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Contents

1 Introduction 1
1.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1.2 Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
2 Mathematical Preparation 2
2.1 Notation and Denitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2.2 Newtons laws of motion and gravitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2.3 Newtons laws and space travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2.4 Keplers laws of planetary motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
2.5 Conservation laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
3 Escaping gravity 6
3.1 Calculating escape velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
4 Calculating Trajectories 7
4.1 The two body problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
4.1.1 Outline of the solution to the two body problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
4.1.2 Conic sections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
4.1.3 The n-body problem and patched conic approximations . . . . . . . . . . 11
4.2 The solution to the two body problem in polar form for a spacecraft . . . . . . . 11
4.3 Hohmann transfers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
4.3.1 Vis-viva equation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
5 Gravity assisted manoeuvres 14
5.1 v budgets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
5.2 Gravitational slingshots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
5.2.1 What is a gravitational slingshot? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
5.2.2 Motivation for Slingshots: Cassini Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
5.2.3 Conservation of momentum during slingshot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
5.2.4 Calculating the nal velocity of a slingshot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
5.3 Putting slingshots into practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
5.3.1 Finding the best deection angle in a gravitational slingshot . . . . . . . . 17
5.3.2 Relationship between and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
5.4 Oberth Eect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
5.4.1 Oberth eect and work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
5.4.2 Oberth eect in practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
6 Solar sailing 22
6.1 Pressure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
6.2 Maxwell Equations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
6.3 What is solar sailing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
6.4 Calculating radiation pressure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
6.5 Force on a solar sail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
6.6 Optimum angle for sailing in a Keplar orbit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
6.7 Accelerating away from the Sun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
7 Conclusion 30
7.1 Classical space travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
ii
7.2 Future space travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Bibliography 31
8 Appendix 34
8.1 Appendix 1: Elliptical Orbits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
8.2 Appendix 2: Cartesian equations for conic sections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
8.3 Appendix 3: Trigonometric laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
8.4 Appendix 4: Calculation of the critical sail loading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
iii
1 Introduction
1.1 Overview
Space has long fascinated mankind. Astronomy has been studied for centuries and is one of the
oldest disciplines, studied by ancient civilisations such as the Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese and
Mayans. But astronomy goes hand in hand with mathematics, and even the Babylonians used
mathematics to predict astronomical events.
It is little wonder then, that mankind has strived to reach the stars, but it is only recently that
we have been able to do so. The technology we currently use to reach and traverse outer space
is based on chemical rockets, which have been around for centuries, dating back until at least
the 13th century in China [1].
But with such an ancient technology being our primary source of exploring the heavens, the
natural question is What next?. There are limitations to rocket-propelled ight. For example,
the Apollo missions used a Saturn V booster. Before launch it had a mass of 3,000,000kg.
But only 47,000kg actually departed on a trajectory to the moon[2], or 1.57% of the launch
mass. Evidently, the amount of power it takes to get something into space is enormous, and
the weight of chemical propellant is a limiting factor to how far a rocket can explore.
This leads to the question which the top minds at space agencies such as NASA are trying to
solve: What sources of energy are there in space we can utilise to propel a spacecraft?. More
importantly, What economical sources of energy are available?. Space travel is expensive,
and minimising costs maximises the amount of space missions.
1.2 Objectives
This paper will aim to do the following:
Explain how a spacecraft can escape gravity
Explain how to calculate the trajectory of a spacecraft
Explain the motivation behind techniques which generate extra speed (known as v)
Explain how to use a planets gravity to generate extra speed (slingshot orbits)
Explain how to use the pressure of the suns radiation to generate extra speed (solar
sailing)
1
2 Mathematical Preparation
2.1 Notation and Denitions
Notation. For the remainder of this paper, all vectors will be denoted in bold. Where a vector
value x is not bolded, we assume that to be the scalar value of that vector, i.e. that x = |x|.
For any vector x let x denote the unit vector in the direction of x. That is the vector such that
| x| = 1 and x = x x.
Notation. With respect to a cartesian co-ordinate system we dene the position of an object
at a particular time by
r(t) =
_
x(t), y(t), z(t)
_
T
= x(t)

i +y(t)

j +z(t)

k
Notation. The velocity of an object is given by v =
dr
dt
The acceleration of an object is
given by a =
dv
dt
=
d
2
r
dt
2
Denition 1. The gravitational constant is denoted G and is dened as
G = 6.6738 10
11
m
3
kg
1
s
2
Denition 2. For an object with mass m and velocity v we dene its linear momentum as
p = mv
2.2 Newtons laws of motion and gravitation
In 1687 Isaac Newton published his work PhilosophiNaturalis Principia Mathematica, which
contained his laws of motion. These are described as follows:
Newtons rst law of motion
If the sum of all forces F on an object is zero, then the rate of change of velocity v of that
object is constant.

