When atmospheric air is known in the aerospace a flight that in the layers of the upper atmosphere takes place. Mostly flight altitudes over 100 km in the upper earth atmosphere are meant and the term is used to distinguish between space “flight” in “vacuum” space (English: space flight and atmospheric flight ). Since the principle of flight is based on the presence of an atmosphere, every flight is actually an atmosphere flight.
The ability to fly in the atmosphere, in which the vehicle returns to the ground independently or externally, is an elementary requirement of a space shuttle .
During the development of the space shuttle , NASA used the non-space flight capable space shuttle Enterprise to test its behavior in atmosphere flight . As part of the Approach and Landing Tests , five atmospheric flights were carried out in 1977, during which the Enterprise took off on a carrier aircraft and landed independently.
Soviet space travel had two different space shuttle programs. For the planned space glider Spiral , several test flights with a MiG-105 were undertaken between 1976 and 1978 in order to investigate the behavior in atmospheric flight. The competing Buran program used unmanned BOR-4 and BOR-5 models between 1980 and 1988 . From 1984 to 1989 manned atmospheric flights were also carried out with the Buran test copy OK-GLI , which was the only space shuttle that could launch without the aid of additional rockets.
- Description of atmosphere flight on NASA website, accessed June 28, 2013