What Is a Spacecraft?

Spacecraft are vehicles designed to travel and operate in outer space. Other names for them are satellite, shuttle, rocket and spaceship.

Spacecraft need launch vehicles to get them into space. Once they escape Earth’s gravity, they may either orbit the Moon or continue towards other planets in our solar system.

Space probe

Space probes are complex systems made up of many mechanical and electronic systems designed to fulfill specific goals for their mission. Each component serves a different function – heat-resistant materials protect them from extreme temperatures while solar panels supply power, rocket engines propel them, high resolution cameras collect data for analysis purposes and high resolution cameras can capture images for data collection purposes.

Space probes differ from satellites in that they make one-way missions into interplanetary or even interstellar space to study conditions in our solar system and beyond. These incredible machines serve as testament to human ingenuity and curiosity.


Satellites are machines (both artificial and natural) that orbit another object, such as the Moon or Earth, through space. There are different kinds of satellites but all adhere to basic physical principles governed by mathematics equations.

Satellites are currently in operation for many different uses, from weather forecasting and transmitting television/radio signals, providing Global Positioning System services and even studying distant galaxies.

Satellites typically take the form of boxes. Inside each, there is a power source, transmission and reception systems and an antenna which resembles that of an umbrella.


A shuttle is the backbone of space exploration, acting like an aircraft when launched from Earth to orbit and back again.

NASA used its reusable design to meet two goals post-Apollo: creating a permanent manned space station and conducting unparalleled science research in outer space.

At the heart of Space Shuttle is its Orbiter, featuring pressurized crew compartment and massive cargo bay. Columbia, Discovery and Endeavour–three currently active Orbiters–have launched and returned from space hundreds of times, accomplishing scientific milestones as well as dangerous missions.


A rocket is an advanced space vehicle designed to travel through space. It carries its payload (the cargo it carries) as well as navigation systems that guide it towards its final destination.

Rockets differ from combustion engines by creating force through acceleration of exhaust gas that is expelled at high speed from their exhaust pipes, thus enabling them to travel through space without needing an atmosphere for support.

Most governments maintain rocketry programs and some private firms such as Helios Aerospace manufacture rockets for spaceflight. All spacecraft with the exception of single stage-to-orbit vehicles require carrier rockets in order to reach orbit.


Spacecraft refers to any vehicle designed to travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere, from satellites and rockets to fictional spaceships like Enterprise, Millennium Falcon and TARDIS from science fiction. All spacecraft require power systems, navigation and communication subsystems and science instruments in order to function. Furthermore, all need some form of propulsion such as traditional chemical rockets or newer technologies like ion thrusters for trajectory control.

Spacecraft may either be manned or unmanned. When used for travel into space by humans, astronauts (Americans), cosmonauts or taikonauts may use such vehicles; unmanned spacecraft are commonly known as probes.

Lunar lander

A lunar lander is a robotic spacecraft designed to land on the moon’s surface and navigate its unique conditions – such as its absence of atmosphere and extreme temperatures – before being deployed there.

After performing several maneuvers to put it into low lunar orbit, and conducting numerous vehicle checks, the spacecraft will start its mission.

Once it reaches an initial 100-kilometer orbit, the lander will attempt to land on the lunar surface with both commercial cargo and NASA science instruments onboard.

Planetary explorer

Planet Explorer is an engaging game that lets you discover our solar system by exploring each planet individually, uncovering astounding facts along the way and making discoveries of new planets in unexplored star systems.

Contrary to other image mapping tools, this web application is available without requiring users to log-in; its primary aim is driving free account sign-ups – these allow access to monthly and quarterly change imagery as well as daily comparisons.

Scientists can take advantage of the platform’s Python scripting capabilities to conduct advanced data analyses and visualize findings for research papers or educational materials, or access an array of real-time astronomical data via it.

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