F = 0
dv
dt
= 0 (1)
Newtons second law of motion
The force on an object is equal to the rate of change of its linear momentum
F =
dp
dt
= m
dv
dt
= ma (2)
2
Newtons third law of motion
If object A exerts a force F
1
on object B, then the object B simultaneously exerts a force
F
2
= F
1
on object A of equal magnitude in the opposite direction.
Newtons law of universal gravitation
Given two objects, object A of mass m
1
and object B of mass m
2
which are separated by a
scalar distance r, the magnitude of the force of object A upon object B is given by
F = G
m
1
m
2
r
2
(3)
Due to Newtons Third Law, object B acts upon object A with a force of the same magnitude
in the opposite direction.
2.3 Newtons laws and space travel
Obviously the above laws are important to space travel, but we also have a clear issue: if we
have a spacecraft of mass m and it burns its rockets, its mass reduces. Since Newtons second
law only applies for a xed mass, we must adjust Newtons second law to account for this.
Newtons second law of motion for variable mass
Let u be the relative velocity of the ejected mass (fuel) from the frame of reference of the object
(spacecraft). Then:
F +u
dm
dt
= m
dv
dt
(4)
From this we can calculate how much velocity a spacecraft generates by burning its fuel.
Theorem 1. Let a spacecraft start with mass m
0
and burn an amount of fuel m. Let
m
1
= m
0
m. The change in velocity generated by burning the fuel is given by:
v = ulog
m
0
m
1
(5)
Proof. We assume that there are no external forces and that the fuel is ejected from the craft
at a constant velocity. We take u as positive and thus equation 4 gives us:
u
1
m
dm
dt
=
dv
dt
Integrating both sides with respect to time, between times t
0
and t
1
gives us the following:
3
u
_
t
1
t
0
1
m
dm =
_
t
1
t
0
dv
Thus we get
v = ulog
m
0
m
1
2.4 Keplers laws of planetary motion
To send a spacecraft to a planet, we must rst know where that planet will be when it arrives.
Luckily, the mathematics of planetary orbits were were out by Kepler centuries before we could
launch rockets into space.
Keplers laws of planetary motion
1. The orbit of every planet about the sun is an ellipse with the sun at one of the foci.
2. Given identical periods of time, a line connecting a planet to the Sun will pass over an equal
area every time.
3. Given the orbital period, P and the semi major axis of the orbit a
P
2
a
3
Using these we can model a planets orbit around the Sun and thus predict where a planet
will be at a particular point in time. There are six parameters which are required to model
a planets motion and these are called the Orbital Elements. Modelling planetary orbits is
beyond the scope of this paper, but those who are interested may wish to check out NASAs
Solar Systems Dynamics website[4].
We note in particular law 1. Some technical terms about elliptical orbits are included in ap-
pendix 1. Importantly, we note that the point on the orbit closest to the body being orbited is
called the periapsis while the furthest point is called the apoapsis.
2.5 Conservation laws
Several conservation laws are important to space travel. These include:
Conservation of specic energy
We rst need to introduce the notion of specic energy
4
Denition 3. Specic kinetic energy of an object, e
k
=
1
2
v
2
is kinetic energy per unit mass
Specic potential energy of an object begin acted upon by a body of mass M from a distance
r is given by, e
p
=
GM
r
and is potential energy per unit mass.
The total energy of a closed system remains constant over time. In particular for two orbiting
bodies their specic orbital energy e = e
k
+ e
p
remains constant and doesnt vary over time,
that is
de
dt
= 0 (6)
Conservation of linear momentum
In a system with no external forces, linear momentum p is conserved. Let a system be composed
of i dierent bodies, each with momentum p
i
. Then conservation of linear momentum states

i
dp
i
dt
= 0 (7)
Conservation of angular momentum
Denition 4. Angular momentum L is the cross product of an objects position with its
linear momentum. L = r mv
Torque is the cross product of an objects position r with the Force F acting upon that
particle, = r F
Theorem 2. In a system with no external torque,
dL
dt
= 0 (8)
Proof. We have that r F = 0. So,
dL
dt
=
dr
dt
mv +r m
dv
dt
= m(v v +r a)
= 0 +r ma
= r F = 0
5
3 Escaping gravity
3.1 Calculating escape velocity
Denition 5. The escape velocity v
e
of a body is the velocity which must be attained to
escape its gravity at a particular distance from its centre. We will derive the escape velocity of
a body using Newtons law of gravitational attraction between a large body of mass M and the
spacecraft with mass m. At any point in time, let the distance between the spacecraft and the
centre of the bodys mass is given by r
.
Theorem 3. The escape velocity is given by:
v
e
=
_
2GM
r
(9)
Proof. Newtons law of gravitation (equation 3) and Newtons second law (equation 2) give us
that
F =
GMm
r
2
= m
d
2
r
dt
2
(10)
Cancelling the masses of the spacecraft gives us:
d
2
r
dt
2
=
GM
r
2
We can solve this using the chain rule:
d
2
r
dt
2
=
dv
dr
dr
dt
= v
dv
dr
.
Substituting in and separating the variables we get
_
vdv =
_

GM
r
2
dr (11)
The solution to which is
v
2
2
=
GM
r
+ C for some constant C. We look at the case where v = 0
which happens at some height x and get that C =
GM
x
We can rearrange this to get x =
GM
2GM
r
V
2
, so to escape the planet we want this to happen
at some positive value (else our spacecraft just crashes back to the earth). So we require that
v >
_
2GM
r
6
4 Calculating Trajectories
So we understand how spacecraft generate thrust, and we understand how to get a spacecraft
to escape the gravity of a planet. Now we want our spacecraft to get to another planet. But
what path does a spacecraft take?
4.1 The two body problem
The two body problem asks how to solve the motion of one body (a) about another body (b)
under their mutual gravitation. Once we understand this, we can predict how a spacecraft will
move in space.
Here we will explain how the problem can be solved and later we will solve it for the case of a
spacecraft and a large body in space.
4.1.1 Outline of the solution to the two body problem
1
We take the vectors r
a
and r
b
to be the displacement of the objects from a xed origin in the
system. Note that we can calculate the centre of mass of the system, R, using R =
m
a
r
a
+m
b
r
b
m
a
+m
b
.
Dierentiating this twice and using Newtons third law, that F
a
= F
b
.
d
2
R
dt
2
=
F
a
+F
b
m
a
+m
b
= 0 (12)
So the centre of mass has a constant velocity and thus it can always be calculated using the
initial positions and velocities of objects a and b. We can thus plot its movement as a function
R(t).
Note that at any time the displacement from body a to body b is given by
r(t) = r
b
(t) r
a
(t). Dierentiating this twice we get
d
2
r
dt
2
=
F
a
m
a

