Focus Friday - Re-usable Winged Spaceplanes

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07/09/10 04:02 AM

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The Space Shuttle, part of the Space Transportation System (STS), is an American spacecraft operated by NASA for orbital human spaceflight missions. The first of four test flights occurred in 1981, which were followed by operational flights beginning in 1982. The system is scheduled to be retired from service in 2010 after 134 launches. Major missions have included launching numerous satellites and interplanetary probes, conducting space science experiments, and servicing and construction of space stations. The Shuttle has been used for orbital space missions by NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, the European Space Agency, and Germany.

The Buran spacecraft was the only completed and operational space shuttle vehicle from the Soviet Buran program. The Buran completed one unmanned spaceflight in 1988 before the cancellation of the Soviet shuttle program in 1993. The Buran was subsequently destroyed by a hangar collapse in 2002.

SpaceShipOne is a rocket-powered aircraft that completed the first privately funded human spaceflight on June 21, 2004. SpaceShipOne is an experimental air-launched rocket-powered aircraft with suborbital flight capability that uses a hybrid rocket motor. The design features a unique "feathering" atmospheric reentry system where the rear half of the wing and the twin tail booms folded upward along a hinge running the length of the wing; this increased drag while remaining stable. During its test programme, SpaceShipOne set a number of important "firsts", including first privately funded aircraft to exceed Mach 2 and Mach 3, first privately funded manned spacecraft to exceed 100km altitude, and first privately funded reusable manned spacecraft.

The X-30 National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) was an attempt by the United States to create a viable single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) spacecraft. The project was canceled prior to the first craft being built.

The Rocketplane XP is a former suborbital spaceplane design that was under development circa 2005 by Rocketplane Limited, Inc.. The vehicle was to be powered by two jet engines and a rocket engine, intended to enable it to reach suborbital space. The XP was being designed to operate from existing spaceports in a manner consistent with established commercial aviation practices.

HOPE was a Japanese experimental spaceplane project designed by a partnership between NASDA and NAL (both now part of JAXA), started in the 1980s. The project was eventually cancelled in 2003, by which point test flights of a sub-scale testbed had flown successfully. The original HOPE project called for the building of a sub-scale orbital prototype known as HOPE-X, for H-2 Orbiting Plane, Experimental. This would be used for flight testing and systems validation, before moving onto the larger HOPE.

X-wings are fictional starfighters from the original Star Wars trilogy and the Star Wars Expanded Universe. They are depicted as the primary interceptor and dogfighter of the Rebel Alliance and the New Republic.

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