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# Physics – Space – 1

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Weight
Gravitational Potential Energy
Projectile Motion
Escape Velocity
G Forces
Orbital + Rotational Motion of Earth
Law of Conservation of Momentum
Uniform Circular Motion
Earth Orbits
Keppler’s 3rd Law
Sling Shot Effect
Orbital Decay/ Re-entry
Communication Difficulties
Michelson – Morley > Aether
Frames of Reference > Relativity
Special Relativity
Space Travel

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Physics – Space – 1

Formulae
*not all these are given in the exam
Force
F = ma
Newton’s Law of
Universal Gravitation
F =G

m1m2
r2

The Gravitational Field
g=

Gm
r2

Weight
W = mg
Gravitational Potential
Energy
E p = mgh
____OR
mm
E p = −G 1 2
r
Motion Equations
v = u + at
s = ut + 12 at 2
v+u
s=
t
 a 
v 2 = u 2 + 2as
Circular Motion
ac =

Fc =

2

v
r

mv 2
r

F
m
a

Force
Mass
Acceleration

Newtons
Kilograms

N
Kg
m s-2

F
G
m1
m2
r

Force
Gravitational Constant
Mass 1
Mass 2

Newtons
6.67 x 10-11
Kilograms
Kilograms
Metres

N
Nm2Kg2
Kg
Kg
m

g
G
m
r

Gravity
Gravitational Constant
Mass of planet

For Earth : 9.8
6.67 x 10-11
Kilograms
Metres

m s-2
Nm2Kg2
Kg
m

W
m
g

Weight
Mass
Gravity

Newtons
Kilograms
9.8

N
Kg
m s-1

Ep
m
g
h
G
m1
m2
r

Potential Energy
Mass
Gravity
Height
Gravitational Constant
Mass 1
Mass 2

Joules
Kilograms
9.8
Metres
6.67 x 10-11
Kilograms
Kilograms
Metres

J
Kg
m s-1
m
Nm2Kg2
Kg
Kg
m

v
u
a
s
t

Final Velocity
Initial Velocity
Acceleration
Displacement
Time

Normally 9.8
Metres
Seconds

m s-1
m s-1
m s-2
m
s

ac
v2
r
Fc
m
v2
r

Centripetal Acceleration_

Velocity
Centripetal Force_

Mass
Velocity

Metres
Newtons
Kilograms
Metres

m s-2
m s-1
m
N
Kg
m s-1
m

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Physics – Space – 1

G Forces
Apparent Weight
True Weight
No Net Force
Acceleration Upwards
Accelerating Downwards
Keppler’s 3rd Law

Acc. Upwards
Acc. Downwards

G Force =

r 3 GM
=
T 2 4π 2
Law of Conservation of
Momentum
p = mv
pi = p f
Length Contraction
l = l0 1 −

v2
c2

Time Dilation
t=

t0
v2
1− 2
c

Mass Dilation
m=

m0
v2
1− 2
c

Energy > Mass
E = mc2

T=
T=
T=
r
T
G
M
π
p
m
v

G Force > 1
G Force < 1

mg
Apparent Weight
True Weight
m( a + g )
m( g − a )
Acceleration
Metres
Period
Units
Gravitational Constant
6.67 x 10-11
Mass
Kilograms
pi
Momentum_
Mass
Velocity

Kilograms

T
mg
a
m
Nm2Kg2
Kg
3.14159
Kg.ms-1
Kg_
ms-1_
Kg.ms-1
Kg.ms-1

pi
pf

Initial Momentum_
Final Momentum_

l
l0
v
c

Moving Length
Stationary Length
Velocity
Speed of Light

Metres
Metres

t
t0
v
c

Proper Time
Stationary Time
Velocity
Speed of Light

Seconds
Seconds

m
m0
v
c

Moving Mass
Stationary Mass
Velocity
Speed of Light

Kilograms
Kilograms
3 x 108

Kg
Kg
m s-1
m s-1

E
m
c

Energy (rest)
Mass (rest)
Speed of Light

Joules
Kilograms
3 x 108

J
Kg
m s-1

3 x 108

3 x 108

m
m
m s-1
m s-1
s
s
m s-1
m s-1

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Physics – Space – 1

1.

The earth has a gravitational field that exerts a force on
objects both on it and around it.

Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation
The forces between any 2 objects of mass m1 and m2, whose centres are separated by a
distance r, is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to their
separation.
mm
§ F = G 12 2
r
M2
M1
r

The Gravitational Field
The Gravitational Field is a region of influence in which another mass experiences due to the
force present in the first mass.
Gm
§g = 2
r
r
M

GM planet
g planet
g earth

=

r 2 planet
GM earth
r 2earth

 M planet   rearth 
__-___ = 

×
 M earth   rplanet 

2

2

SO:___ g planet

 M planet   rearth 
=
 × 9.8
×
 M earth   rplanet 

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Physics – Space – 1

Weight
The weight of an object is the force of gravity acting on it.
§ W = mg

Gravitational Potential Energy
The GPE is a measure of the work done in moving an object from infinity to a point on the
field.
mm
= mgh
§ Ep = – G 1 2
r

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Physics – Space – 1

2.

Many factors have to be taken into account to achieve a
successful rocket launch, maintain a stable orbit, and return
to earth.

Projectile Motion
Any moving object that moves only under the force of gravity is a projectile.
v = u + at
v
Final Velocity
2
1
u
Initial Velocity
s = ut + 2 at
a
Acceleration
Normally 9.8
v+u
s
Displacement
Metres
s=
t
 a 
t
Time
Seconds
2
2
v = u + 2as
The path followed by a projectile is the trajectory.

m s-1
m s-1
m s-2
m
s

Galileo’s Analysis of Projectile Motion
Galileo’s conclusion were that, except for the unknown effects of air resistance, the trajectory
of an object could be calculated accurately if it’s vertical motion was considered to be
independent of it’s horizontal motion.
Sailing ship experiment (1642)

V
V
Stationary

Constant Speed
“Only Relative Motion Matters”

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Physics – Space – 1

Escape Velocity
If an object is projected upwards with a large enough velocity, it can escape the gravitational
pull of the Earth (or any other planet) and go into space. This velocity used to escape the
gravitational pull is called Escape Velocity.
Gravitational Potential Energy = Kinetic Energy
GM E m
1
= mv 2
r
2
2
v = 2GM E
r
2GM E
2GM E
§ v2 =
OR v =
r
r

Newton’s analysis of Escape Velocity
Launching a projectile horizontally from a high mountain.
As launch velocity is increased, the distance that the object would travel before hitting the
Earth would increase until such a time that the velocity would be sufficient to put the object
into orbit around the Earth.
A higher velocity would lead to the object escaping from the Earth.

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Physics – Space – 1

G Forces
G Forces are measured in units of gravitational acceleration g.
Eg. 5g is 5 times the acceleration of gravity.
At rest or at a constant velocity
No Net Force
Apparent Weight
= True Weight

Accelerating Upwards
Net Force = Apparent Weight
ma = T
§ ∴ T = m( g + a )

– True Weight
– mg

G Force > 1
Accelerating Downwards
Net Force = True Weight
ma = mg
§ ∴ T = m( g − a )

– Apparent Weight
–T

G Force < 1

§ G Force =

Apparent Weight
True Weight

G Forces – Roller Coaster
A rider has 2 forces acting on them
1. Their normal weight (mg) acting down
2. The normal reaction force (N)

Weight
Centripetal Force

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Physics – Space – 1

G Forces – Astronauts
If the accelerations are along the body’s long axis, two distinct effects are possible.
1) If the acceleration is in the direction of the person’s head, they may experience a
‘black-out’ as blood rushes to their feet.
2) If the acceleration is towards their feet, they may experience a ‘red-out’ where
blood rushes to their head and retina (eyes).

G Forces – Humans
4G
without any undue concern.
10G
for short times when acceleration is directly parallel to a line drawn between a
person’s front and back.

G Forces – Multistage Rocket

G Force

Peak g force occurs at
end of 1st stage

Increasing
acceleration

1

Subsequent stages last
longer, have lower peaks

Time after Lift-off

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Physics – Space – 1

Orbital and Rotational Motion of the Earth
The Earth rotates on it’s axis once per day
The earth revolves around the sun once per year

1700 kmh-1
107 000 kmh-1

Rockets are launched East to
sun

earth

Space mission planners use the Earth’s rotation to achieve low earth orbits.
They use the Earth’s orbital motion to send rockets out of orbit, and further into space.
Using these methods mean that certain times of the year are better than others for launching
space missions. These favoured periods of time are called ‘launch windows’.