F
b
m
b
=
_
1
m
a
+
1
m
b
_
F
a
Or equivalently
m
a
m
b
m
a
+m
b
d
2
r
dt
2
= F(r)
Thus the system can be solved in terms of a single funtion with respect to time, r(t) and we
can get trajectories of a and b by
1
Argument is based upon proof at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-body_problem
7
r
a
= R(t) +
m
b
m
a
+m
b
r(t)
r
b
= R(t)
m
a
m
a
+m
b
r(t)
Thus reducing the two body problem to a one body problem.
4.1.2 Conic sections
Denition 6. A conic section is a shape formed by intersecting a cone with a plane. The
four conic sections are called the circle, ellipse, parabola and hyperbola.
These are shown on the diagram below:
g. 1 Conic Sections courtesy of Magister Mathematicae, 2012 [3]
Theorem 4. All trajectories of spacecraft are either conic sections or straight lines.
Proof.
2
To begin this proof assumes we know the cartesian equations for conic section, these can be
found in appendix 2. To solve this we we calculate the solution to the two body problem for a
spacecraft around a much larger body. To this end, we expect the centre of mass of the system
to roughly coincide with the centre of the body, which simplies the solution, as we can take
R(t) to be the centre of the large body. If we take m as the mass of the spacecraft and M as the
mass of the planet, it is evident m M so
M
m+M
can be taken to be 1. As such, our trajectory
is given by r(t). It remains for us to calculate this value.
We let r be the unit vector in the direction of the spacecraft. Then it is evident using Newtons
law of gravitation (equation 3) and second law (equation 2) that
2
Proof adapted from Y. Moschovakis, The Two Body Problem, 2010 [P1]
8
a =
GM
r
2
r
Now let h := r v. Then by conservation of angular momentum we must have that h is
constant, so we can dene it using the initial values of r and v.
Case 1: h = 0
Let be the angle between the craft and the body. If h = rv sin we have that either the craft
is on the body (r = 0), that the craft is stationary (v = 0) or that the craft is travelling directly
towards or away from the body in a straight line ( = 0)
Assuming h = 0 we derive (noting that a vector cross product with itself is 0):
h = r r
d
dt
(r r) = r r
_
dr
dt
r +r
dr
dt
_
= r
dr
dt
(r r) +r
2
_
r
dr
dt
_
= r
2
_
r
dr
dt
_
Furthermore using the above denitions of a and h and the identity x(yz) = (xz)y(xy)z
d
dt
(v h) = (a h) +
_
v
dh
dt
_
= a h
=
GM
r
2
r r
2
_
r
dr
dt
_
= GM
_
r
_
r
dr
dt
__
= GM
__
r
dr
dt
_
r (r r)
dr
dt
_
= GM
dr
dt
The last line follows because r is a unit vector. Its dierential is in the direction of v, which is
perpendicular to r. Thus the dot product r
dr
dt
= 0, and the dot product r r = 1. Integrating
this gives us
v h = GMr +c (13)
For some constant vector c. Taking the dot product of this with r and using the cyclicality of
the scalar triple product we get
GMr +r c = r (v h) = (r v) h = h
2
(14)
9
Using the denition of the dot product and letting be the angle between c and r:
h
2
= GMr +rc cos (15)
Case 2: c = 0
Then r =
h
GM
which is constant, so the trajectory is a circle around the body.
Assume then that c = 0. We transform to cartesian co-ordinates, letting the x-axis be in the
direction of c and h be normal to the plane. This gives
h
2
= GMr +rc cos = GMr +cx
Which can be rearranged and squared to eliminate r:
(h
2
cx)
2
= (GMr)
2
= G
2
M
2
(x
2
+y
2
)
And rearrange again to give:
(G
2
M
2
c
2
)x
2
+ 2h
2
cx +G
2
M
2
y
2
= h
4
(16)
We now let D = G
2
M
2
c
2
, A =
h
2
c
D
and B = h
4
+A
2
. Then equation 16 becomes:
Dx
2
+ 2DAx +G
2
M
2
y
2
= B A
2
Case 3: D = 0
In this case our equation is
h
2
cx +G
2
M
2
y
2
= h
4
which is a parabola.
If D = 0 then we complete the square to get:
D(x A)
2
+G
2
M
2
y
2
= B
And the nal two cases depend on D.
Case 4: D < 0 is a hyperbola
Case 5: D > 0 is an ellipse.
10
4.1.3 The n-body problem and patched conic approximations
The n-body problems for n 3 do have solutions, but they are too slow to converge to be of any
practical use [5]. For the purposes of this paper, however, it suces to assign each body in the
solar system a sphere of inuence around which its gravity is dominant over all other bodies.
Within this sphere of inuence we can treat the trajectory of the spacecraft as a solution to
the two body problem between the body and the spacecraft. This is called a patched conic
approximation.
In practice, this also suces for actual space travel. However this approximation does not model
Lagrangian Points on the boundaries of these spheres of inuence, where several gravitational
elds cancel out. The chaotic behaviour near Lagrangian points can be a source of free v and
so it is not always benecial to utilise this approximation.
4.2 The solution to the two body problem in polar form for a spacecraft
Consider again equation 15 from the earlier proof:
h
2
= GMr +rc cos
Dene a new constant, =
c
GM
. Rearranging the above in terms of r gives:
r =
h
2
GM(1 + cos )
(17)
Note that while is dened to be angle between r and c, if we dene c to be the x-axis as
before, we can see that the value cos = 1 corresponds to the value where the orbit intercepts
the x-axis. From this we can see that can also be dened to be the angle between the periapsis
and r.
Theorem 5. The value is actually the eccentricity of the trajectory. It is given by
=
_
1 +
2h
2
e
G
2
M
2
(18)
Where e is the specic orbital energy (sum of kinetic energy per unit mass and potential energy
per unit mass)
Proof.
3
By conservation of specic energy (equation 6) we have that e is constant for all values
of r and v. We note that by the denition of the cross product
h = |r v| = rv sin v =
h
r sin
3
Most of this proof is original calculation
11
We can substitute this back into the equation for specic energy. Since specic energy is
conserved, we can let the value of sin = 1, which happens when the velocity of the object is
perpendicular to the displacement from the body, at the apoapsis.
e =
GM
r
+
h
2
2r
2
(19)
Note that at the apoapsis, the value cos = 1, since the apoapsis always lies on the same axis
as the periapsis. Substituting the value r =
h
2
GM(1+)
into the above equation gives:
e =
G
2
M
2
(1 +)
h
2
+
G
2
M
2
(1 +
2
)
2h
2
Which rearranges to
2h
2
e
G
2
M
2
= (1 +)(2 + 1 +) =
2
1
Rearranging and taking the square root yields the desired result
4.3 Hohmann transfers
A spacecraft is already in orbit around the sun before it leaves the earth. To travel towards
the outer Solar System, the idea is that spacecraft has an elliptical orbit with the Sun at its
focus, its periapsis will intersect Earths orbit and its apoapsis will intersect its target bodys
orbit. Furthermore, the spacecraft must arrive at the target bodys orbit when the target is
actually there. To travel towards the inner Solar System, Earths orbit intersects the periapsis.
To travel outwards (inwards), the spacecraft accelerates in the same (opposite) direction to the
earths revolution around the sun.
4.3.1 Vis-viva equation
4
To understand how to change a spacecrafts current orbit around the Sun to a new orbit around
the Sun, requires the vis-viva equation
Theorem 6. For any object orbiting a body with relative speed v, distance r and semi-major
axis a the vis-viva equation states:
v
2
= GM
_
2
r

1
a
_
(20)
Proof. By conservation of specic energy (equation 6), the energy is the same at the apoapsis
(a)and periapsis (p). We take the mass of the object orbiting the body to be negligible and so:
4
Argument is based upon proof at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vis-viva_equation
12
e =
v
2
a
2

GM
r
a
=
v
2
p
2

GM
r
p
(21)
This rearranges to give
v
2
a
v
2
p
2
=
GM
r
a

GM
r
p
Since the velocity is orthogonal to the semi-major axis at the apoapsis and periapsis, conserva-
tion of angular momentum (equation 8) gives us that r
p
v
p
= r
a
v
a
and we can substitute this in
to eliminate v
p
1
2
_
r
2
p
r
2
a
r
2
p
_
v
2
a
=
GM
r
a

