sevenperforce

Spaceships and spacecraft

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"Spaceplane" is a fairly well-defined term. Everyone basically agrees that a spaceplane is a vehicle which is capable of aerodynamically-controlled flight in the atmosphere but can also operate above the Karman line.

"Spaceship" and "spacecraft", on the other hand, are a little less neatly defined. NASA seems to prefer the latter term, but I have seen several media sources referring to a variety of vehicles as spaceships, including the Dragon V2 and others. 

Now, I no there's really no rhyme or reason to this; it's just a matter of preference/convention. But if we were going to officially distinguish between the two, how would we go about doing it? Would spaceships be a subset, a distinct type of spacecraft? Do we say that a spaceship is manned and a spacecraft is unmanned? Or do we choose more stringent requirements for spaceships, like having ascent engines, maneuvering/transfer engines, and extended life support?

Other suggestions?

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A ship is usually much larger. A -craft is generally any vessel that operates in that medium.

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22 minutes ago, sevenperforce said:

"Spaceplane" is a fairly well-defined term. Everyone basically agrees that a spaceplane is a vehicle which is capable of aerodynamically-controlled flight in the atmosphere but can also operate above the Karman line.

"Spaceship" and "spacecraft", on the other hand, are a little less neatly defined. NASA seems to prefer the latter term, but I have seen several media sources referring to a variety of vehicles as spaceships, including the Dragon V2 and others. 

Now, I no there's really no rhyme or reason to this; it's just a matter of preference/convention. But if we were going to officially distinguish between the two, how would we go about doing it? Would spaceships be a subset, a distinct type of spacecraft? Do we say that a spaceship is manned and a spacecraft is unmanned? Or do we choose more stringent requirements for spaceships, like having ascent engines, maneuvering/transfer engines, and extended life support?

Other suggestions?

Actually spaceplane vs lifting body is really weird too. Technically nothing we've built is a true spaceplane (ie can be a plane and a spacecraft).

But Spacecraft/Spaceship refers to everything carrying people to and from space, and the terms are used interchangeably.

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When I think "spaceship" I think about a manned spacecraft which contains everything it needs to make a round-trip somewhere on its own. An orbital spaceship would be a manned reusable SSTO. An interplanetary spaceship would be a transfer vehicle like the Hermes from The Martian.

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Distinction between spaceships and spacecrafts? Hell, I'm having a hard time drawing a line between 'spacecraft', 'module' and 'station'. My best definition is 'whatever I use the said piece for at any given moment'.

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Not sure what the technical definitions is, but when I think 'spaceship' I think either something on the 'mothership' scale like Enterprise, or something very childlike (Reference Benny the astronaut in the Lego move. "Spaceship!"). I've never really heard peope refer to anything real as a space ship, and I have a feelings it's because of those non-serious connotations. 

At a baseline, spacecraft is anything that operates in space (though Nasa even refers to their Mars rovers as spacecraft), so I'd argue that 'ship' is a subset of 'craft', possibly with the difference of carrying humans or other live animals. 

Edited by SgtSomeone

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To me they sound analogous to "aircraft" and "(sea) ship". An aircraft starts and finishes on a runway and only operates in its intended domain in between. That's similar to space craft that launch and re-enter. Whereas after it's built, a ship is always in the water and you just float it next to a pier when you're not using it. That would more resemble something that stays in space. Put some better engines on the ISS and go places in it and I'd be comfortable calling it a space ship.

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I imagine a big part of using "spacecraft" is that it sounds more official or professional than "spaceship," which conjures images of Star Destroyers and the Enterprise. Which are things we definitely have not at this point in time. Where is the line drawn? Not sure, but we certainly haven't reached it in anything we've built.

People get opinions about names. Even dealing with water vessels, arguing over what is or is not a "ship," a "boat," a "raft," or a "watercraft" is a little too much Serious Business for my taste.

Edited by pincushionman

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54 minutes ago, pincushionman said:

I imagine a big part of using "spacecraft" is that it sounds more official or professional than "spaceship," which conjures images of Star Destroyers and the Enterprise. Which are things we definitely have not at this point in time. Where is the line drawn? Not sure, but we certainly haven't reached it in anything we've built.

I quite agree.

I don't think even the Shuttle quite qualified as a spaceship. Spaceplane, sure, but spaceship seems grander somehow...on a level, as you say, with Star Destroyers or the Enterprise. Though those would technically be starships, given their ordinary use for interstellar activities.

Which is sort of why I made this thread: to answer the question of how large and grand a spacecraft we would need to build before we could justifiably label it a spaceship.

Edited by sevenperforce

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A spaceship is something you'd see on SyFy. 

A spacecraft is something you'd see in the real world.

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Any room for "Spaceboat"?

On Earth, ships are ships, submarines are boats, gunboats are boats, gunships are...helicopters? And boats are boats.

All (except the helicopter gunship) are watercraft, but only one is a ship.

I'm sure I've heard in some Sci-Fi or other:

"SOMETHING SOMETHING THIS GO**AMN BOAT SOMETHING SOMETHING"

Edited by p1t1o

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20 hours ago, sevenperforce said:

I quite agree.

I don't think even the Shuttle quite qualified as a spaceship. Spaceplane, sure, but spaceship seems grander somehow...on a level, as you say, with Star Destroyers or the Enterprise. Though those would technically be starships, given their ordinary use for interstellar activities.

