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Tires

...took the pressure of high-speed shuttle landings. When visiting the Science Center, guests can touch the tires from Endeavour flight STS-134, which show the wear from landing on the runway.

With smoke curling out from the tires, Endeavour hits the runway for the last time at the end of its final mission, STS-134.

photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

Specs

  • Maximum speed: 250 mph
  • Number of tires: Four main landing gear tires, two nose landing gear tires
  • Weight of main landing gear tire: 205 pounds
  • Load per pound of tire: 695 pounds
  • Maximum operating load: 142,000 pounds

Background Information

Space shuttle tires took a lot of pressure. From orbit to landing, the shuttle tires weathered temperature changes of up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit and a drop in altitude of over 200 miles in less than an hour. Altitude and temperature shifts bring changes in air pressure, which could have caused tires to leak or burst if they weren’t designed to meet the challenge.

Like tires on most aircraft, space shuttle tires were filled with nitrogen. Nitrogen works better during altitude and temperature changes than air, which is made up of 21% oxygen. Nitrogen also resists fire. And since its molecules are bigger than oxygen’s, nitrogen leaks out from tires more slowly, which is a big plus in the vacuum of space.

Space Shuttle Tire Links

Space Shuttle Tires Basic Facts and Figures
Find amazing statistics about the shuttle tires on this page from NASA.

NASA Dryden and the Space Shuttles
Space shuttle tires went through a lot of testing right here in California, at the Dryden Flight Research Center. Find out more at this NASA page.

Space Shuttle Tires: Structures and Materials
This PDF developed for teachers gives a good overview about space shuttle tires and how they compare to other tires we see more regularly on cars and bicycles.