GM
r
p
Noting that r
2
p
r
2
a
= (r
p
r
a
)(r
p
+r
a
) we can rearrange for v
a
and cancel to give:
1
2
v
2
a
= GM
_
r
p
r
a
r
p
r
a
_
And given that r
p
+r
a
= 2a we have
v
2
a
2
= GM
_
2ar
a
2ar
a
_
Substituting this back into equation 21 gives us e =
GM
2a
So we get
v
2
2

GM
r
=
GM
2a
Rearranging gives us
v
2
= GM
_
2
r

1
a
_
The immediate result of this equation is that we know the magnitude of velocity required to
alter the spacecrafts orbit to what we need. We can then use the rocket equation (equation 5)
to determine the amount of fuel we need to burn to achieve that velocity.
13
5 Gravity assisted manoeuvres
5
5.1 v budgets
So we now understand the mathematics of getting from A to B in the solar system, which is
all very well for simple manoeuvres. However, completing a Hohmann transfer orbit requires
fuel, as we can see due to the requirement for v. This requires us to burn our propellant, and
spacecraft can only carry a nite amount of propellant.
A v budget for a space mission is an approximation of the sum of all possible orbital ma-
noeuvres which are expected within the mission [10]. The v can be calculated using the rocket
equation (equation 5). Evidently a higher v budget requires more propellant to be carried
into space, which increases the physical costs of the mission.
Luckily, there are other sources of v in the solar system. One such source is slingshotting from
the planets in the solar system.
5.2 Gravitational slingshots
5.2.1 What is a gravitational slingshot?
Denition 7. A gravitational slingshot is a manoeuvre of a spacecraft around a large body
(typically a planet) whereby the spacecraft increases (or decreases) its overall speed and changes
direction by using the velocity and gravity of the body. In eect the spacecraft steals some
of the planets velocity for itself.
5.2.2 Motivation for Slingshots: Cassini Example
The Cassini spacecraft performed four gravitational slingshots around Venus (twice), Earth and
Jupiter. We will look at the rst three of these.
We use the rocket equation (equation 5) to gure out how much fuel this will save us. The
rocket equation states v = ulog
m
0
m
1
The amount of v generated by the three manoeuvres is 10.9kms
1
[7]. The fuel on board
was liquid bipropellant [8] which is expelled at a speed of u = 4.4kms
1
[6]. To simplify the
calculation, we will assume that the v is generated all at once. We take at that the spacecrafts
mass after generating its extra speed m
1
as the total mass of the spacecraft at launch, 5500kg
[7]. We wish to nd out how much fuel m we save by not generating speed by burning fuel,
noting that m
0
= m
1
+ m, we rearrange the rocket equation and plug in our data:
5
The arguments in this section build upon the ideas outlined in R.C. Johnson, The Slingshot Eect [P2]. Note
that from now on we will use trigonometry. A summary of those laws used is found in appendix 3
14
m
1
exp(
v
u
) m
1
= m m = 5500 exp(
10.9
4.4
) 5500 = 59, 550kg
Which would be the amount of bipropellant fuel required to generate the v Cassini gained for
free using gravitational slingshots.
NASA estimate the rst three of these saved 68,000kg of fuel [9], which is fairly close to our
gure. This demonstrates how much much more ecient it is to use gravitational slingshots.
5.2.3 Conservation of momentum during slingshot
Free speed must come from somewhere, in fact, every slingshot performed by a spacecraft
about a body alters the momentum of the body by an equal amount. Let a spacecraft have
mass m and velocities u before and v after the manoeuvre. Similarly, let a body have mass M
and velocity U before and V after. Conservation of linear momentum (equation 7) states:
mu +MU = mv +MV
Rearranging this we get:
m
M
(v u) = (V U)
Noting that a typical spacecraft has a weight in the order of 10
3
kg [11] and the bodies we would
use range in size from the Moon (10
22
kg)[12] to Jupiter (10
27
kg)[13] we note that any change in
velocity is of the an order between 10
19
and 10
24
, which is negligibly small. Therefore
m
M
0
and we can take U = V .
5.2.4 Calculating the nal velocity of a slingshot
g. 2 Velocity of spacecraft before and after manoeuvre
15
Suppose an observer is watching the spacecraft from the body. From the point of view of the
observer, the body is stationary and the spacecraft approaches at a velocity of x = u V.
Furthermore, from the point of view of this observer, the spacecraft doesnt appear to change
speed, just direction. They see it leave at some velocity y where |y| = |x|. In particular, this
means that from somebody observing from a stationary point in space, v = u +V.
To nd the nal speed we consider velocity triangles for the motion of the spacecraft before and
after the manoeuvre. We dene as the angle between u and V and as the angle between
v and V. Let be the angle of incidence between the spacecraft and the body observed by
someone on the body. We expect the spacecraft to leave at a larger angle, we call the dierence
between these two angles the deection and dene as the deection of the spacecraft.
Theorem 7. The nal speed is given by
v
2
= u
2
+ 2V [V (1 cos()) +u(cos ( ) cos ())] (22)
Proof.
6
Consider the following two velocity triangles, noting that we have reected the triangle
for the nal velocity of the spacecraft about V so both triangles are the same way up, and also
that the values of each side are scalar values rather than vectors:
g. 3 Velocity triangle before slingshot g. 4 Velocity triangle after slingshot
We use the cosine rule on the above two triangles, this gives:
x = V
2
+u
2
2uV cos () (23)
x = V
2
+v
2
2vV cos () (24)
Now subtracting 23 from 24 and rearranging we get:
v
2
= u
2
+ 2V (v cos () ucos ())
6
Most of this proof is original calculation
16
We have now reduced the problem to showing that v cos () = V (1 cos ()) +ucos ( )
Using g. 4, we can see v cos () = V +k, thus it suces to show
k = ucos ( ) V cos () (25)
By denition k = xcos ( ( +)) = xcos ( +)
Using cos (A+B) = cos (A) cos (B) sin (A) sin (B) we get
k = xsin () sin () xcos () cos () (26)
Using the sine rule and g. 3 we get
u
sin ()
=
x
sin ()
. Rearranging gives xsin () = usin ().
Substituting this into 26 gives us
k = usin () sin () xcos () cos () (27)
Rearranging the cos(A B) rule gives us that sin () sin () = cos ( ) cos () cos ().
Substituting this into 27 gives us
k = ucos ( ) cos ()(ucos () +xcos ()) (28)
Finally, a simple observation of g.3 shows us that V = ucos () xcos ( ) = ucos () +
xcos (). Substituting this into 28 satises 25 and thus proves the theorem.
Theorem 8. The theoretical maximum value of v is v = u + 2V . This occurs when the
spacecraft performs a complete turn after approaching the body head-on.
Proof. We use that sin and cos are both bounded between 1. Therefore the maximum value
of (1 cos ()) = 2 and the maximum value of (cos ( ) cos ()) = 2. This happens when
= and = . Then theorem 7 gives us
v
2
= u
2
+ 2V (2V + 2u) = u
2
+ 4uV + 4V
2
= (u + 2V )
2
Taking the square root gives us the desired result
5.3 Putting slingshots into practice
5.3.1 Finding the best deection angle in a gravitational slingshot
Evidently we cant control the speed of the body and we dont want to use propellant to change
the speed of the rocket, as this defeats the purpose of using the slingshot. Therefore we x u
17
and V and therefore x as well. We can, however, make small corrections to the course in the
vicinity of the body, which will change our angle of deection, which we will model as changes
to .
Theorem 9. The largest value of v occurs when =
m
tan (
m
) =
usin ()
ucos () V
(29)
Proof.
7
Dierentiating theorem 7 with respect to gives us:
2v
dv
d
= 2V (V (sin ()) +u(sin ( ))) (30)
Then its maximum must occur when its dierential is 0 which occurs when
V (sin ()) +u(sin ( )) = 0
We use that sin ( ) = sin () cos () cos () sin (). Substituting in and dividing through
by cos () gives us:
V tan () +usin () utan () cos () = 0 (31)
Collecting terms and rearranging gives us the desired result
Theorem 10. For every sub-maximal value of v, there are two values
1
and
2
resulting in
that value v. Furthermore, the sum
1
+
2
= 2
m
Proof.
8
The fact that two dierent values of can generate the same speed v is not surprising
- indeed it is clear looking at a velocity triangle that reecting about V will give the same length
of v. Consider the equations of two
v
2
= u
2
+ 2V [V (1 cos(
1
)) +u(cos (
1
) cos ())] (32)
v
2
= u
2
+ 2V [V (1 cos(
2
)) +u(cos (
2
) cos ())] (33)
Subtracting 32 from 33 and dividing through by 2V we get:
V (cos(
2
) cos(
1
)) +u(cos (
1
) cos (
1
)) (34)
We use the identity cos (A) cos (B) = 2 sin (
A+B
2
) sin (
AB
2
) [14]. Then 34 becomes
2V sin (

