail sketches of them.

Here is one booster design from Phase B of the design process. It's the first one I found with 12 SSMEs and 12 jet engines, but it may not be the only such one.

enter image description here

This is from Jenkins, Space Shuttle, the 1992 edition.

An artist's rendering of the B9U design landing from here.

enter image description here

The airbreathing engines were

JF22A-4 air breathing engines powered by JP-4 fuel.

Source: astronautix.com

This is probably a typo for the JFT22, the Pratt and Whitney company designation for the F-100 afterburning turbofan engine. The JFT22 is also mentioned in the book source.

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    $\begingroup$ A booster with its own crew? Whoa. Also, I like how this booster looks more like a spaceship than what the actual spaceship ended up looking like. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2022 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag not sure about the actual feasibility but the early rounds of shuttle design produced some pretty cool stuff space.stackexchange.com/a/40369/6944 $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2022 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ I think I even saw another picture mentioned on Twitter with a design for this type of shuttle configuration pbs.twimg.com/media/FOKU_-xXEBUus2L?format=jpg&name=medium $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2022 at 18:03

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