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All about astrodynamics: it really isn’t “rocket science” ….

What is astrodynamics?

A basic definition of the term would be the study of space engines, derived from the Newtonian laws of motion. It relates to the modelling, simulation and planning of potential projects that occur in space and the details of how it affects space – beyond planet Earth. However, this just explains a brief overview. There’s more to discover:

Rockets in space:

In simple words, a rocket is a special vehicle that travels miles through multiple atmospheres, and then eventually explore beyond our planetary home. However, what causes and how this works is compelling. First, let’s ask ourselves the fundamental question: How does lift off actually take place? Yes, there’s more to the typical, crescendo count down, simply pressing a button and shooting upwards.

With the use of the famous laws of Sir Isaac Newton’s; large magnitudes of thrust is applied, eventually outweighing air resistance and the rocket’s weight. This is mechanically done by the propellants and the engines doing work (transferring energy – whether that be chemically due to the fuels the engines run on). Hence an unbalanced force causing an acceleration – causing the rocket to shoot upwards in certain, commonly trajectory, ways.

Powerful engines embedded within the effective structure of the vehicle, means that it can soar up through Earth’s atmospheres such as the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere, at a speed of 25, 020 mph. Sequentially, once it has emerged from there, it lands into the planet’s orbits – that travels at a specific angular velocity.

In space there is no gravity, so nothing to push against. So how do they manage to move?

A vigorous chemical reaction incites a controlled explosion to occur in the rocket. The gases eject out of the rocket, and travel through a nozzle – creating thrust. The gases are given momentum as they are expelled by the rocket engine, ultimately opposing the direction of the exhaust gases, an therefore conserving the total momentum of the system.

 

This picture shows an international event - depicting India's landing on the moon on Wednesday 23rd August, 2023.

But what is the purpose of the rocket and how is it different from the role of a satellite?

A rocket is a powered projectile which is designed to deliver a payload such as people, satellites or ballistics or in other words used to launch satellites, probes, and other spacecraft into orbit around the Earth or other planets. Whereas a satellite is a minor man made object that displays logics of circular motion and can perform tasks such as:

  • Communication

An amazing source to track the Earth’s important observation systems the satellite or the artificial satellite is a major source for weather predictions, navigation and broadcasting.

Through the use of radio waves, signals are sent to the antennas on Earth (which you may see almost on top of every building constructed), and then capture those signals to receive data and process information.

  • Galaxy exploration

The satellite is also used to orbit other celestial bodies:, but orbit and discover new and exciting things like the conditions, surface, temperature and many other aspects of scientific research on other planets, of asteroids etc.

A section about space debris:

It’s also important to consider from an environmental perspective and what engineering practices have been put in place, considering dangerous impacts such as global warming have on the planet.

But, it’s not just the planet.

Space debris is in simple words waste junk left by humans in space.

It can refer to dysfunctional pieces of machinery such as dead satellites that have failed or been left in orbit at the end of their mission or consist of things up to a microsscoopic level such as flecks of paint, tiny screws or nuts. Commonly people think that this is a great way to reduce landfill levels or reducing effects of climate change happening on our own planet, but polluting the space outside Earth’s atmospheres can raise also raise a concerning matter as it can likely increase chances of dangerous collisions and cause harmful interferances in between future space missions, or satelliytes in orbit. According to sources like the National History Musuem, there are approximately 3,000 dead satellites littering space. What’s more, there are around 34,000 pieces of space junk bigger than 10 centimetres in size and millions of smaller pieces that could nonetheless prove disastrous if they hit something else. This could also mean posing danger for incidents such as metereoites travelling through space, or other asteroids in orbit.

On the other hand, UN has encouraged several companies across worldwide to come up with solutions that could potentially resolve this problem. And one way is to remove their satellites from orbit within 25 years after the end of their mission. It is said to be a challenging task, however more alternatives are yet to be developed in engineer’s minds.

In terms of the solution, it includes removing dead satellites from orbit and dragging them back into the atmosphere, where they will burn up. Ways we could do this include using a harpoon to grab a satellite, capturing it in a net, using magnets to grab it, or even firing lasers to heat up the satellite, increasing its atmospheric drag so that it falls out of orbit.

Exploring the wonders of the universe:

Our solar system is just one tiny part of the Milky Way. There are many more galaxies our space consists of, and therefore scientists could not wait to unveil the bigger mysteries of the universe….

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