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Spacecraft

Manned vehicle or unmanned machine designed to fly in outer space

Top 10 Spacecraft related articles

More than 100 Soviet and Russian crewed Soyuz spacecraft (TMA version shown) have flown since 1967 and now support the International Space Station.
The US Space Shuttle flew 135 times from 1981 to 2011, supporting Spacelab, Mir, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the ISS. (Columbia's maiden launch, which had a white external tank, shown)

A spacecraft is a vehicle or machine designed to fly in outer space. A type of artificial satellite, spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, Earth observation, meteorology, navigation, space colonization, planetary exploration, and transportation of humans and cargo. All spacecraft except single-stage-to-orbit vehicles cannot get into space on their own, and require a launch vehicle (carrier rocket).

On a sub-orbital spaceflight, a space vehicle enters space and then returns to the surface, without having gained sufficient energy or velocity to make a full orbit of the Earth. For orbital spaceflights, spacecraft enter closed orbits around the Earth or around other celestial bodies. Spacecraft used for human spaceflight carry people on board as crew or passengers from start or on orbit (space stations) only, whereas those used for robotic space missions operate either autonomously or telerobotically. Robotic spacecraft used to support scientific research are space probes. Robotic spacecraft that remain in orbit around a planetary body are artificial satellites. To date, only a handful of interstellar probes, such as Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1 and 2, and New Horizons, are on trajectories that leave the Solar System.

Orbital spacecraft may be recoverable or not. Most are not. Recoverable spacecraft may be subdivided by method of reentry to Earth into non-winged space capsules and winged spaceplanes. Recoverable spacecraft may be reusable (can be launched again or several times, like the SpaceX Dragon and the Space Shuttle orbiters) or expendable (like the Soyuz). In recent years, we are seeing more space agencies tending towards reusable spacecraft.

Humanity has achieved space flight but only a few nations have the technology for orbital launches: Russia (RSA or "Roscosmos"), the United States (NASA), the member states of the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan (JAXA), China (CNSA), India (ISRO), Taiwan[1][2][3][4][5] (National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, Taiwan National Space Organization (NSPO),[6][7][8] Israel (ISA), Iran (ISA), and North Korea (NADA). In addition, several private companies have developed or are developing the technology for orbital launches, independently from government agencies. The most prominent examples of such companies are SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Spacecraft Intro articles: 55

History

The first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union

A German V-2 became the first spacecraft when it reached an altitude of 189 km in June 1944 in Peenemünde, Germany.[9] Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit (LEO) by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments; while the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the Space Age.[10][11] Apart from its value as a technological first, Sputnik 1 also helped to identify the upper atmospheric layer's density, through measuring the satellite's orbital changes. It also provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. Pressurized nitrogen in the satellite's false body provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection. Sputnik 1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year from Site No.1/5, at the 5th Tyuratam range, in Kazakh SSR (now at the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite traveled at 29,000 kilometres per hour (18,000 mph), taking 96.2 minutes to complete an orbit, and emitted radio signals at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz

While Sputnik 1 was the first spacecraft to orbit the Earth, other man-made objects had previously reached an altitude of 100 km, which is the height required by the international organization Fédération Aéronautique Internationale to count as a spaceflight. This altitude is called the Kármán line. In particular, in the 1940s there were several test launches of the V-2 rocket, some of which reached altitudes well over 100 km.

Spacecraft History articles: 20

Spacecraft types

Crewed spacecraft

Apollo 17 command module in Lunar orbit

As of 2016, only three nations have flown crewed spacecraft: USSR/Russia, USA, and China. The first crewed spacecraft was Vostok 1, which carried Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961, and completed a full Earth orbit. There were five other crewed missions which used a Vostok spacecraft.[12] The second crewed spacecraft was named Freedom 7, and it performed a sub-orbital spaceflight in 1961 carrying American astronaut Alan Shepard to an altitude of just over 187 kilometers (116 mi). There were five other crewed missions using Mercury spacecraft.

Other Soviet crewed spacecraft include the Voskhod, Soyuz, flown uncrewed as Zond/L1, L3, TKS, and the Salyut and Mir crewed space stations. Other American crewed spacecraft include the Gemini spacecraft, the Apollo spacecraft including the Apollo Lunar Module, the Skylab space station, the Space Shuttle with undetached European Spacelab and private US Spacehab space stations-modules, and the SpaceX Crew Dragon configuration of their Dragon 2. US company Boeing also developed and flown a spacecraft of their own, the CST-100, commonly referred to as Starliner, but a crewed flight is yet to occur. China developed, but did not fly Shuguang, and is currently using Shenzhou (its first crewed mission was in 2003).

