The long-awaited return of American astronauts launching on US spacecraft, a capability last seen when Atlantis closed out the Shuttle Program in 2011, is set to return next year. Along with new crew transporters, the Space Shuttles’ legacy will be honored by the return of a lifting body vehicle, as Dream Chaser makes progress towards her role for uncrewed ISS resupply efforts.
Two spacecraft are in a “race” to launch Americans to the International Space Station (ISS), a capability that has been exclusively conducted by the Russians – with a hefty price tag – via their Soyuz spacecraft following the 2011 retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet.
The Space Shuttle program’s storied 30+ year flight history came to an emotional conclusion six years ago today when Atlantis dropped from the pre-dawn darkness into the lights illuminating runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center.
When Atlantis’ wheels came to a stop just before 5:58am on 21 July 2011, the conclusion of the Shuttle program resulted in a planned crew launch capability gap for the U.S., though few at the time believed the gap would last more than a few years.
Originally, a transition period using the Orion spacecraft in ...