1
+
2
2
) sin (

1
2
) + 2usin (

1
+
2
2
) sin (

1
2
) (35)
7
Most of this proof is original calculation
8
Most of this proof is original calculation
18
We divide through by 2 sin (

1
2
) and use sin(AB) = sin (A) cos (B) cos (A) sin (B) to
reduce 35 to:
V sin (

1
+
2
2
) +usin () cos (

1
+
2
2
) ucos () sin (

1
+
2
2
) (36)
Dividing through by cos (

1
+
2
2
) and rearranging we get that
tan (

1
+
2
2
) =
usin ()
ucos () V
= tan (
m
)
By observation we know that the maximum is unique, since any point along the line of reection
is reected onto itself. We therefore note that

1
+
2
2
=
m
and the result follows.
An immediate consequence of this is that if
1
=0 then
2
= 2
m
. Given that the function is
decreasing at this point and for = 0, v = u, we see that for any > 2
m
we get that the
spacecrafts speed decreases. This can be useful when travelling towards the inner solar system
(where the suns gravity accelerates the spacecraft), or to slow a spacecraft once it arrives at
its destination.
5.3.2 Relationship between and
Recall our solution to the two body problem (equation 17):
r =
h
2
GM(1 + cos )
We know that is the angle between the initial velocity u and nal velocity v. These are
velocities of our spacecraft from outside of the bodys sphere of inuence. To calculate these,
we consider r which happens as cos 1, or equivalently as arccos
1

.
Since the rocket also performs a reection while within the planets sphere of inuence, we have
that
2 arccos (
1

) = + (37)
This allows us to calculate the trajectory of the rocket after we perform a slingshot. We also
know that there are two potential values for , and want to know which is better. By denition
of the spacecraft is at the periapsis when cos () = 1 so the spacecrafts closest approach is
when 38 holds, and weve also proven the value for (in theorem 5)
r = r
0
=
h
2
GM(1 +)
(38)
=
_
1 +
2h
2
e
G
2
M
2
(39)
19
Therefore, we know that and r are functions of angular momentum h. We consider the orders
of these variables in the above three equations. Observing 39, we see that as h decreases,
decreases at approximately the same rate. Observing 38 we note that h has a higher order than
and so decreases at a faster rate, thus as h decreases r
0
decreases. Meanwhile, using 37 we
see that as decreases, r
0
, increases. This elementary analysis tells us that the smaller value
of means a larger closest approach. This is usually preferable, as it leaves more room for
error and corrections. Sometimes it is impossible to use the other value, as the other value of
r
0
could be inside the planets radius. The smaller r
0
may be preferable when wishing to get
closer to a planet to take photographs.
5.4 Oberth Eect
The Oberth Eect is also sometimes known as a Powered Slingshot. The idea of this is that
burning fuel (i.e. generating v) at a high speed is more ecient than at a low speed. So
burning fuel while performing a slingshot provides more v than otherwise.
5.4.1 Oberth eect and work
To understand why the eect works, we consider the mechanical work of the spacecraft. But
before we do that, we must learn an identity
Theorem 11.
a v =
1
2
dv
2
dt
Proof.
dv
2
dt
=
d(v v)
dt
= 2
dv
dt
v = 2a v
Denition 8. Work W done by a force F over a distance x is dened as W = F x. Note also
that over a period of time t = t
2
t
1
W =
_
t
2
t
1
F vdt = m
_
t
2
t
1
a vdt
Now using theorem 11 we get:
m
2
_
t
2
t
1
dv
2
dt
dt =
m
2
_
v
2
2
v
2
1
dv
2
=
mv
2
2

