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Spacecraft or space vehicles are generally referred to as any vehicle created for travel in space (space flight). Parts of these spacecraft that have an atmosphere inside and are not provided with aerodynamic controls for entering an atmosphere are also called space capsules. Spacecraft, by analogy with water and air vehicles, are generally referred to as devices designed primarily for locomotion outside the Earth's atmosphere and capable of orbit changes by technical means.

A spacecraft used for transport and supply flights to space stations is called a space transporter or supply spacecraft. All space transporters developed so far have been unmanned spacecraft. The unmanned space probes, space stations and especially satellites, which have only very limited maneuverability, are rather directly assigned to the higher-level spacecraft, although they are also equipped with their own propulsion for orbit corrections and thus have characteristics of spacecraft. Space suits (especially those such as the Manned Maneuvering Unit) are also classified as spacecraft.

Spacecraft, colloquially and in a narrower sense, are space vehicles that have been built as part of manned spaceflight for transporting people or cargo in space. However, modular systems consisting of propulsion unit, landing capsule and pressurized sections for cargo (payload, abbreviated P/L) and crew are also referred to as spacecraft. Since Jules Verne's visionary ideas of the future, spaceships have also been indispensable mainstays in science fiction, such as the starship Enterprise. The term spaceship is based on obsolete linguistic formulations (space shipping, space travel). Manned spacecraft include the reusable space shuttles and space planes, as well as the space capsules, which are reusable only to a limited extent.