Law of Conservation of Momentum
For ELASTIC situations

Momentum = p = mv

Initial Momentum = Final Momentum
pi = p f
§ mVi + mui = mV f + mu f
m
Vi
Vf
Ui
uf

Mass
Initial velocity of larger mass
Final velocity of larger mass
Initial velocity of smaller mass
Final velocity of smaller mass

Kg
m s-1
m s-1
m s-1
m s-1

This situation is elastic, there is no loss of energy to heat or sound.

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Physics – Space – 1

Uniform Circular Motion
The motion of an object in a circular path with constant speed is called uniform circular
motion. Although the speed remains the same, it follows that an object travelling in a circular
path must be accelerating.
Centripetal Acceleration – the acceleration towards the centre of a circle.
v2
§ ac =
r
§ vc =

V2

2πr
T

mv 2
§ Fc =
r

ac

Keppler’s 3rd Law
Uniform Circular Motion

Velocity v =

Orbital Velocity

Equate them both:

V1

r

Velocity v =

2πr
T
2 2
4π r
T2
r3
§ 2
T

2πr circumference
T
period
GM E
r

GM E
r
GM E
=
r
GM E
=
4π 2
=

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Physics – Space – 1

Earth Orbits
Low Earth Orbits – are above the Earth’s atmosphere but below the lower Van Allen belt.
Altitude:
250 – 1000km
Purpose:
Space Shuttle orbits, Hubble Space Telescope, Spy and Surveying satellites.
Geostationary & Geosynchronous Orbits – have a period of 24 hours. They do not appear to
move in the sky as seen from Earth. It is above the upper Van Allen belt, which increases the
Altitude:
35880km
Purpose:
Communication & Weather Satellites
If the orbit is directly above the equator, it will not appear to move in the sky, and receiving
dishes on earth can point directly at it. – Geostationary
If the orbit is not positioned over the equator, it will appear to trace a figure 8 in the sky.
Receiving dishes need to track the satellite. – Geosynchronous

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Physics – Space – 1

Slingshot Effect
The slingshot effect is a commonly employed manoeuvre to achieve an increase in speed and
a change in direction. It does this by utilizing the kinetic energy of a planet rather than its
own energy.
§ mu f = mui + 2Vi
The return speed of the smaller mass is equal to it’s original speed plus twice the speed of the
larger mass.

Orbital Decay
In a low earth orbit, there is some degree of friction with the atmosphere however thin it may
be. This friction causes a loss of Kinetic Energy due to heating, and a loss in energy means an
orbit will lose altitude. This is called orbital decay – where orbits become spirals.
When a satellite’s orbit decays to a lower altitude, this places it into denser atmosphere which

Re-entry
Re-entry is the return of a spacecraft into the Earth’s atmosphere and subsequent descent to
Earth.
Problems: Re-entry angle, Heat build-up, G Forces, Blackout.
Re-entry Angle: At altitude 120km, angle must be 5.2°–7.2°
! If the angle is too shallow, the spacecraft will bounce off the atmosphere, being propelled
back outward.
! If the angle is too steep, the spacecraft will descend too quickly, causing non-survivable
heat and g forces.
Heat: To prevent heat build-up, shape & protective layers are to be considered.
! A blunt shape has distinct advantages over a streamlined one during re-entry. A blunt
shape creates a shockwave ahead of itself, which absorbs most of the heat generated.
! Ablative material is used to reduce heat. Once the material is hot, it ‘ablates’ or vaporizes
before reaching the metal.
G Forces: When re-entering, the g forces are much greater than that of lift-off.
! Small wings on the shuttle allow a pilot to steer the craft in sharp zig-zags to reduce
speed.
Ionization Blackout: Ions caused by the immense heat prevent radio signals to and from the
spacecraft.

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Physics – Space – 1

3.

Future space travel and exploration will entail a combination
of new technologies based on current and emerging
knowledge.

