Top 10: The heaviest spaceship – BBC Science Focus Magazine

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Going into space: it’s not easy – each kilogram needs about 32,900,000 joules of energy just to reach low earth orbit.

The cost associated with this energy is enormous, so every kilogram counts. Costs have decreased over time – 2020 Falcon Heavy launch costs $ 950 / kg (£ 685 / kg), while the 1981 space shuttle launch cost £ 85,216 / kg (£ 61,467 / kg) – but space agencies are still working hard to keep their spacecraft’s mass to an absolute minimum.

Despite this obstacle, humans have launched vehicle after vehicle through the atmosphere and into space.

But which one is the heaviest? These are the spaceships with the greatest mass to have flown in Earth orbit and beyond.

ten. Salut 1

Russian space station

In service: 1971

Weight: 18,900 kg

9. ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle)

Top 10: Heaviest Spaceship - ATV © NASA / ESA

European Space Agency cargo ship

In service: 2008–2014

Weight: 19,357 kg

8. Salut 7

Top 10: The heaviest spaceship - Salyut 7 © Alamy

Russian space station

In service: 1982-1991

Weight: 19,824 kg

7. Tianhe base module

Top 10: Heaviest Spaceship - Tianhe Core Module © Alamy

Cornerstone of the Chinese space station Tiangong

In service: April 2021-present

Weight: 22,000 kg

6. Apollo Command and Service Module

Top 10: Heaviest Spacecraft - Apollo Command and Service Module © Getty Images

american lunar spacecraft

In service: 1968-1975

Weight: 28,800 kg

5. Skylab

Top 10: Heaviest Spaceship - Skylab © Getty Images

american space station

In service: 1973-1979

Weight: 77,000 kg

4. Buran

Top 10: The heaviest spaceship - Buran © Shutterstock

Russian unmanned space plane

In service: 1988

Weight: 105,000 kg (Orbiter vehicle mass)

3. Spaceship

Top 10: Heaviest Spaceship - Space Shuttle © NASA / JPL

American orbiter vehicle

In service: 1981-2011

Weight: 110,000 kg (Gross takeoff weight of Endeavor)

2. Mir

Top 10: Heaviest Spaceship - Mir © NASA / JPL

Russian space station

In service: 1986-2001

Weight: 140,000 kg

1. International space station

Top 10: Heaviest Spaceship - International Space Station

Space station, composed of 16 pressurized modules

In service: 1998-present

Weight: 419,725 kg (size 2011)

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