Ask an Explainer


Why do airplanes require a runway to fly and space shuttles don't?


Airplanes need to build speed so that lift can be created over the airplane's wing. They use a long runway to accelerate. To land, they need runways to slow down.


The Space Shuttle, however, would never be able to reach space if it had to take off like a plane. It needs to be launched like a rocket so it can make it out of our atmosphere. When returning to Earth, though, it lands like a plane, with a very long runway.

Categories: Aerodynamics