What Does Spacecraft Mean?

Spacecraft are vehicles designed to transport people or cargo into space using rocket propulsion. Their primary use is leaving Earth’s gravity for other planets within our Solar System; those aboard such spacecraft are known as astronauts or cosmonauts.

Orbital spacecraft resemble capsules or spaceplanes in shape and function. Reusable or expendable versions exist. Each requires power, communications and attitude control subsystems in order to complete its mission successfully.


Spacecraft refers to any vehicle or device which travels beyond Earth’s atmosphere and uses propulsion systems like rockets to travel through space. They typically launch with rockets before using their own propulsion systems to visit other worlds in our solar system.

To perform their jobs effectively, these professionals need to generate and distribute power. Most use solar panels for this task – these convert sunlight directly into electricity – while in cases when their panels are eclipsed or pointed away from the Sun, batteries take over this task.

Spacecraft must not only generate and distribute power, but they must also be structurally sound enough to withstand launch, reentry into another planet’s atmosphere, landing on that planet’s surface, radiation exposure and temperatures encountered in space – including static, vibration and acoustic testing on engineering or proto-flight models – in addition to qualification tests at higher than anticipated environmental conditions to provide safety margins. In order to meet this criteria, they undergo extensive ground tests which include static vibration acoustic testing for engineering models as well as qualification tests at test levels higher than expected environmental conditions to provide safety margins.


Since Sputnik 1 launched on October 4, 1957, humanity has learned much about space just above Earth’s atmosphere. Radiation levels and extreme temperatures that can drop hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit exist here; therefore, spacecraft must be constructed to protect their crew members while providing enough room for efficient functioning within this hostile environment.

Spacecraft are both unmanned and manned; those without people aboard are called space probes or robots; those that remain orbiting Earth for extended periods are called artificial satellites – while some, like North American’s X-15 spaceplane, can even be reused multiple times!

Manned spacecraft require more complex systems to provide their crew members with food, water, air, living space and safety. Furthermore, they’re considerably more costly to construct and launch; thus leading most national governments to sponsor their own space programs. When an individual enters space, they are commonly known as an astronaut or cosmonaut.


Spacecraft are built for various uses, including communications, Earth observation, meteorology, navigation and planetary exploration. Spacecraft may either be manned or unmanned.

Artificial satellites are the most prevalent form of spacecraft. These satellites orbit Earth or another celestial body in space and relay radio signals between locations on it; others serve as weather observer satellites; still others take part in interplanetary missions.

Most spacecraft require a launch vehicle (carrier rocket) to enter orbit and use their own propulsion system for maneuvers and orbit adjustment – this may use simple hydrazine thrusters or reaction wheels; spacecraft designed for human habitation have additional life support systems. Spacecraft payload varies based on their mission profile but typically include scientific instruments (cameras/telescopes/particle detectors etc), cargo, and crewmembers.


Spacecraft must be designed to withstand the loads experienced during launch and as it enters orbit or embarks on deep space missions. Depending on its mission profile, its thermal conditions could range from vacuum up to high temperatures and plasmas.

Spacecraft are specifically constructed to accommodate their payload, whether that be cargo or humans for manned missions. If an onboard crew are present, their environment should include pressurization, radiation shielding and temperature regulation to maintain comfort onboard.

Unmanned spacecraft known as satellites travel into low Earth orbit to relay radio signals or observe Earth from above, as well as carry sensors that take scientific data and transmit it back to us on Earth. People have learned much about our solar system by utilizing spacecraft for observation of planets, stars and other objects within it.

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