Which is sort of why I made this thread: to answer the question of how large and grand a spacecraft we would need to build before we could justifiably label it a spaceship.

Too strong requirements, agree with the shuttle but only as its ground to LEO only, an LEO to moon orbit shuttle with the same cargo capacity and crew facilities would be an spaceship. 
Orion on the other hand is too small.
One definition of ship versus boat is that an ship has multiple decks here the shuttle qualifies. an weight of 150 ton is another. For spaceship I would also add that it must be able to move around and reach moon or at least GEO or its an space station. Would also not call an single use craft like an larger moon landing craft than Apollo an spaceship as it would be single short term use even if over 15 ton and multiple decks.  
Something like hermes in the martian qualifies as spaceship as much as something like an destroyer is not an boat. 

 

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Extending the nautical comparison...everything we have built so far has basically been a collection of rafts.

The space station is essentially a bunch of rafts chained together just off the shoreline.

The Shuttle, I suppose, qualifies as more than a raft. Maybe it is the counterpart to a small Coast Guard patrol boat?

2 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

A spaceship is something you'd see on SyFy. 

A spacecraft is something you'd see in the real world.

This is true. Which is why building something that can actually qualify as a spaceship would be cool.

Perhaps a spaceship is something that can move under its own power and host permanent occupants?

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Had a quick search through quotes from famous astronauts. Lots mentioning "spacecraft", the only one I could find saying "spaceship" was from Yuri Gagarin, and it was translated from Russian.

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On February 21, 2016 at 2:58 AM, HebaruSan said:

To me they sound analogous to "aircraft" and "(sea) ship". An aircraft starts and finishes on a runway and only operates in its intended domain in between. That's similar to space craft that launch and re-enter. Whereas after it's built, a ship is always in the water and you just float it next to a pier when you're not using it. That would more resemble something that stays in space. Put some better engines on the ISS and go places in it and I'd be comfortable calling it a space ship.

Actually I like this. Think about an airship. It's something that always stayed in the air. Sure it had to come down to take on passengers. A spaceship would follow this definition somewhat.

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On February 21, 2016 at 1:58 AM, HebaruSan said:

To me they sound analogous to "aircraft" and "(sea) ship". An aircraft starts and finishes on a runway and only operates in its intended domain in between. That's similar to space craft that launch and re-enter. Whereas after it's built, a ship is always in the water and you just float it next to a pier when you're not using it. That would more resemble something that stays in space. Put some better engines on the ISS and go places in it and I'd be comfortable calling it a space ship.

What about when they're using drydock?

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12 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

What about when they're using drydock?

I guess that would be like docking it in an inflated centrifuge at the ISS?

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On February 27, 2016 at 0:02 PM, Emperor of the Titan Squid said:

My definition of a space ship is a manueverable, reusable, manned spacecraft constructed on-orbit.BIG

also, i dont think that the shuttle is a space plane.

The Shuttle is a Delta-wing spacecraft.

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On 2/21/2016 at 11:13 PM, sevenperforce said:

"Spaceplane" is a fairly well-defined term. Everyone basically agrees that a spaceplane is a vehicle which is capable of aerodynamically-controlled flight in the atmosphere but can also operate above the Karman line.

I've been told on this forum that the two craft hanging in the Smithsonian that qualify under this definition (the X-15 and Spaceshipone) don't qualify as "spaceplanes", at least under the typical KSP definition (which implies orbit, although I'm pretty sure both had more than 3400m/s delta-v).

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1 hour ago, wumpus said:

I've been told on this forum that the two craft hanging in the Smithsonian that qualify under this definition (the X-15 and Spaceshipone) don't qualify as "spaceplanes", at least under the typical KSP definition (which implies orbit, although I'm pretty sure both had more than 3400m/s delta-v).

Presumably "spaceplanes" may be divided into "suborbital spaceplanse" and "orbital spaceplanes", just as spaceflight itself is divided into "suborbital spaceflight" and "orbital spaceflight".

Carl Sagan moment: how cool is it that we figured out how to stay in space above a friggin' massive ball of rock simply by going really, really fast?

Edited by sevenperforce

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12 hours ago, wumpus said:

I've been told on this forum that the two craft hanging in the Smithsonian that qualify under this definition (the X-15 and Spaceshipone) don't qualify as "spaceplanes", at least under the typical KSP definition (which implies orbit, although I'm pretty sure both had more than 3400m/s delta-v).

Maybe. But on Earth you need something more like 10 km/s. The "get to space" (vertical; get-to-space) part isn't that much less than what we deal with for Kerbin, but for "orbit" (horizontal; stay-in-space) you really have to be going like a bat out of hell.

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19 hours ago, sevenperforce said:

Presumably "spaceplanes" may be divided into "suborbital spaceplanse" and "orbital spaceplanes", just as spaceflight itself is divided into "suborbital spaceflight" and "orbital spaceflight".

Carl Sagan moment: how cool is it that we figured out how to stay in space above a friggin' massive ball of rock simply by going really, really fast?

Yes, and both are spaceplanes, in short something who fly in the atmosphere like an plane and operate in space so it need rcs.

Spaceship is more like the boat or ship. Here its no clear definition outside that an ship can carry an boat but an boat can not carry an ship. 
Weight, size, number of decks and operation is the main markers. Broken in that fairly small sailboats can can cross oceans.

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