The precursors of the americane Space Shuttle program was the project Asset, Prime and different Lifting body projects as there are the both most famous ones, the X-15 rocketflight program and the X-24B program, a special type of glidersystem .
The X-15 program have started by end of the year 1955 and from 1959 to 1968 there have been carried out around 200 flights.
12 pilots have been chossen for this testflights, Neil Armstrong was one of them .
Choosen pilots for the X-15 flights:
Scott Crossfield (first X-15 pilot for an independent
Michael Adams (died durng test flight by entering the
Neil Armstrong (first man on the Moon with Apollo
Joe Engle (STS-2 crew member)
William Dana (as well X-24B test
The test flights with the glider X-24B have been carried out in the years 1973 to 1975.
6 Choosen pilots for the X-24B flights:
William Dana (as well X-15 test
Francis Scobee (died during STS-51L
The Space Shuttle program has developed an orbitersystem with possibility of recovery of the Shuttle after mission to save money and to bring human beings more economical to space and have been started 1972, around 2 years earlier than the BURAN development of Russia.
The system contained the Orbiter Vehicle (OV), the External Tank and the Solid Rocket Boosters.
But at the end of the program with Space Shuttle STS 135 in 2011, it was very clear , that this goal was not achieved.
This concept was started in 1972 by US president Nixon and 1974 with the construction of the first Orbiter OV 101 (Enterprise).
1975 the construction of Orbiter OV 102 (Columbia) was initiated, and the roll out was on 8 march 1979.
Columbia was the first orbiter which went to space.
In total it has been built 6 different orbiters;
Enterprise (OV-101) first flight 12.08.1977 (no spaceflight)
Columbia (OV-102) first flight 12.04.1981 (STS-1 first mission, STS-107 last mission,disaster)
Challenger (OV-99) first flight 04.04.1983 (STS-6 first mission, STS-25 last mission,disaster)
Discovery (OV-103) first flight 30.08.1984 (STS-41D first mission, STS-129 last mission)
Atlantis (OV-104) first flight 03.10.1985 (STS-51J first mission, STS-135 last mission)
Endeavour (OV-105) first flight 07.05.1992 (STS-49 first mission, STS-134 last mission)
1977 has been started the first flight test with the orbiter Enterprise and on 12 of april 1981 the first flight of Space Shuttle STS-1 ( Columbia) with Young and Crippen has been carried out.
NASA names 35 Shuttle astronaut candidates at Press Conference Houston and Washington DC 16.01.1978 and names 19 Shuttle astronaut candidates at Houston Press Conference 29.05.1980 and 19 new astronaut candidates report to Johnson Space center 07.07.1980
During the 30 years of Space Shuttle flights from 1981 to 2011 there have been launched 135 Shuttle missions with two major disasters with the death of the complete crews (STS-51L, Challenger (1986) and STS-107, Columbia (2002))