AskDefine | Define spacecraft

Dictionary Definition

spacecraft n : a craft capable of traveling in outer space; technically, a satellite around the sun [syn: ballistic capsule, space vehicle]

User Contributed Dictionary



From space + craft.


  1. A vehicle that travels through space.


vehicle that travels through space

Usage notes

  • The correct plural form is "spacecraft", however spacecrafts is quite common.

Extensive Definition

A spacecraft is a vehicle or device designed for spaceflight. On a sub-orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft enters outer space but then returns to the planetary surface (such as Earth) without making a complete orbit. For an orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft enters a closed orbit around the planetary body. Spacecraft used for human spaceflights carry people on board as crew or passengers. Spacecraft used for robotic space missions operate either autonomously or telerobotically. Robotic spacecraft that leave the vicinity of the planetary body are space probes. Robotic spacecraft that remain in orbit around the planetary body are artificial satellites. Starships, which are built for interstellar travel, are so far a theoretical concept only.
Spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, planetary exploration and space tourism. Spacecraft and space travel are common themes in works of science fiction.

Spacecraft subsystems

A spacecraft system comprises various subsystems, dependent upon mission profile. Spacecraft subsystems may include: attitude determination and control (variously called ADAC, ADC or ACS), guidance, navigation and control (GNC or GN&C), communications (COMS), command and data handling (CDH or C&DH), power (EPS), thermal control (TCS), propulsion, structures, and payload.

Reusable spacecraft

The first reusable spacecraft, the X-15, was air-launched on a suborbital trajectory on July 19, 1963. The first partially reusable orbital spacecraft, 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. The Enterprise was used only for approach and landing tests, launching from the back of a Boeing 747 and gliding to deadstick landings at Edwards AFB, California. The first Space Shuttle to fly into space was the Columbia, followed by the Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The Endeavour was built to replace the Challenger when it was lost in January 1986. The Columbia broke up during reentry in February 2003.
The first automatic partially reusable spacecraft was the Buran (Snowstorm), launched by the USSR on November 15, 1988, although it made only one flight. 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 has since been modified to allow for autonomous re-entry via the addition of a control cable running from the control cabin to the mid-deck which would allow for the automated deployment of the landing gear in the event a un-crewed re-entry was required following abandonment due to damage at the ISS.
Per the Vision for Space Exploration, the Space Shuttle is due to be retired in 2010 due mainly 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 the partially reusable Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) no later than 2014. The Shuttle's heavy cargo transport role is to be replaced by expendable rockets such as the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) or a Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle.
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 should begin reusable private spaceflight carrying paying passengers in 2009''.

Fictional spacecraft

The term spacecraft is mainly used to refer to spacecraft that are real or conceived using present technology. The terms spaceship and starship are generally applied only to fictional spacecraft, usually those capable of transporting people. The spaceship is one of the prime elements in science fiction. Numerous short stories and novels are built up around various ideas for spacecraft, and spacecraft have often been featured in movies. Some hard science fiction books focus on the technical details of the craft, while others treat the spacecraft as a given and delve little into its actual implementation. see also List of fictional spaceships Some people believe that Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) may be alien spacecraft (that is, not of human construction and not originating from Earth), sometimes referred to as flying saucers. But the term UFO used here in this context refers to observed flying objects for which no identification has been made, though other meanings for the word UFO exist. To date, no known, independently verifiable examples of alien spacecraft are known to exist.

Spacecraft in art

The Mare Nostrum Spaceship is the central element of the Space art group El Club de los Astronautas. The group has worked out a utopian plan for the spacecraft and they are going to adopt and actualize the plan over time as technologies will develop to turn the plan into reality. Mare Nostrum represents a series of projects in the scientific, social and economic world that are building the foundation to its construction.

Examples of spacecraft

Manned spacecraft

Unmanned spacecraft

Spacecraft under development

Unfunded/Cancelled spacecraft programs

*Chinese Project 921-3 Shuttle
spacecraft in Afrikaans: Ruimtetuig
spacecraft in Arabic: مركبة فضائية
spacecraft in Bulgarian: Космически кораб
spacecraft in Catalan: Nau espacial
spacecraft in Czech: Umělé kosmické těleso
spacecraft in Danish: Rumskib
spacecraft in German: Raumschiff
spacecraft in Spanish: Nave espacial
spacecraft in Esperanto: Kosma flugaparato
spacecraft in Persian: فضاپیما
spacecraft in French: Véhicule spatial
spacecraft in Hindi: अंतरिक्ष यान
spacecraft in Korean: 우주선
spacecraft in Croatian: Svemirske letjelice
spacecraft in Indonesian: Wahana antariksa
spacecraft in Italian: Veicolo spaziale
spacecraft in Hebrew: חללית
spacecraft in Georgian: კოსმოსური ხომალდი
spacecraft in Lao: ຍານອາວະກາດ
spacecraft in Latvian: Kosmosa kuģis
spacecraft in Hungarian: Űreszköz
spacecraft in Malay (macrolanguage): Kapal angkasa lepas
spacecraft in Dutch: Ruimtevaartuig
spacecraft in Japanese: 宇宙船
spacecraft in Norwegian: Romskip
spacecraft in Norwegian Nynorsk: Romskip
spacecraft in Polish: Statek kosmiczny
spacecraft in Portuguese: Nave espacial
spacecraft in Russian: Космический аппарат
spacecraft in Simple English: Spacecraft
spacecraft in Sindhi: خِلائِي رَٿَ
spacecraft in Slovak: Umelé kozmické teleso
spacecraft in Slovenian: Vesoljsko plovilo
spacecraft in Serbian: Свемирске летелице
spacecraft in Finnish: Avaruusalus
spacecraft in Swedish: Rymdfarkost
spacecraft in Thai: ยานอวกาศ
spacecraft in Vietnamese: Tàu vũ trụ
spacecraft in Turkish: Uzay aracı
spacecraft in Samogitian: Pluotmielaivis
spacecraft in Chinese: 航天器

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ATDA, ATS, Alouette, Anna, Apollo, Ariel, Atlas-Score, Biosatellite, Comsat, Cosmos, Courier, Diapason, Discoverer, ERS, Early Bird, Earth insertion, Echo, Elektron, Explorer, GATV, Gemini, Injun, Intelsat, LEM, LM, Lofti, Luna, Lunar Orbiter, Lunik, Mariner, Mars probes, Mercury, Midas, Nimbus, OAO, OGO, OSO, Pageos, Pegasus, Pioneer, Proton, Ranger, Relay, Samos, San Marco, Secor, Sputnik, Surveyor, Syncom, Telstar, Transit, Vanguard, Viking, Voskhod, WRESAT, Zond, apogee, artificial satellites, attitude-control rocket, ballistic capsule, burn, capsule, deep-space ship, docking, docking maneuver, ferry rocket, fuel ship, injection, insertion, lunar excursion module, lunar module, manned rocket, module, moon ship, multistage rocket, orbit, parking orbit, perigee, reentry, rocket, shuttle rocket, soft landing, space capsule, space docking, space rocket, spaceship
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