DiscourseJuly 12, 2021 12:20:25 IST
“Suborbital” is a term you hear a lot as Sir Richard Branson to fly Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity winged spacecraft and Jeff Bezos flies aboard Blue Origin’s new Shepard vehicle touch the boundary of space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness.
But what exactly is “suborbital”? Simply put, it means that even these vehicles exceed poorly defined space boundary, they don’t go fast enough to stay in space once they get there.
If the spaceship – or something else – reaches a speed of at least 17,500 mph (28,000 km / h), instead of falling back to the ground, it comes constantly falling around the globe. Being in orbit means a constant fall and how satellites and the moon stay on Earth.
Everything opens up into space, however horizontal speed is not sufficient staying in space – like these rockets – comes back to earth and therefore fly a suborbital trajectory.
Why these suborbital flights are important
Although the two spacecraft launched in July 2021 will not be able to orbit, access to space by a private spacecraft is a significant milestone in the history of mankind. These and all come from private sector suborbital flights is in space for a few minutes, experience a few minutes inspiring weightlessness and definitely deserve theirs astronaut wings.
Well thrown baseball
Conceptually, the flights that Branson and Bezos will have is not very different from baseball thrown into the air.
The faster you can throw the baseball up, the higher it rises and the longer it stays in the air. If you also throw the ball at a slight lateral speed, it will go further down.
Imagine throwing a baseball on an open field. Like the ball rises, it slows down, because the kinetic energy characteristic of its velocity is exchanged for potential energy in the form of increased altitude. Eventually the ball comes reach its maximum height and then fall back to the ground.
Now imagine that you could throw baseball fast enough to reach a height of 97 miles. Presto! Baseball has reached space. But when the ball reaches its maximum height, its speed is zero and it starts falling back to the ground.
the flight can take several minutes, and most of the time the ball would experience almost weightlessness – as well as newly trained astronauts aboard these spacecraft. Just like hypothetical baseball, astronauts get into space but don’t get into orbit, so their flights are suborbital.
John M.Horack, Neil Armstrong, President and Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, Ohio State University