mv
1
2
= E
k
(40)
More pertinently, we can say that if we burn our fuel over a time t, we increase the specic
kinetic energy of the rocket from e
1
to e
2
and that
e
k
=
1
m
F v = a v (41)
Equation 41 explains how the Oberth eect works - since the specic energy at the start is xed
the amount of energy we generate is directly proportional to the speed.
20
5.4.2 Oberth eect in practice
Consider a spacecraft performing a slingshot around a body. We compare the v generated by
burning fuel while slingshotting to after.
Recall earlier the escape velocity of a planet from theorem 3. This is the velocity a spacecraft
must reach to escape the body. We note that if it attains exactly this velocity then its velocity
becomes 0ms
1
once it leaves the bodys sphere of inuence.
Let a spacecraft which is travelling at escape velocity generate v while in the bodys sphere
of inuence. Then its specic energy is given by
e
k
=
1
2
(v
e
+ v)
2
=
1
2
(v
2
e
+ 2v
e
v + v
2
) (42)
Once this spacecraft leaves the sphere of inuence, it loses its escape velocity and thus an
amount of specic energy e
k
=
1
2
v
2
e
, thus its nal specic energy is given by e
k
1
and the
spacecraft performed the burn after it left the sphere of inuence, its specic energy would be
e
k
2
where:
e
k
1
=
1
2
(2v
e
v + v
2
) (43) e
k
2
=
1
2
v
2
(44)
Subtracting 44 from 44 we note that by performing the burn within the sphere of inuence, our
spacecraft has gained an extra amount of specic energy equal to e
k
= v
e
v.
We furthermore note that
e
k
2
=
_
1 +
v
e
v
_
e
k
1
(45)
And using that e
k
=
1
2
v
2
equation 45 gives us that:
v
2
=
_
_
1 +
v
e
v
_
v
1
For example, using the Moons escape velocity of 2.38kms
1
[12], a burn which generates 2kms
1
would generate 1.84 more nal speed than a 2kms
1
burn would outside of its sphere of
inuence. In reality, this gure would be slightly less as escape velocity above the surface is
slightly lower, however for planets with a much higher escape velocity such as Jupiter, the eect
can be much bigger.
21
6 Solar sailing
We now turn our attention to solar sailing as a method of generating v. Before we begin,
we need to dene pressure and a few laws of electromagnetism.
6.1 Pressure
Denition 9. If we dene n to be the unit vector which is normal to a surface A and F to
be the force acting on the surface area, then the force normal to the surface F
n
is the
projection of F onto n.
F
n
= n( n F) (46)
Denition 10. Pressure P over a surface A is a scalar quantity dened to be the force normal
to the surface F
n
acting per unit area.
P =
F
n
A
(47)
6.2 Maxwell Equations
These equations form the basis of electromagnetism. We use these to describe how solar radia-
tion creates pressure.
Denition 11. The electric eld E(r, t) of a charged particle is the force that particle exerts
on other charged particles as a function of its position r
Denition 12. The Lorentz force of a charged particle with charge q moving at velocity v
is dened as the force experienced when the particle travels through an electromagnetic eld.
It is dened as
F = q[E+ (v B)] (48)
Denition 13. The value B(r, t) denotes the magnetic eld of a charged particle.
Denition 14. The current density J passing through a surface A at angle with a current
I and surface normal n is the J which satises
J n =
I
A
cos () (49)
The magnitude of this vector is J =
I
A
Denition 15. For a current I travelling along a wire in direction through a magnetic eld
B, the Lorentz force experienced by the wire is
F = I( B) (50)
22
Denition 16. Faradays law of induction
For a particle with an electric eld E and magnetic eld B Faradays law states:
E =
B
t
(51)
Denition 17. Dierential form of Amperes law
We dene
0
= 410
7
. For a particle with an electric eld E and magnetic eld B, Amperes
law states:
B =
0
J (52)
Alternatively we can write this as:
Denition 18. Integral form of Amperes law
_
BdA =
0
I (53)
6.3 What is solar sailing
Denition 19. Solar radiation pressure upon a surface is the pressure exerted upon that
surface by electromagnetic radiation from the sun.
That electromagnetic radiation exerts pressure was predicted back in 1871 by James Clerk
Maxwell [15].
Denition 20. Solar sailing is a method of propulsion which utilises the solar radiation
pressure to generate v.
6.4 Calculating radiation pressure
Denition 21. The energy ux of radiation is dened as the rate at which radiation transfers
energy. Its value is given by the Poynting vector S which is dened as
S =
1

0
EB (54)
Its average over time is denoted S =
Re(EB)
2
0
, where B denotes the complex conjugate of
B.
Denition 22. If B
0
is the amplitude of B and E
0
the amplitude of E, then the magnitude of
the time-averaged Poynting vector is given by W = |S| =
1
2
0
B
0
E
0
.
23
Theorem 12. The pressure exerted by an electromagnetic wave on a sail is given by
p = 2
S
c
(55)
Equivalently, given a wave with amplitude B
0
= E
0
, the pressure has magnitude
1
c
1

0
B
0
E
0
=
2W
c
and is in the direction of propagation.
Proof.
9
We consider a rectangular area of sail to be perfectly reective of height dx in the
direction i and width dy in the direction j. We consider light which hits the sail travelling in
the same direction as n = k. The right hand rule tells us that the magnetic eld B is in the
direction of j and electric eld E is in the direction of i before and i after reection. These
are show on g. 5 below. We let our sail have thickness dz.
g. 5 Direction of wave elds before and after reection
We use the solution of the wave equation[17] that for wavelength , angular frequency ,
amplitude E
0
and dening k =
2

, the electric eld is given by E


x
= E
0
cos (kz t). When
we reect this wave, we get a phase change of t so our reected wave has equation E
x
=
E
0
cos (kz t). So the electric eld is actually a superposition of these two waves and can
be calculated as:
E
x
= E
0
cos (kz t) E
0
cos (kz +t) (56)
Now using faradays law (denition 16):
9
Proof adapted from T. Rothman and S. Boughn, The Lorentz Force and the Radiation Pressure of Light [P3]
24
E =
E
x
z

j = E
0
k(sin (kz t) sin (kz +t))

j =
B
t
(57)
We note that =

p
2
[18] where
p
, the phase velocity, in a vacuum is given by
p
= c[19]. This
gives us that k =

c
. Integrating equation 57 with respect to t gives us
B =
1
c
E
0
(cos (kz t) cos (kz +t))

j (58)
Using that amplitude B
0
= E
0
and cos (A) + cos (B) = 2 cos (
A+B
2
) cos (
AB
2
) [14] equation 58
becomes:
B =
1
c
2B
0
(cos (kz) cos (t))

j (59)
Notice that at the boundary, where z = 0, B =
1
c
B
0
cos (t) = 0. Using the integral form of
Amperes law (denition 18), we see that:
_
BdA =
0
I
Which tells us currents are formed near the surface of the sail. Since B is in the j direction,
the right hand rule tells us the current will be in the i direction. We use the denition of
Lorentz force in a wire (denition 15), modelling this strip of the sail as a wire of length dx in
direction

i to see that the Lorentz force experienced by the sail is F = Idxi B, which is in the
direction of

k, the direction of propagation.
The magnitude of this force is given by dF = IdxB. Note that for current density J, I = JA
(denition 14). In this case, A = dydz. And so our Lorentz force magnitude is
dF = Bdxdydz (60)
.
Using the dierential form of Amperes law (denition 17) we have:
B =
B
y
z

i =
0
J (61)
This gives us J =
1

0
B
y
z
and substituting this into equation 60 gives us
dF
dxdy
=
1

0
B
y
z
B
y
dz (62)
Using the denition of pressure (denition 10) we see that this left hand side is the dp for
25
pressure p of our sail. Since B depends only on z we can take the partial derivative to be the
full derivative. Furthermore, we note that as z , we get B 0. Equation 62 becomes:
p(t) =
1

