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Spacecraft are designed to operate effectively in an extreme space environment characterized by vacuum, microgravity, extremes in temperature, meteoroids and space debris. Furthermore, their surroundings may expose them to both ionizing and ultraviolet radiation sources.
A spacecraft’s structural subsystem must withstand loads from both its launch vehicle and any additional loads imposed during operation, as well as carry an payload such as cargo, scientific instruments or crew members.
The electrical subsystem on board a spacecraft utilizes relays to connect or disconnect components from its common distribution circuit, known as a bus. Additionally, a regulator keeps bus voltage constant; its shunt-type regulator can handle high current loads while switching on/off individual components as required. Finally, an array of scan platforms allows it to point instruments in specific directions.
Space launch systems
Spacecraft need rockets to reach orbit; most satellites and crewed spacecraft use expendable launch vehicles, while Russia (RSA or “Roscosmos”), the United States (NASA), Japan (JAXA), and China (Long March, Pallas-1 and Hyperbola-2) have reusable launch vehicle systems available to them.
Lower costs and miniaturized components are revolutionizing access to space. From joyrides for wealthy tourists to large megaconstellations of internet-beaming satellites, the burgeoning commercial sector has created an orbital ecosystem that’s revolutionizing commerce, national security, and global competition – but this growth also exposes businesses and governments alike to orbital debris which threatens satellites or pollutes whole orbits and blocks sunlight to disrupt both astronomy research as well as everyday life on Earth.
Space stations were once seen as science fiction; with the rise of space exploration, however, their construction became feasible. One such space station is known as the International Space Station (ISS), a large spacecraft serving as home for astronauts and cosmonauts as well as equipment and research facilities – it is the largest structure ever constructed in space; astronauts have likened its living quarters to that of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet cabin.
Since November 2000, the International Space Station has been continuously occupied and has made significant scientific advances across a range of disciplines including astronomy, physics, medicine and other. It serves as an educational tool about long-term weightlessness while improving life support systems for future space travel – not forgetting being used as a launch platform for other satellites!
While most eyes are focused on SpaceX and its new reusable rockets, an obscure startup in Washington may hold the keys to future spaceplanes.
Spaceplanes from companies like Spaceflight International would launch into orbit like traditional rockets but then land horizontally like airplanes on runways – an ingenious way of both cutting costs and increasing frequency in spaceflight travel.
Sierra Nevada and Virgin Galactic have both begun exploring this concept with their Dream Chaser cargo aircraft and SpaceShipTwo tourism flight vessel; but most remain on paper only: Boeing’s X-37 and Northrop Grumman’s Hermes mini-shuttle projects were cancelled, and Reaction Engines’ single-stage-to-orbit Skylon has experienced substantial investment costs.
Space debris or orbital junk is created when humans launch satellites and rockets into orbit repeatedly, leading to satellites flying into orbit at such high speeds that they become space debris – the result being anything from bus-sized objects down to millimetre-sized paint particles whizzing about at high speed, endangering or dismantling functional satellites in their path.
Due to an ever-increasing threat from debris, space agencies are taking proactive measures to ensure future missions can run safely in orbit. This involves designing satellites with end-of-life plans as well as creating effective systems to deflect or remove existing debris from orbit.
Some individuals fear being struck by falling space debris; however, chances of this are extremely remote. Since humans began sending objects into space over six decades ago, only one recorded case has ever seen human beings hit by space debris.