com
V Va ar ri ia ab bl le e M Ma as ss s
In our discussion of the conservation of linear momentum, we have so far deal with object whose
mass keeps constant. We now take those systems whose mass is not fixed, i.e., those in which
mass leaves or enters the object. A typical case is that of the rocket from which hot gases remain
on escaping, thereby continuously decreasing its mass.
In such problems you have nothing to do but give a thrust force
,
t F
v dv +
system
The expression for the thrust force can be provided from the conservation of linear momentum in
the absence of any external forces on a object as follows:
Consider at some moment t = t mass of a object is m and its velocity is v
,
Absolute velocity of mass dm is therefore
,
r v v dv
+ + . If no external forces are operating on the
system, the linear momentum of the system will keep conserved,
Or i f P P
= Or ,
, ,
r mv m dm v dv dm v v dv
= + + + +
Or ,
,
mv mv mdv dmv dm dv
= + ,
,
r dm v v dm dm dv
+ + +
r mdv v dm
=
Or r
dv dm
m v
dt dt


=
 
' .
' .
Here,
,
1
dv
m thrust force F
dt

=

' .
And
dm
dt
= rate at which mass is ejecting
Problems related to variable mass may be answered in following three steps:
1. Create a list of all the forces performing on the main mass and apply them on it.
2. Apply an additional thrust force t F

' .
and
direction is given by the direction of r v
if it is decreasing.
3. Find net force on the mass and apply
net
dv
F m
dt
=
} } }
Or
0
r
m
v u v In gt
m

=

' .
Thus,
0
r
m
v u gt v In
m

= +

' .
(i)