0
_
z=
z=0
B
y
dB
y
=
1
2
0
(B(0)
2
B()
2
) =
1
2
0
B(0)
2
Using equation 59 and B
0
= E
0
we then get
p(t) =
1
c
2

0
B
0
E
0
cos
2
(t)
.
Since cos
2
(t) ranges between 0 and 1 and is periodic, this means it has a time-average of
1
2
and the time-average pressure is given by
p =
1
c
1

0
B
0
E
0
6.5 Force on a solar sail
So now we know how much pressure is applied to the sail, we want to calculate the force this
produces. We model our sail as a at surface which has perfect reection.
Firstly, from our denition of pressure (denition 10) we can see that the direction of the force
is normal to the sail. Thus orientating our spacecraft in a desired direction using a solar sail is
relatively straightforward.
g. 6 Force diagram for a solar sail g. 7 Angle for calculating exposed sail
When sunlight hits the sail, it reects at an angle 2 which is bisected by the normal of the sail.
We denote to be the angle between the line in the direction of the normal and the direction
26
of propagation (i.e. the line between the sun and the sail). This is described by g. 6 above.
Note that the direction of propagation is also the direction of pressure.
Theorem 13. The magnitude of the force experienced by a solar sail is
F = F
n
=
2WA
c
cos
2
() (63)
Proof.
10
Our above calculation for pressure is only relevant for a surface which is perpendicular
to the direction of propagation. We know that pressure is in the direction of propagation, so
we must consider the component of the surface area exposed to the incident (a) and reected
(b) waves. We can see how to calculate this angle in g. 7 (the case for the reected ray is
the same, since it is just a reection through the normal of the sail). We have A
a
= Acos ().
Similarly, for the reected wave, the relevant component is A
b
= Acos () .
Furthermore, because the light is not reected directly back to the sun, the pressure for each
force exerted will have half the magnitude calculated above, so
P = P
a
= P
b
=
W
c
(64)
We use the denition of pressure (denition 10) to get that
F
a
= F
b
= PAcos () (65)
Where F
a
is the force due to the incident ray and F
b
is the force due to the reected ray.
We want to calculate the force normal, F
n
. g. 6 shows us this has two components, F
n
=
F
a
cos () +F
b
cos () We then calculate the total force to give the total force using 64 and 65:
F = F
n
= (F
a
+F
b
) cos () = 2PAcos
2
() =
2WA
c
cos
2
() (66)
We note that there are also sin components of the two forces, but these are of equal magnitude
in opposite directions, and so they cancel out.
6.6 Optimum angle for sailing in a Keplar orbit
11
We note that if a spacecraft is in orbit about the sun, it will have velocity v perpendicular to its
displacement from the sun r. We set the vector

i to be in the same direction as the incidence
ray (and thus the same direction as r), then we can decompose the force into two components.
In particular we have:
10
Proof adapted from D. Prodger, A Solar Sail Technology Application Mission for Analysing the Earths
Geomagnetic Tail p42-43 [P4]
11
Section adapted from D. Prodger, A Solar Sail Technology Application Mission for Analysing the Earths
Geomagnetic Tail p44 [P4]
27
F =
2WA
c
cos
2
()(cos ()

i + sin ()

j) (67)
We note that v =

j. We want to maximise the force (and thus the acceleration) in this direction
to increase the speed of our spacecraft.
Theorem 14. The optimal angle for increasing velocity in a Keplerian orbit around the sun is
= arcsin (
1

3
)
Proof. To nd the maximum value of F in the direction

j we dierentiate F

j with respect to
and set it equal to 0. This gives us:
dF
j
d
=
d
d
(
2WA
c
cos
2
() sin ()) = 0 (68)
We divide through by
2WA
c
to give
d
d
(cos
2
() sin ()) = cos
3
() 2 sin
2
() cos()
= cos()(cos
2
() 2 sin
2
()) = 0 (69)
We use that cos
2
() = 1 sin
2
() and divide through by cos() to reduce 69 to
3 sin
2
() 1 = 0 sin() =
1

3
(70)
Taking the arcsin of both sides gives the desired result.
6.7 Accelerating away from the Sun
Before we continue, we will dene a new quantity, luminosity
Denition 23. The luminosity L of a body is the total ux that body emits. For an observer
at a distance r observing a time-averaged energy ux W the luminosity is given by[20]:
L = 4Wr
2
(71)
If we assume that the luminosity of the Sun remains roughly constant then this means that the
ux is actually a function of r
2
. The universal law of gravitation is also an inverse square law.
This means that both acceleration due to the Suns gravity and acceleration due to the solar
radiation pressure should be proportional. This means that if a spacecraft with a solar sail can
produce more acceleration due to solar radiation pressure than the acceleration due to the suns
gravity then this craft can move anywhere within the solar system without limitation.
28
Denition 24. The sail loading of a solar sail is a measure of its eciency. For a sail of mass
m with surface area A, it is dened as =
m
A
.
Theorem 15. A solar sail spacecraft can escape the force of the Suns gravity and accelerate
away from the sun without the use of Keplerian orbits if its sail loading < 1.535gm
2
Proof. For a sail perpendicular to the sun, it generates a force of F =
2WA
c
. Using Newtons
universal law of gravitation (equation 3) we have that the force due to gravity is F =
GMm
r
2
.
We take the sum of these two forces to nd the overall force. It is clear the spacecraft will
accelerate away from the sun if F > 0.
F =
2WA
c

GMm
r
2
> 0
2W
c

GM
r
2
> 0 (72)
Where the implication follows from dividing by m. We now substitute in the ux W =
L
4r
2
to
get:
L
2r
2
c

