Astronomy Magazine

Types of Spacecraft

Posted on the 21 July 2015 by Dcshehan
Types of Spacecaft Spacecraft are vehicles, vessels or machines designed for traveling in outer space. The main purposes that they are used for are communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, space colonization, planetary exploration, and transportation of humans and cargo. Because of these many purposes there are many types of spacecraft that have invented or are inventing. As following way, the space crafts are classified in scientific sectors.

1. Flyby Spacecraft

Flyby spacecraft follow a continuous trajectory, without orbiting a planetary orbit. They must have the capability of using their instruments to observe passing targets, and ideally, compensating for the target’s apparent motion in optical instruments’ field of view. They must downlink data at high rates to Earth, storing data onboard during the periods when their antennas are off Earth point. 
Examples: Stardust, Mariner 2, Mariner 4, Mariner 5, Mariner 6, Mariner 7, Mariner 10, Pioneers 10, Pioneers 11 Stardust Spacecraft Stardust Spacecraft

2.Orbiter Spacecraft

Cassini Spacecraft
Cassini Spacecraft A spacecraft designed to travel to a distant planet and enter into orbit must carry with it a substantial propulsive capability to decelerate it at the right moment to achieve orbit insertion. Orbiter spacecraft collect data from a planet while moving around it.
Examples: Messenger, Mariner 9, Cassini, TOPEX/Poseidon, Ulysses, Jason Earth Orbiter,
Mars Observer, Magellan, Galileo, Mars Global Surveyor

3. Probe Spacecraft

A Probe Spacecraft collects data from a planet as it drops into the planet’s atmosphere. These types of spacecraft usually use to take atmospheric pressure and temperature readings of a planet. Probes work for a short period of time and are destroyed usually on impact. Examples: Galileo Atmospheric Probe, Mars Balloon, Titan “Aerover” Blimp, Vega (Venus Balloon), JPL Planetary Aerovehicles Development,
Pioneer 13 Venus Multiprobe Mission

Galileo Atmospheric Probe
Galileo Atmospheric Probe

4. Lander Spacecraft

Surveyor lander on display at the National Air And Space Museum
Surveyor lander on display at the National Air And Space Museum Lander spacecraft are designed to reach the surface of a planet and survive long enough to telemeter data back to Earth. 
Example: Mars PathFinder, Viking (Mars Landers), Venera 13 (Venus Lander), Surveyor (Moon Landers)

5. Surface Penetrator Spacecraft

Deep Space 2 Spacecraft
Deep Space 2 Spacecraft Surface penetrators have been designed for entering the surface of a body, such as a comet, surviving an impact of hundreds of Gs, measuring, and telemetering the properties of the penetrated surface. Penetrator data would typically be telemetered to the mother craft for re-transmission to Earth.
Examples: Deep Space 2, Deep Impact, Ice Pick, Lunar-A

6. Rover Spacecraft

A rover Spacecraft is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of a planet or other celestial body. Some rovers have been designed to transport members of a human spaceflight crew; others have been partially or fully autonomous robots. Rovers usually arrive at the planetary surface on a lander-style spacecraft.
Examples: Sojourner Rover, Mars Exploration Rover, Apollo 15 Lunar Rover

NASA Mars Rover
NASA Mars Rover
Apollo 15 Lunar Rover
Apollo 15 Lunar Rover

7. Observatory Spacecraft

An observatory spacecraft does not travel to a destination to explore it. Instead, it occupies an Earth orbit, or a solar orbit, from where it can observe distant targets free of the obscuring and blurring effects of Earth’s atmosphere.
Examples: Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope, Next-Generation Space Telescope

Hubble Telescope
Hubble Telescope

8. Communications & Navigation spacecraft

DirecTV Satellite
DirecTV Satellite Communications and navigation spacecraft are abundant in Earth orbit and the main purposes of these spacecraft are Transferring data between long distances, Satellite Television services, Running Global Positioning Systems.
Examples: Milstar, DirecTV, Globalstar

Maria Dell Fernandez
A Guest Article 
by Maria Dell Fernandez


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