How does a spacecraft get to where its going?

How do we put spacecraft into orbit?

Spacecraft like weather satellites and the Hubble Telescope need to be lifted most of the distance from the ground to their orbit. One way for them to get there is inside the nose cone of a rocket. Once the rocket reaches an altitude near the satellite's orbit height, the satellite is ejected from the rocket's nose cone and the rocket falls back to Earth, burning up upon reentering our atmosphere (so don't worry about getting hit on the head with bits and pieces of used rockets).

Space shuttle Columbia launching into space. Image from John F. Kennedy Shuttle Photo and Video Archives.


Spacecraft like the Hubble Telescope are lifted into orbit by the Space Shuttle. In that case, the space shuttle itself is lifted by rockets into orbit. The spacecraft to be deployed is riding snugly in the cargo bay. At a certain height, the spacecraft is ejected and small rockets on it move it to the proper orbit altitude.

Deployment of The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-7) from the Space Shuttle Discovery's cargo bay. PHOTO CREDIT: NASA Image from John F. Kennedy Shuttle Photo and Video Archives.

Once a ship is in orbit, do we have to do anything to keep it there?
How can a spaceship leave orbit?
How did DS1 get into space?
What is an orbit?
What is a satellite?

Why is it a good idea to launch a ship into orbit from near the equator?
How do spacecraft use an orbit to move from planet to planet?
What are different kinds of orbits?
How does a multi-stage rocket like a Delta II work?
How does speed affect an orbit?

What could cause an orbit to fail?