1. Established Member
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Does anyone know what the theoretical maximum payload the shuttle can return from orbit is?

2. Originally Posted by samkent
Does anyone know what the theoretical maximum payload the shuttle can return from orbit is?
Wiki knows
Empty weight: 156,205 pounds (70,853 kilograms)
Gross Liftoff Weight: 240,000 pounds (108,862 kg)
Maximum Landing Weight: 230,000 pounds (104,326 kg)
Maximum payload: 55,520 pounds (25,183 kg)

3. Order of Kilopi
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From memory, it is somewhere in the range of 11,000-13,000 kg. I seem to recall it being about half of what could be launched into orbit.

4. Originally Posted by Larry Jacks
From memory, it is somewhere in the range of 11,000-13,000 kg. I seem to recall it being about half of what could be launched into orbit.
Based on the reduction in numbers above (240k - 230k) it sounds like the reduction in payload would be 10k lbs plus an extra reduction based on non-payload weight (crew and other stuff). So; that sounds like it might be about right.

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Originally Posted by samkent
Does anyone know what the theoretical maximum payload the shuttle can return from orbit is?
From a physical standpoint, it must be approximately the max liftoff payload. We know this because any launch may result in an abort, whether RTLS, TAL, or AOA. The vehicle must be capable of landing with the payload it launched with for the abort cases.

It could also reach orbit but the payload doors stick shut. It would have to immediately deorbit and land with the enclosed payload, since the radiators on the payload bay inner doors couldn't deploy and waste heat would build up. The are various other scenarios where the payload could not be deployed and the orbiter must land with the launch payload.

These are all exception cases, but are classified as intact aborts so the vehicle is expected to successfully land.

From a procedural standpoint, the normal case return payload may be lower than this but the vehicle should be physically capable of landing with the launch payload.

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Buran's was 25-30 tons IIRC.

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