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Glossary: Components of Shuttle Columbia

Parts of the space shuttle Columbia and what they do:

—Orbiter: Part of the shuttle that carries astronauts and cargo; its sleek, winged profile is visible during landings.

—External tank: Huge fuel tank that supplies oxygen and hydrogen to main engines during launch.

—Solid rocket boosters: Two rockets flanking the orbiter that burn solid fuel during first minutes of ascent and then drop off, parachuting into the ocean.

—Main propulsion engines: There are three, all located at bottom of orbiter.

—Flight deck: Located just behind orbiter's nose.

—Cargo bay: Located at center of orbiter's fuselage.

—Payload doors: Two curved doors atop the fuselage.

—Heat-resistant tiles: Tiles that line the orbiter's belly to protect it during the intense heat of returning to the atmosphere.

—Insulating foam: Heat-resistant foam that covers outside of external fuel tank.

—Body flap: Control panel hinged to back of fuselage to help control during descent.

—Delta wings: Two triangular wings allow orbiter to glide to earth without the help of engines.

—Elevons: Panels that help give control to wings.

—Vertical stabilizer: Orbiter's tail fin.

—Main landing gear: One set below each wing, each with two tires.

—Nose landing gear: Third set of landing gear beneath the orbiter's nose.

—Forward control thrusters: Small rocket engines studded around orbitor's nose that help maneuver in space

—Heat sensors: Devices arrayed all around the craft to measure temperature.

—Orbital maneuvering system: Two engines mounted in pods outside the back of the fuselage, for power when entering or leaving orbit.

—Reaction control system: Set of engines on each side of back fuselage, used to control motion while maneuvering out of orbit and returning into the atmosphere.

—Split rudder-speed brake: Panel on the vertical stabilizer that splays apart to increase drag and slow the craft during landing. Moved together, this part acts like a rudder to control motion.