Book Review
Space Shuttle: The History of the NSTS
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by: Jim Lewis [ GUNTRUCK ]


The US Space Shuttle, perhaps the most visible of all NASA's space programs in history, is exhaustively covered in this reference book. Author Dennis R. Jenkins worked on the Space Shuttle Program for over 20 years, as well as the X-33 RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicle) Program's half-size technology demonstrator. Jenkins served on the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board and as consultant on the Orbital Space Plane Program.

Simply put, this reference book (Third Edition - updated from 1996) is the most comprehensive volume ever written on the US Space Shuttle. I highly recommend it for all fans of Aviation and Spaceflight, as well as for Real Space modelers seeking details and history of this enigmatic spacecraft. With all his knowledge of the technology, engineering and history of the vehicle, this book is very well-written and friendly to the reader new to the subject matter - though when you open it you'll be blown away by all of the photos and drawings adorning the pages between the cover supporting his text. You might not get around to actually reading it for some time.

The present edition of this book covers the history of the Space Shuttle through the first 100 missions, up through and past the loss of OV-099 Challenger. For those not familiar, the most recent launch and return from orbit of OV-103 Discovery on mission STS-121 (7-17-2006) is the 115th Space Shuttle expedition of the series. I sincerely hope that he will continue his trend of updating his book to cover the missions since in future editions. This volume was published before the 2-1-2003 loss of OV-102 Columbia during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere near the end of Mission 113. I anticipate a future updated edition would provide coverage of this Space Shuttle, the first of the vehicles to be launched into orbit.

Inside the Book

It is a large, heavy, hardcover book made up of 524 pages with black & white and some color photos. Line drawings range from simple to detailed, and rendered in black & white as well. This edition, published in May 2001, covers not only the Space Shuttle Orbiter Vehicles in minute detail - but also the history of programs the preceded it, giving the reader a comprehensive background of the concepts that were put forward, rejected, accepted and eventually integrated into the vehicle we know today. Author Jenkins makes some powerful statements about compromise of economic and technological reasons that defined the equipment used in the spacecraft that will give you pause for thought. The history this volume covers spans some eighty years, from World War II Germany through the present day - including the 30+ years of Space Shuttle development and operations.

The volume contains over 1000 photos and drawings - many of which I've not seen elsewhere - that will set a scale modeler into fits trying to decide what one would want to model first. Famous vehicles, like the US Air Force Project Dyna-Soar and the Lifting Bodies most memorable from the opening sequence of the Six Million Dollar Man television episodes are covered in detail in this book - along with some really obscure and little-known proposals from many contractors submitted to meet the USAF and NASA RFP (Requests For Proposals) to satisfy the goals of the program. These alone are worth the asking price for the book.

Digestible engineering details, coverage of the findings of the Challenger accident, explanation of the role of OV-101 Enterprise in the program - though it would never fly into orbit, payload descriptions and explanations of the differences between the Orbiter Vehicles are easy to find and understand here. The Space Shuttle is a very complex and unique spacecraft, each of them subtly different from each other - this volume illustrates that for the reader nicely without losing one in techno-jargon. So much so, in fact, that the scale modeler will definitely look at their models differently after obtaining this book.

Reasons for the Ratings

Subject Coverage

This is the most complete reference on the Space Shuttle Orbiter Vehicle I've encountered, as mentioned above. It is written from the perspective of a person involved with the vehicle and annotated throughout with sources and lists of supporting references. This book also goes to great lengths to provide the sources of concepts and ideas that came to bear in development of the National Space Transportation System (NSTS).

Illustration Style

Color and black & white photographs are supplemented with line drawings and period artwork from all the major suppliers that participated in the development of the NSTS. All are clearly rendered and compliment the text throughout. Of particular interest are full color representations of STS Mission Patches, including those intended for USAF Space Shuttle Operations out of Vandenberg Spaceport in California - of which I had intended to be assigned before cancellation of that program.


The book jacket is identical to the hardcover, done on a Macintosh G4 with Adobe type print and Photoshop. All pages are gloss-white, 11.4 x 9.0 inch format. The text font and size is easy to read and pleasing to the eye.


I purchased my volume through the local Barnes & Noble Bookseller, but it is available through retailers like amazon.com at reduced rates. This book is a must-have for any and all aviation and aerospace fans - modelers or not. It provides so much engineering and technical coverage that one could really not ask for more. It provides more modeling food-for-thought than a modeler can digest in any one sitting. Photos are generous and the line drawings supporting proposed vehicles to meet anticipated mission profiles put this book into a different class. If you ever wanted to purchase a book covering all aspects of the US Space Shuttle Program - this is the book you want to get.
An outstanding reference book covering the development and history of the US Space Shuttle.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 0963397451
  Suggested Retail: $42.95 USD List
  PUBLISHED: Jul 28, 2006
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Jim Lewis (GunTruck)

I love American AFV's from all eras and researching Vietnam-era Gun Trucks and US Army Pentomic and Atomic Battlefield Ordnance from the 1950's through the 1960's. Avid Sci-Fi fan and modeler as well - Star Wars, Space:1999, and Star Trek are favorites. Owner/Master Miniaturist - GunTruck Studios....

Copyright 2021 text by Jim Lewis [ GUNTRUCK ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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