NASA Space Shuttle launch stack display model. The Space Transportation System, commonly referred to as the Shuttle, consists of the Orbiter, the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB), and the External Tank. The Orbiter and SRBs are reusable. The entire stack is 184 feet tall and weighs approximately 4.5 million pounds.
The Space Shuttle is launched in an upright position, with thrust provided by the three Space Shuttle main engines and the two SRBs. About 2 minutes after launch, the two boosters are spent and separate from the external tank. They fall into the ocean at predetermined points and are recovered for reuse.
The Space Shuttle main engines continue firing for about 8 minutes. They shut down just before the craft is inserted into orbit. The external tank then separates from the orbiter. It follows a ballistic trajectory into a remote area of the ocean but is not recovered.