Except for the Space Shuttle, all of the recoverable crewed orbital spacecraft were space capsules.

The International Space Station, crewed since November 2000, is a joint venture between Russia, the United States, Canada and several other countries.

Spaceplanes

Columbia orbiter landing

Spaceplanes are spacecraft are built in the shape of, and function as, airplanes. The first example of such was the North American X-15 spaceplane, which conducted two crewed flights which reached an altitude of over 100 km in the 1960s. The first reusable spacecraft, the X-15, was air-launched on a suborbital trajectory on July 19, 1963.

The first partially reusable orbital spacecraft, a winged non-capsule, the Space Shuttle, was launched by the USA on the 20th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight, on April 12, 1981. During the Shuttle era, six orbiters were built, all of which have flown in the atmosphere and five of which have flown in space. Enterprise was used only for approach and landing tests, launching from the back of a Boeing 747 SCA and gliding to deadstick landings at Edwards AFB, California. The first Space Shuttle to fly into space was Columbia, followed by Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. Endeavour was built to replace Challenger when it was lost in January 1986. Columbia broke up during reentry in February 2003.

The first automatic partially reusable spacecraft was the Buran-class shuttle, launched by the USSR on November 15, 1988, although it made only one flight and this was uncrewed. This spaceplane was designed for a crew and strongly resembled the U.S. Space Shuttle, although its drop-off boosters used liquid propellants and its main engines were located at the base of what would be the external tank in the American Shuttle. Lack of funding, complicated by the dissolution of the USSR, prevented any further flights of Buran. The Space Shuttle was subsequently modified to allow for autonomous re-entry in case of necessity.

Per the Vision for Space Exploration, the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 mainly due to its old age and high cost of program reaching over a billion dollars per flight. The Shuttle's human transport role is to be replaced by SpaceX's SpaceX Dragon 2 and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner. Dragon 2's first crewed flight occurred on May 30, 2020.[13] The Shuttle's heavy cargo transport role is to be replaced by expendable rockets such as the Space Launch System and ULA's Vulcan rocket, as well as the commercial launch vehicles.

Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne was a reusable suborbital spaceplane that carried pilots Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie on consecutive flights in 2004 to win the Ansari X Prize. The Spaceship Company will build its successor SpaceShipTwo. A fleet of SpaceShipTwos operated by Virgin Galactic was planned to begin reusable private spaceflight carrying paying passengers in 2014, but was delayed after the crash of VSS Enterprise.

Uncrewed spacecraft

Mariner 10 diagram of trajectory past planet Venus

Semi-crewed – crewed as space stations or part of space stations

Earth-orbit satellites

Lunar probes

Planetary probes

Artist's conception of the Phoenix spacecraft as it lands on Mars
Artist's conception of Cassini–Huygens as it enters Saturn's orbit

Other – deep space

Fastest spacecraft

  • Parker Solar Probe (estimated 343,000 km/h or 213,000 mph at first sun close pass, will reach 700,000 km/h or 430,000 mph at final perihelion)[15]
  • Helios I and II Solar Probes (252,792 km/h or 157,078 mph)

Furthest spacecraft from the Sun

  • Voyager 1 at 148.09 AU as of January 2020, traveling outward at about 3.58 AU/a (61,100 km/h; 38,000 mph)[16]
  • Pioneer 10 at 122.48 AU as of December 2018, traveling outward at about 2.52 AU/a (43,000 km/h; 26,700 mph)[16]
  • Voyager 2 at 122.82 AU as of January 2020, traveling outward at about 3.24 AU/a (55,300 km/h; 34,400 mph)[16]
  • Pioneer 11 at 101.17 AU as of December 2018, traveling outward at about 2.37 AU/a (40,400 km/h; 25,100 mph)[16]

Unfunded and canceled programs

The first test flight of the Delta Clipper-Experimental Advanced (DC-XA), a prototype launch system

Crewed spacecraft

Multi-stage spaceplanes

SSTO spacecraft

Spacecraft Spacecraft types articles: 167