GM
r
2
> 0 (73)
Multiplying through by
r
2
GM
and rearranging gives us:
L
2GMc
> (74)
The values on the left are all constants and the LHS is equal to 1.535gm
2
. The calculation for
this is in appendix 4.
The value =
L
2GMc
=
1.535

is called the sail lightness number. It is a dimensionless


quality which is determined by the ratio
Acceleration away from the sun
Acceleration towards the sun
.
One of the best materials we currently have to make a solar sail is Kapton [21]. Kapton has
a sail loading of 12gm
2
(or = 0.127), so we are still some way o creating such a craft.
Furthermore no sails we can create are perfectly ecient so we would have to account for this
as well. And if we were able to create such a craft, the rest of the craft would have an extremely
low mass .
That said, solar sailing is a technology still in its infancy and it shows a lot of promise, oering
the potential to do things traditional rockets cant (such as travel freely). Solar sailing also
builds upon what traditional rockets do already. Since a solar sail is always accelerating, it can
generate a potentially unlimited v given enough time.
29
7 Conclusion
7.1 Classical space travel
Chemical propulsion methods are still by far the most common is space travel [23]. However,
they have their limitations. Generating v is expensive in terms of fuel. Fuel is not necessarily
expensive, with costs being as low as $16 per kg. However, the more v that is required to be
generated by fuel, the heavier the spacecraft is at launch. A heavier spacecraft costs more fuel
to get into space initially and this causes costs to rise exponentially.
Gravitational slingshots help generate a lot of free v. For the rst three of Cassinis slingshots
alone, the spacecraft saved 68, 000kg of propellant. If the propellant was priced at $16 per kg
as above, that amounts to a saving of over $1 million on the propellant (let alone the extra
launch fuel it would have required to carry that propellant into space).
However, slingshots are not without their drawbacks. A spacecraft can only slingshot around
a planet while it is there. This leads to the idea of launch windows, whereby a rockets
trajectory is only viable for short periods of time. This requires precision in meeting deadlines
and also limits possibilities. And of course, spacecraft are limited by Keplerian trajectories.
7.2 Future space travel
Although the mathematics isnt new, solar sailing is are only very recently being explored as
a practical option. Using a solar sail does not preclude using a gravitational slingshot - the
spacecraft can still follow a Keplerian trajectory and make use of gravitational slingshots and
classical methods of space travel will continue to be utilised. But solar sails have advantages over
traditional rockets. For example, they are reusable - they dont generate thrust by disposing
of mass, so they can theoretically continue to accelerate indenitely. The scales on which this
happen are very small - the pressure generated at the distance of Earth from the Sun is around
4.56 10
6
[P4, p. 41]. Noting that F
j
= PAsin () = ma, this would produce an acceleration
of order
A
m
10
6
N. Given that spacecraft tend to be of order 10
3
kg [11], and that recent sail
designs have order 10
4
m
2
[26] will product an acceleration of order 10
5
ms
2
. The key with
solar sails, however, is that the acceleration is continuous.
The above calculation demonstrates how to maximise the eectiveness of a solar sail. Many
early designs focused on maximising surface area, but the possibility of reducing the mass is
now also being explored for nanosatellites [25]. There are issues with solar sailing, such as
maintenance of the reective surface, and issues caused by tearing from space debris, but these
have to be balanced against all the advantages. The mass of a solar sail can be very low with a
recent design by NASA weighing just 32kg. The majority of Cassinis mass was the propellant
[7], so solar sails oer a huge advantage here. Solar sails are in development and will be used
in upcoming spaceights: NASA are planning to launch a Kapton-based sail in 2014 [26].
30
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created using GeoGebra.
33
8 Appendix
8.1 Appendix 1: Elliptical Orbits
You may recall Keplers rst law of planetary motion: that all orbits are elliptical. The following
diagram explains the important features of a planets orbit:
g. 8 Points of interest on an elliptical orbit
Denition 25. The major axis of an ellipse is the longest line connecting two points on the
ellipse. It always passes through the centre.
The semi-major axis a is the longest distance from the centre to the edge
The semi-major axis b is the shortest distance from the centre to the edge.
The foci F
1
and F
2
are the two points along the major axis whose distance from the centre is
given by |f| =

a
2
b
2
. For an object orbiting a body, the body is at one of the foci.
When referring to orbits, the point on the major axis closest to the body is the periapsis and
the point on the major axis furthest from the body is the apoapsis.
The eccentricity of the ellipse is calculated as =
f
a
.
For any orbit, 0 < 1. An orbit with an = 1 is a circle. If = 0 the shape is a parabola. If
> 1 the shape is a hyperbola.
8.2 Appendix 2: Cartesian equations for conic sections
The following are the equations for conic sections in cartesian co-ordinates in the x y plane,
where a, b, c, d are all constants.
34
Circle (x a)
2
+ (y b)
2
= c
2
Parabola y = a(x b)
2
+c
Ellipse
(x c)
2
a
2
+
(y d)
2
b
2
= 1
Hyperbola
(x c)
2
a
2

(y d)
2
b
2
= 1
8.3 Appendix 3: Trigonometric laws
sin( ) = sin() cos() cos() sin()
cos( ) = cos() cos() sin() sin()
cos (A) + cos (B) = 2 cos (
A+B
2
) cos (
AB
2
)
cos (A) cos (B) = 2 sin (
A+B
2
) sin (
AB
2
)
sin
2
() + cos
2
() = 1
Sine and cosine laws
g. 9 Triangle for sine and cosine laws
For a triangle as shown in g. 9 we have that:
a
sin(A)
=
b
sin(B)
=
c
sin(C)
c
2
= a
2
+b
2
2ab cos(C)
35
8.4 Appendix 4: Calculation of the critical sail loading
We are looking to calculate the value of
L
GMc
,using the following constants
Constants
L = 3.839 10
26
kgm
2
s
3
M = 1.989 10
30
kg
c = 2.998 10
8
ms
1
G = 6.674 10
11
m
3
kg
1
s
2
Then
L
GMc
should be dimensionless (where = kgs
2
). We do dimensional analysis to
conrm:
[W]
2
[L]
2
[T]
3

[W][T]
2
[L]
3

[T]
[L]

1
[W]

[L]
2
[W]
=
[W]
2
[L]
4
[T]
3
[T]
3
[W]
2
[L]
4
= 1
Now we calculate the order of the fraction:
10
26
10
11
10
30
10
8
= 10
1
Finally, we calculate the constant term:
3.839
6.674 2.998 1.989 2
= 1.535 10
2
Which gives us that
L
GMc
= 1.535 10
3
kgs
1
= 1.535gs
1
36