Also called space shuttle , spaceship or space transportation system. The space shuttle is a partially reusable rocket-launched, manned spacecraft designed to launch satellites and transport people and materials between Earth and a space station.
Officially named the Space Transport System (STS) by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this system first went into space on April 12, 1981, and made 135 flights until the program ended in 2011.
The space shuttle can carry satellites and other vehicles for deployment in space in the orbiter’s cargo hold. It can also rendezvous with orbiting spacecraft to allow astronauts to serve, refuel, or embark, or retrieve it to return to Earth.
Also , the space shuttle can act as a space platform to conduct orbital experiments and observe Earth and cosmic objects for about two weeks.
On some missions it was carrying a European-made pressure plant. Even biological and physical investigations of shuttle crew members are being conducted in weightless conditions. For example: Spacelab. Spacelab was a reusable lab developed by ESA and used in certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle .
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which recently took off as a test flight with 2 astronauts from the International Space Agency in Florida, became the 9th manned flight into space.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine underlined at the SpaceX launch , called Demo-2, on May 1 , that 4 of the manned flights carried out so far were made by the American space shuttle .
Let’s take a look at these 10 Space Shuttles;
Vostok (USSR, 1961)
Soviet Russia, together with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, completed the first manned space flight by enabling the Vostok capsule to make one orbit around the Earth on April 12, 1961.
Vostok was able to carry a gas tank and astronauts in it. There was a window for the astronaut to observe the Earth from where his feet were. Vostok had no landing gear and during landing Yurin was ejected from the capsule. But Soviet Russia withheld this information because it wanted it to be seen as a real space flight.
Between 1961 and 1963, 6 Vostok capsules were launched, the last of which was realized by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space .
Mercury ( US, 1961)
America had to wait until the February 1962 flight of John Glenn for Russia to make the first flight in the cold space war, which increased with the Gagarin flight. Mercury’s other capsules, which had conical ends and cylindrical bodies, were also unique in their names. LibertyBell 7, Sigma 7 and Aurora 7. Mercury made its last flight in 1963.
Voskhod (USSR, 1964)
Voskhod has set a different milestone from Vostok as it can carry more crew and allow spacewalking. In 1964, a pilot carried a doctor and aerospace engineer into space without wearing a spacesuit .
Voskhod 2 completed its last flight in 1965 with Alexei Leonov’s 12-minute spacewalk outside the capsule.
Just as Voskhod was inspired by Vostok, Gemini made its flight in March 1965 (a few days after Voskhod2 completed its mission). Gemini 2 can carry astronauts, but its main goal was to figure out how to place spacecraft into orbit . This goal is an important issue for NASA for the planned moon landing afterwards.
With the Gemini 4 launched afterwards, Ed White completed the first non-capsule march by the Americans, which lasted approximately 23 minutes. Making the final with Gemini 12 in November 1966, NASA thought they were ready to go to the moon.
Soyuz (USSR / Russia, 1967)
Although 1 cosmonaut died due to the parachute not opening during the landing, the Soyuz, which made its first flight in 1967, has 3 compartments. The astronaut’s habitat and mechanism for connecting to other spacecraft, the return capsule to Earth, and the propulsion module, which carries fuel, panels, etc. in the other part.
The capsules, which carried more than 150 crew members into space, also visited the Salyut and Mir stations and were finally retired in 2011.
Apollo / Lunar Module (US, 1968)
In the last leg of the cold war race, the aim was to put humans on the moon, and this was the most important goal of the Apollo program, which emerged with the experiences learned from the Mercury and Gemini capsules.
In 1967, due to the explosion of the shuttle during the preliminary control, the time required for the launch of Apollo 1 was postponed for 2 years due to the accident reporting and improvements after the accident that caused the death of the 3 crew members inside due to the test flight.
With Apollo 11, the expected came true and the moon landing took place with 3 modules providing command, service and landing.
However, on the 3rd day of the later 1970 Apollo 13 flight, there was an explosion in the service module, approximately 322,000 km from Earth, and the crews were transported safely with the Lifeboat plan. Apollo made its last flight in 1975.
Space Shuttle (US, 1981)
Restarting its crewed flights in 1980, NASA planned 5 flights to space between 1981 and 2011 with 135 crew members. Two of the flights, mostly 7 crew members, resulted in fatal accidents. 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia flight. These accidents contributed to NASA’s deep-rooted safety culture, but did not prevent the remaining 3 services from being cancelled.
Shenzhou (China, 2003)
Shenzhou Translated by NASA, “divine ship” is the name given to the spacecraft launched in 2003 by China, the 3rd country that has 3 modules similar to the Soyuz spacecraft and can send people into space. It remained in orbit for a day, shifting its focus to their rendezvous with two independent space stations.
In total, 6 Shenzhou spacecraft continued to transport humans until 2016.
Crew Dragon (US, 2020)
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule successfully carried out the SpaceX manned flight, which was postponed on 27 May, carrying 2 NASA astronauts. The Crew Dragon capsule carried astronauts to the International Space Station, making it the first commercial ship to carry humans into space.
Related article: SpaceX: The Journey from Zero to Success
Crew Dragon is based on the Dragon program, a cargo plane launched by SpaceX in 2012. It made its first uncrewed test flight to the international station in 2019. Dragon is different from other planes with its robot arms that will attach itself to the station , enough space for 7 people to sit in it, and life support systems.
Although they were short flights, they provided the transport of people to space in 2 vehicles. NASA’s X-15 aircraft could only reach an altitude of 108 km after 199 flights in the 1960s. However, it is very important to see that an aircraft-like vehicle can enter the atmosphere.
The second flight was carried out in 2004 with the Space Ship One commercial vehicle. Space Ship Two then took its place and carried the first non-pilot passenger into space in 2019.
The design of new vehicles and the number of tests to orbit are increasing day by day. Although the uncrewed Boeing flight did not reach the space station in 2019, the company says they will repeat this flight before planning a crewed flight later. Unlike CrewDragon, the Starliner capsule was designed from the ground up.
On the international platform, China conducted a test flight in May, which it has not yet named. The purpose of the flight is to facilitate the construction of a 3-module space station.
New Shepard; It is conducting tests of a semi-orbital touristic vehicle called Blue Origin, which is closer to the earth. The company, founded by JeffBezos, has made dozens of uncrewed flights, and last year it announced a human flight.
Our Space Shuttle list is here. I hope you were informed and enjoyed.