Spacecraft shown in approximate proportion to the space shuttle. Picture credits: Boeing, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corp, Nasa and Blue Origin.
The shuttle's successors
After three decades, the shuttle era is all but over and the United States no longer has the means to send astronauts into space. Nasa is looking to the private sector to provide a new generation of space vehicles to take on the work of delivering crew and cargo to the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. We detail five of the possible successors to the shuttle.
As well as serving as a taxi to the International Space Station Boeing's vehicle could also take paying passengers into space.CST-100
In 2010 SpaceX became the first privately owned company to send a spacecraft into orbit and recover it.Dragon
Sierra Nevada Corp
The only shuttle-like winged vehicle to be in the race, but at only 10m (32ft) long it is much shorter than its predecessor.Dream Chaser
The MPCV is designed for much longer missions than the other craft detailed here - it could venture as far as the Moon or Mars.MPCV
Of the four companies receiving Nasa funding, perhaps the least is known about Blue Origin and its space vehicle.Space vehicle
UK industry completes construction of the modules that make up the Lisa Pathfinder satellite - a remarkable probe that will test the key technologies needed to detect gravitational waves in space.
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