in astronautics, a spacecraft designed to make flights between the earth and man-made objects in space, such as near-earth manned spacecraft, orbital space stations, and unmanned probes, or between man-made objects in different orbits.
The main purpose of a transport craft is to transport manned or unmanned objects intended for scientific or industrial tasks to earth orbit and return them to earth. Another purpose is to transport space tugs to earth orbit; space tugs are capable of shifting a payload to higher orbits or to flight trajectories to the moon or planets. The crew of a transport craft may, for example, carry out maintenance, repairs, and preventive inspections of orbital spacecraft. The crew may also conduct observations or scientific and technological research or rescue cosmonauts in emergency situations in orbit.
A transport craft may be manned or unmanned and reusable or nonreusable. The role of a nonreusable transport craft has been filled by several spacecraft of the Soyuz series (for example, in transporting cosmonauts to the Salyut space station) and by several Apollo spacecraft (in transporting astronauts to the Skylab space station). Reusable transport craft are the main component of multipurpose space transportation systems. Such transport craft, called shuttles in the foreign literature, are expected to replace booster rockets and nonreusable spacecraft by the 1980’s.
A. A. EREMENKO