- noun a type of plane which is launched by a rocket, flies in space and then returns eventually to earth so that it can be used for another trip
- (written as Space Shuttle)Reusable space launcher developed in the US by NASA and first used in 1981. The Shuttle was meant to lead to low launch costs by providing a launcher whose component parts were all reusable apart from the large external tank. In fact costs spiralled, damaging the economic case, and seven people were killed when the Challenger shuttle was destroyed on launch in 1986. Shuttle flights resumed but the disaster caused the US to recreate its ability to carry out unmanned launches with expendable rockets. After that, only missions needing human supervision, or too large for other launchers, made use of the Shuttle, and the programme was due to be abandoned completely in 2010.