Rockets are actually a very old idea. The Chinese invented them and used them as fireworks more than 800 years ago! Rockets then became known in Indian and Arabian countries. The first record of them in Western Europe was in AD 1256.

All space flight depends on the use of rockets that burn enormous amounts of fuel. They burn high-energy fuel in a chamber which directs the burning gases through a nozzle.

As these gases stream out through the nozzle they provide the thrust the rockets need to push it into space.

Some rockets are powered by burning kerosene or liquid hydrogen with liquid oxygen, but this requires very careful handling.

Other types of rockets burn solid fuel in a controlled explosion.

The space shuttle is the first reusable spacescraft. It was developed to provide a reusable, cheaper vehicle for launching satellites and for other work I’m space.

The shuttle itself is a bulky delta-winged aircraft with extremely powerful rocket motors.

When it is launched, two solid-fuel booster rockets are strapped to its sides and a giant fuel tank is fixed to its belly. The rockets and fuel tank both fall away after the launch, and the rockets are recovered and then reused.

At takeoff the space shuttle weighs 2,000 tonnes. It burns almost all of its fuel in the first few minutes after launch, then continues to coast into its orbit 300km above the surface of the Earth.

When it is in orbit the shuttle’s cargo bay opens to release satellites or allow the crew to work in space. The shuttle lands on a runway just like a conventional aeroplane.