Orbital Human Space Launch
U.S. Human Space Launch
The events of 2011 marked a transition in the U.S. human spaceflight program with the retirement of the Space Shuttle. In the near term, NASA will rely on Russia to transport its astronauts to the ISS. However, the United States is pursuing development of several human spaceflight systems that are expected to take over U.S. crew transportation duties to the ISS and allow U.S. astronauts to travel beyond Earth orbit to explore destinations throughout the Solar System.
Certain spaceflight systems, including both the launch vehicle and its spacecraft payload, can be used to carry humans into space. Such flights amount to a small portion of all space missions—in 2010 only ## of the year’s ## launches carried people.
The Space Shuttle, also known as the Space Transportation System (STS), consists of an active fleet of three orbiters: Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The Shuttles are the United States’ primary method of transferring crew, supplies, and new modules to the ISS.