Artist's Impresion of the Space Shuttle Orbiter in space, 1976.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
The Space Shuttle, the world's first partially reusable launch vehicle, was first flown on 12th April 1981 and has been used for all America's manned space misions ever since. It normally carries a crew of five to seven and can lift a payload of some 25,000kg into low Earth orbit. The Orbiter and the solid fuel boosters are recovered and reused.