Credit: NASA – The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft

Some spacecrafts or space shuttle carry Astronauts (on average 7 each time) to and from the International Space Stations (ISS). It is similar to a rocket (as it takes off vertically) and an airplane (as it lands on a runway). NASA has been using space shuttles since 1981, flying more than 600 astronauts to outer space.

Credit: NASA Space Shuttle

Cargo spacecrafts are robotic spacecrafts that carry cargo such as food, propellant and other supplies to sustain human presence in orbit.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft are used to carry cosmonauts or astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Previously, they were used to carry astronauts to Salyut and later Mir Soviet space stations.

Soyuz consists of three modules or parts:

  • The orbital module containing the spike used to dock or join up with the ISS.
  • The crew module that carry astronauts to the ISS. This is the only part that returns to earth.
  • The propulsion module that carry the fuel and air supply for the astronauts on board.

Progress is an expendable or disposable cargo spacecraft used to transport fuel and water to the ISS and waste from the ISS. Once Progress has completed its mission it burns on its way back to earth. Another example is the HTV Japanese craft that carries cargo to the ISS.

Dragon is a reusable cargo spacecraft and potential human spacecraft.

Source: ESA – Soyuz