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Vehicle or machine designed to fly in space / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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A spacecraft (pl.: spacecraft) is a vehicle that is designed to fly in outer space and operate there. 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).

Columbia's first launch on the mission
The US Space Shuttle flew 135 times from 1981 to 2011, supporting Spacelab, Mir, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the International Space Station. (Columbia's maiden launch, which had a white external tank, shown)
More than 140 Soviet and Russian crewed Soyuz spacecraft (TMA version shown) have flown since 1967 and now support the International Space Station.

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 Earth orbit. 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 a 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, more space agencies are 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.

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