Insights into Space Station Logistics Spacecraft – Past, Present, and Future

Space station logistics spacecraft, also known as cargo spacecraft, are autonomous vehicles used to carry cargo to and from space stations. Typical cargo may include: food, water, oxygen, fuel, scientific experiments, and equipment. Reusable cargo spacecraft may also carry materials back to earth, e.g. equipment for repair, and experimental results. Expendable cargo spacecraft may carry refuse from the space station, which will burn up in the atmosphere along with the rest of the vehicle.

The following two articles provide background on space stations and cargo spacecraft: Space Stations Current and Future and Cargo Spacecraft from the Past to the Future.

There are currently 4 operational cargo vehicles of which three are expendable and one vehicle, Cargo Dragon 2, is partially reusable. There are also three new cargo vehicles planned of which one vehicle, Dream Chaser Cargo, is partially reusable.

Note that in the following chart, Russia has a large number of retired cargo vehicles. Russia has been in the business of operating space stations since 1971 and has continually refined their cargo vehicles over the years. The Progress series of cargo vehicles has been extremely successful.

The source data is provided below.