Everyone is fascinated by the idea of how huge planes or aircrafts fly but it is so expensive to take a spacecraft to space that ordinary man cannot even think of that number. The heavier the machine, more power it would consume to generate the thrust. Hence designing of space crafts is done in such a way that they have to carry minimum load. Even after such careful planning, spacecrafts are heavy like anything. Here is our list of the heaviest machines that we have ever sent to the space:
- International Space Station
This humungous space station weighs 420,000 kilograms and tops our list of the heaviest space-crafts. Its construction began in 1998 and ended in the year 2011. It is a multinational collaboration where there are five participating space agencies from various countries. These are National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( USA), Roscosmos (Russia), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Japan), European Space Agency (Europe) and Canadian Space Agency (Canada). The ISS orbits in the LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and is home to researches and a laboratory where various researches are carried off in the fields of astronomy, astrobiology, meteorology, physics and others.
A creation of the Soviet Union, Mir space station was the first ever space station that belonged to a country other than the United States. It was one of a kind as it was also the first ever to be a modular design. It was constructed in the year 1986 and weighed 140,000 kilograms! It measured 108 by 101 feet and hence became the largest vessel in space of its time. The unfortunate end of Mir took place in 2001 when it was re-entering the earth’s atmosphere and got annihilated.
- Space Shuttle
With an approximate weight of 110,000, Space Shuttle is placed at the third place in our list. Now retired, the Space Shuttle was into operation from the year 1981 to 2011 by NASA. The original name of the program of which the Space Shuttle was a part of was Space Transportation System and it was built to be low earth orbital spacecraft. The space shuttle orbiter vehicles were all launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Hubble Space Telescope was a mission of the space shuttle while there were numerous satellites too that were launched.
Buran was the first spaceplane created as a part of Soviet Buran programme. The 105,000 kilograms spacecraft took its first uncrewed flight on 15 November 1988 while its construction started in the year 1980. Myriad of companies came together in the development and construction of the Buran which was made to be launched on the heavy-lift vehicle Energia. Buran got destroyed in the year 2002 as a result of a hangar collapse due to poor maintenance, killing eight people.
This 76,540 kilograms space station was the first for the United States. Skylab was launched on May 14, 1973 on the carrier rocket Saturn V. Its operations included an orbital workshop, a solar observatory, Earth observation and various experiments that were done by separate groups of astronauts namely Skylab 2, Skylab 3 and Skylab 4. On July 11, 1979, Skylab re-entered the earth’s atmosphere due to a decayed orbit and got disintegrated there itself. Its debris was scattered all across the India Ocean and the Western Australia.
- Apollo Command and Service Module
Apollo command and service module was a part of the Apollo spacecraft. It was manufactured by the North American Aviation and the North American Rockwell while the design was by Maxime Faget. It took three astronauts to space and brought them back safely. Its construction started in November 1961 and this 28,800 kilograms spacecraft took its first flight in the year 1969. It was a part of the Apollo Program.
- Tianhe Core Module
Tianhe, which means “Harmony of the Heaven” weighed a whopping 22,600 Kilograms. It was a part of the Tiangong program, China and was launched in the orbit on 29 April 2021 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. The spacecraft was designed to accommodate three crew members and provided guidance, navigation and orientation control for the station. There was a kitchen and a toilet too in the living quarters.
- Salyut 7
This 19,824 kilograms space station which was the part of Soviet Salyut Programme, was launched on 19 April 1982 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Soviet Union. It was a backup vehicle for Salyut 6 which was launched as a backup due to the delays in the Mir programme. Salyut 7 had six resident crews at various times, first crew being Anatoli Berezovoy and Valentin Lebedev who arrived on 133 May,1982. The lat crew on Salyut 7 was Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov. The end of Salyut 7 was marked by an uncontrolled re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere on 7 February 1991.
- ATV ( Automated Transfer Vehicle)
Developed by the European Space Agency, Automated Transfer Vehicle was a cargo spacecraft which was launched on 9 March, 2008 for the first time. The ATV weighed 19,357 kilograms and was built to launch five times to the orbit. ATV performed many operations like supply missions to ISS, transporting payloads like propellant, water etc. it also reboosted station to higher orbit. It was manufactured principally by Airbus Defense and Space, was powered by 4 R-4D-11 Engine with a maximum thrust of 490 N.
- Salyut 1
The Salyut 1 weighed 18,900 kilograms and was the world’s first space station that was launched into low Earth Orbit on 19 April, 1971. The Salyut 1 by the Soviet Union, had five components namely a transfer compartment, a main compartment, two auxiliary compartments and the Orion 1 space observatory. It moved to a higher orbit in the same year in July. It was done to prevent the orbital decay of the spacecraft. October 11 was the judgment day for it as it was decided to conclude its mission. After almost 6 months it burned over the Pacific while deorbiting.