Rockets of Today

— crewed spacecraft —

Let’s compare some of the passenger carrying spacecraft now in use or forthcoming. These are mostly competing for the job of shuttling people in and out of space stations.

Only two older craft survive from the pre-commercial era: Russia’s venerable Soyuz and its Chinese imitator, Shenzhou. Four commercial craft in various stages of readiness are covered: the Dragon, the Starliner, the Dream Chaser, and the passenger version of Starship, all of them American. (The European project to build a commercial capsule called Nyx is briefly described in the Dream Chaser article.)

Some articles give two dates in the heading, these being the dates of the first uncrewed orbital launch and the first crewed flight.

There are also new craft coming from several governments, of which only the USA’s Orion is complete. Others in the works include China’s unnamed next-generation capsule, Russia’s Orel, and India’s Gaganyaan. Finally, we add a brief run-through of uncrewed cargo spacecraft, plus a couple of odd cases like the X-37B.

I include pictures, but they are usually artists’ renders rather than photographs, as it’s hard to take a good photo of a craft when it’s actually up in space. Only for the Soyuz did I find a good picture in orbit.

A notable absence from this section is whatever capsule Blue Origin might put on top of the New Glenn. As far as we know they have not yet done any work on it. Presumably it will be larger than anything else here except the Starship, and able to seat a lot of people. Even their suborbital New Shepard capsule has 15 cubic meters of interior space and seats six, with large windows. It lands in dirt like a Soyuz, with parachutes and a brief dab of rocket braking just before touchdown, so perhaps the Glenn capsule would do likewise.

ISS visiting vehicles, including Shuttle

— Spacecraft included with current filters: · Soyuz · Shenzhou · Dragon · CST-100 Starliner · Orion · Dream Chaser · Next-Generation · Gaganyaan · Starship · Orel · cargo carriers —