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"the [science fiction] writer should be able to convince the reader (and himself) that the wonders he is describing really can come true...and that gets tricky when you take a good, hard look at the world around you."
- Frederik Pohl

Space Shuttle  
  A space-going vessel for trips from the surface of a planet to a ship in orbit, and back.  

As far as I know, this is the earliest reference to a "space shuttle".

The sleek, tapered space shuttle lay immobile upon the private landing field, her steel hull gleaming in the moonlight. Some twenty smartly dressed men and women were visible through the vessel's wide windows. Seated in rows, like the passengers of a twentieth century airliner, they laughed, joked, sipped drinks...

"As for the ship" - he motioned to the space speedster - "it is owned by the club for the purpose of taking parties of our members for short pleasure cruises..."

Some seven hours later the enthusiasm had died down. Many of the passengers slept, some played cards, others discussed in an undertone what they planned when they reached their destination. Already the speedster was decelerating,although so far nothing was visible in the blue-black darkness.

Suddenly a mutter ran along the aisle. Faint, ridiculously small rocket blasts cut the gloom far ahead; a string of all but invisible lights,like a necklace of glowing beads. Clearer and clearer with each second they loomed, as the speedster raced toward them. The shape of a huge ship began to come into view; rows of lighted windows, the occasional thrust of a lazy rocket blast.

With consummate skill the speedster slid alongside the huge craft...

Magnetic grapnels shot out, drawing the two ships together. An air-tight, enclosed gangway clamped over the speedster's airlock, and a moment later the eager passengers had boarded the larger vessel.

From Hell Ship of Space, by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr..
Published by Amazing Stories in 1940
Additional resources -

Compare to the shuttle from Stars are Styx (1950) by Theodore Sturgeon, the shuttle ship and Winged Rocket Shuttle from Heinlein's 1951 novel Between Planets and JAL shuttle from Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Hell Ship of Space
  More Ideas and Technology by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr.
  Tech news articles related to Hell Ship of Space
  Tech news articles related to works by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr.

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