The invention of the space shuttle occurred over many years beginning with the announcement of the shuttle design program in 1972 and ending with the first shuttle launch in 1981, though many improvements occurred throughout the years. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration designed the first space shuttle.
The space shuttle replaced the disposable rocket system indicative of early space flight. The reusable shuttles included Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and the addition of Endeavor in 1991 after the Challenger explosion. These shuttles completed 135 missions, launching 350 astronauts and scientists into space. The space shuttle program ended in 2011 to design a more modern spacecraft and launching system.