Spacecraft Synonyms

Spacecraft is an umbrella term encompassing vehicles launched into space. This includes Earth-orbiting satellites, space probes and experiment capsules as well as orbiting modules of launch vehicles (e.g. the space shuttle).

Spacecraft are engineered to operate in the demanding conditions of space, which require extensive protection from microgravity, extreme thermal variations and abrasion.


Spacecraft or space ships are vehicles designed for operation in outer space. Spacecraft can range from unmanned probes like those launched from satellites, like those sent out by NASA, to fully-staffed orbiting facilities like the International Space Station. Launched using rockets that provide thrust to launch them into orbit and possess their own propulsion systems once separated from them by their rocket launcher, these spaceships become autonomous after launch and continue moving with or without propulsion assistance from outside sources.

Spacecraft contain multiple systems, such as its power subsystem, steering system, communications system and payload module containing science instruments. A spacecraft may also include thrusters for maneuvering and orientation within space – these are known as Attitude and Articulation Control System (AACS) subsystems.

Space Station

Designed to help scientists gain an understanding of human life in space, the station consists of modular compartments filled with experiments and living quarters. Docking ports enable visiting spaceships to dock with it and transfer astronauts, supplies and cargo.

Since 2000, this orbiting complex has been continuously occupied. The station’s large solar arrays provide energy for its systems and labs – where crew members conduct research that cannot be accomplished on other space vehicles.

Scientists studying the long-term effects of weightlessness on humans use the International Space Station as a stepping stone towards sending humans further into space than ever before. NASA plans on sending its next mission – an expedition to Mars using lessons learned on board. Astronauts on board either sleep tethered to walls or free-floating, depending on their preference.


A rocket is a spacecraft that utilizes chemical propellants as its driving force. The rocket engine creates thrust when fuel and oxidizer undergo a violent chemical reaction, propelling exhaust gasses at hypersonic speeds (five times the speed of sound).

As exhaust is burned away by its engines, rockets reduce weight so that a given amount of thrust can carry it further. This principle was first advanced by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and perfected by American and Soviet engineers like Wernher von Braun who designed Apollo spacecraft that brought astronauts to the moon.

Physics behind rocketry are grounded in Newton’s law of motion, which states that for every force acting in one direction there must be an equal and opposite force acting in another direction. Airplanes use wings to generate lift, pushing up against gravity. While rockets don’t use wings like airplanes do – instead relying on engines as thrust generators.

Experiment Capsule

Spacecraft or space vehicle refers to any vehicle designed to travel into outer space and operate around planets or moons in orbit, carrying astronauts or passengers onboard. Some other names for spacecraft include space probe, satellite, shuttle and spaceship.

University of Kentucky researchers have completed the world’s first capsule to enter an atmosphere without rolling, pitching or yawing – the Kentucky Re-entry Capsule (KRUPS). This experiment will enable scientists to improve thermal protection systems that keep astronauts and scientific equipment safe during entry. With KRUPS UK students will test new thermal insulation materials as well as 3D printed heat shields as well as new ejection mechanisms – an experiment conducted under Kentucky Space Grant Consortium and EPSCoR programs with NASA support.

Space Shuttle

NASA’s human spaceflight efforts were focused on the space shuttle for over 30 years. Consisting of jetliner-sized vehicles launched onto rocket boosters and returned as gliders to Kennedy Space Center or Edwards Air Force Base after traveling through space, this fleet made NASA famous and put a man into space.

Each shuttle was composed of an orbiter, two reusable solid rocket boosters, and an external fuel tank containing disposable fuel. Once its mission had concluded, its orbiter detached itself from its external tank and burnt up in Earth’s atmosphere before returning home.

In its operational lifetime, this fleet flew more than one hundred missions, building the International Space Station and conducting many scientific experiments under weightless conditions. Three orbiters — Challenger, Discovery, and Endeavour — can now be found at museums for all to admire.

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