Education Technology

NASA - Space Shuttle Launch

Activity Overview

Student examine the ascent stage of a NASA space shuttle.


Students will

  • Create and analyze scatter plots given a table
  • Find regression functions using a graphing technology
  • Apply the first derivative test to find local extrema
  • Find inflection points to analyze the concavity of a function
  • Make connections to real world problems

About the Lesson

Before each mission, projected data is compiled to assist in the launch of the space shuttle to ensure safety and success during the ascent. To complete this data, flight design specialists take into consideration a multitude of factors such as the weight of the space shuttle, propellant used, mass of payload being carried to space, and mass of payload returning. They must also factor in atmospheric density, which is changing throughout the year.

After running multiple scenarios through computer modeling, information is compiled in a table showing exactly what should happen each second of the ascent. This information helps the NASA engineers and flight controllers to quickly evaluate whether or not the space shuttle is operating as expected during the launch phase.