Space Shuttle Main Engine


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Moving Beyond Earth exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

This is the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME). Three SSME's plus two Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) power the reusable Space Shuttle. Each SSME produces 375,000 lbs of thrust or a total of 1,125,000 lbs and uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants.

This SSME is made of up of components of SSMEs that have flown into space. The flights have included the first four Shuttle missions, the second Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, the missions that launched the Magellan and Galileo space probes, and the John Glenn flight. The engine was donated by Rocketdyne to the Smithsonian in 2004.

Collection Item Long Description:



Inventory Number


Credit Line

Transferred from Boeing, Rocketdyne.


Country of Origin

United States of America


Nozzle, partly steel; throat, copper; injector plate, steel; pipes along nozzle, non-ferrous metal; hoops around nozzle, non-ferrous metal; bulbous joint, on main pipe, on powerhead, steel; 6-inch pipe, steel; smaller pipes, primarily aluminum, some with diagonal yellow plastic wrappings; red rubber pipe holders on both sides of powerhead; impeller or pump, on left, non-ferrous metal; equi-distant nuts around this impeller, non-ferrous metal; identical impeller on right, steel; clear covering over cutaways of both impellers, plexiglass; largest, curved, main pipe around top of powerhead, from back of left impeller to back of right impeller, steel; low, V-shaped large pipe at bottom of powerhead, non-ferrous; sphere under lower right of powerhead, near right impeller, non-ferrous; black plastic wire protectors on right side of powerhead; large rectangle protruding at angle on right side of powerhead, with many electrical cables leading into it, with black and white plastic insulated wires, some wires with braided, silver, non-ferrous metal insulation; others exposed; some with white plastic covering and soft, fabric insulation; transporter, overall, steel


Overall: 9ft 9in. x 13ft 6in. x 7ft 8in., 14125lb. (297.18 x 411.48 x 233.68cm, 6407.1kg)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


PROPULSION-Rocket Engines