Space shuttle external tank nose cone

ET nose cone

The nose cone sat at the very top of the space shuttle assembly, on the nose of the external tank (ET). Its pointy shape helped the ET slip more easily through the atmosphere on its way to orbit.

The nose cone shielded sensors at the ET's tip and held vents for the liquid oxygen tank—the topmost tank of the ET. When mounted to the ET, the nose cone featured an aluminum spike that served as a lightning rod for the shuttle during the first part of its trip to orbit.