How Fast Does a Space Shuttle Go

There are many factors to consider when you want to know how fast a shuttle will be able to go in space. While they may travel at different speeds, there are some estimates we can take a look at to find the correct answer.

In this article, we will take a look at the top speed a space shuttle can go, and how it can reach that speed. We also look at other factors involved, such as total weight and what influence lack of gravity may have on its speed.

Keep on reading to find out for yourself how fast a space shuttle can travel in space and what its ultimate speed is.

How Fast Can a Shuttle Go In Space?

The standard orbiting speed of a shuttle is around 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour for it to stay in orbit. The only way a shuttle will be able to stay in orbit is at that speed because it must compensate for Earth‘s gravitational pull.

While space shuttles are not used for space travel anymore, they had a top speed of 17,500 miles while in orbit. This also depended on their payload; if it was lighter, it might reach a speed that is a bit faster than that.

Fun fact: while a space shuttle is in orbit at that speed, the crew will see a sunrise every 45 minutes.

Faster Craft

When the Juno probe entered orbit around Jupiter in 2016, it reached a top speed of 165,000 miles (266,000 kilometers) per hour. This made the Juno probe from NASA the fastest space-traveling craft in the history of space travel.

Interesting Facts About Space Travel

When a craft is traveling in space, it does not need to use thrust to keep it going because there is no gravity. That simply means that if a craft reaches top speed, you can turn off its engines and it will continue moving at that speed.

Your craft can then travel indefinitely at that speed without using any fuel to keep it going to wherever it is going. Another fact is that if you do have a way to keep on accelerating, your craft will pick up speed all the time.

So, there is no way you can tell what the top speed will be after traveling for months or even years through space. The problem is that space shuttles are not built for that speed, so at a certain point they will start breaking up into pieces.

To determine the top speed of a spacecraft or even a space shuttle traveling through space will be difficult to do. You may only know its speed if you allow it to travel for an indefinite time, and then you might still not really know the total speed.

The Payload Factor

If you do decide to launch an unmanned space shuttle into space, there is always the weight factor you need to consider. With enough fuel to accelerate for a few weeks in space, the shuttle might not even be able to launch.

Fuel will add a lot of weight to the shuttle’s total weight, causing it to struggle to get into space in the first place. You will not be able to know how fast it eventually goes if you want the craft to accelerate for more than a few weeks.

The only way you may have enough fuel to keep on accelerating for a longer period is if it can be refueled in space. Therefore, your space shuttle must be already in space and needs to be fueled at a space station to make it easier.

Spaceship interior with view on Earth

How Fast Can Humans Travel In Space

Let’s first ask whether you can feel the speed you are going while in space. The answer is simply no, you feel nothing. The next question is, how fast can humans travel in space before it will have an impact on them, and will they survive high speeds?

To answer that, the average maximum G-force a person can stand is about 16G, which is equivalent to around 157 meters per second. However, this can only be sustained for about one minute before it will have a severe impact on the human body.

Humans can actually travel at the speed of light in space if it is in one direction and at a constant speed. The problem arises when you need to accelerate and de-accelerate at that speed; it might be lethal for the human body.

What you need is a spacecraft that is built to withstand that speed, and that provides you with a stable atmosphere inside the craft. To get back to the main question, a space shuttle will not be able to travel much faster than the speeds already achieved.

Next Generation Space Travel

While there are no new technologies available that will help us to travel at the speed of light, there are new ideas forming. If somebody does not come up with a method to accelerate a spacecraft to the speed of light, this will not happen in our time.

Maybe in the future, there will be space traveling, unless someone comes up with a way to harness tachyon energy. These are particles that, in theory, are already traveling at the speed of light, so we only need to jump on it, so to speak.

All that being said, we are not completely without hope. Maybe someday, possibly earlier than we imagine, humans will go boldly where no one has gone before.


If you are asking yourself the question of how fast a space shuttle can go, you likely want to know more about space in general. Space travel is a very interesting subject, but there is still a lot we need to learn about.

For now, we salute those space shuttles for the services they provided mankind, and may they rest in peace!

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