Communication Difficulties
Distance
The distance to our nearest planets is immense. Travelling to them takes a long time. To go to
our further planets, is almost beyond comprehension.
Electromagnetic radiation obeys an inverse square law. This loss in signal strength is referred
to as space loss.
Deep space telecommunications use S-band
15 – 7.5cm
2-4GHz
X-band
3.75-2.4cm 8-12GHz
Frequencies – microwaves. Microwaves are major carriers of data.
Sunspots
They are relatively cool areas on the surface of the Sun with strong local magnetic field
strengths. Sunspots are associated with solar wind, which affects radio communication.
They are belts of energetic charged particles.
Intense solar activity can disrupt the Van Allen belts, causing charged particles to drift. As
the current increases, it’s magnetic field increases. This can lead up to interference of short
wave radio communication, errors in communication satellites, and failure of electrical
transmission lines.

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Physics – Space – 1

4.

Current and emerging understanding about time and space
has been dependent upon earlier models of the transmission
of light.

The Ether or Aether – A hypothesised medium for light and other electromagnetic waves,
during the 19th Century.
Michelson – Morley Experiment
When the apparatus was rotated through 90°, the interference pattern was expected to change.
None was observed.
The result of the Michelson – Morley Experiment was that no motion of the Earth relative to
the aether was detectable.
This opened up a completely revolutionary view of space and time with the work of Einstein.
“The Special Theory of Relativity”
Mirror 1

Mirror 2

Light Interference pattern
Half-Silvered
Mirror

Light
Source

The Michelson-Morley Experiment
Speed of Light
The speed of light is constant and is independent of the speed of the source or the observer.
At first:
Later:

“Light can travel at an infinite speed”
It was clear that light has a constant speed

F = ma
c = 3 x 108

Law of Light: There is no such thing as an absolute frame of reference. All inertial frames are
equivalent. All motion is relative.
Time dilation
Mass dilation

Only when approaching speed of light

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Physics – Space – 1

Frames of Reference
Frames of Reference are objects or co-ordinate systems with respect to which we take
measurements.
An inertial frame of reference is one that is moving with constant velocity or is at rest.
A non-inertial frame of reference is one that is accelerating.

Principle of Relativity
It is not possible from within an inertial frame of reference to detect uniform velocity motion
without referring to another frame.
NEWTON – “It is impossible to do any mechanical experiment wholly within an inertial
frame of reference that can tell you whether the frame is at rest or moving with constant
velocity”

Measurement
Measurement is the process of comparing some quantity such as length, mass or time to a
selected standard and expressing the measured quantity as some factor of that standard.
The METRE is the distance travelled by light in a vacuum in the fraction

1
299792

of a second.

Space – Time
Space – time is a single four-dimensional concept in relativity that replaces the separate
concept of space and time.

Special Relativity
Observers in relative motion will disagree on the simultaneity of events separated in space.
Measurements of moving objects and simultaneity, depend upon the frame of reference from
which they are measured.
-Thought Experiments…

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Physics – Space – 1

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
Light will hit both mirrors at the same
time for both the inside and outside
observer.

Stationary Train Carriage
Light will hit both mirrors at the same time
for the inside observer.

Moving at Speed V
Light will hit the back mirror before the
front mirror for the outside observer.

Moving at Speed V

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Physics – Space – 1

Length Contraction
The effect known as length contraction, means that moving objects appear to shorten when
measured from a different frame of reference. The effect becomes significant when velocities
reach 90% of the speed of light.
m
Moving length
Metres
l
2
m
‘rest’
length
Metres
l
0
v
§ l = l0 1 − 2
Velocity
m s-1
v
c
Speed of light
3 x 108
c
m s-1
v2
1− 2
c

is always less than one, so that the moving length (l) is always less than
the length at rest (l0).

Time Dilation
Time in a ‘moving’ frame appears to go slower relative to a ‘stationary’ observer.
t
s
‘proper’ time
Seconds
t
s
Stationary time
Seconds
to
§t=
v
Velocity
m s-1
v2
1− 2
c
Speed of light
3 x 108
m s-1
c
v2
As v → c , 1 − 2 becomes smaller
c
Mass Dilation, Mass-Energy
The mass of a moving object is greater than when it is stationary.
m
Moving mass
Kilograms
m
Stationary
mass
Kilograms
mo
§ m=
v
Velocity
v2
1− 2
c
Speed of light
3 x 108
c

Kg
Kg
m s-1
m s-1

Since c is the MAX speed in the universe, it follows that a steady force applied to an object
cannot continue to accelerate. It follows that the inertia (resistance to acceleration) must
increase. But inertia is a measure of mass and so the mass has increased
This mass increase results from the conservation of energy into mass according to Einstein’s
famous equation:
E
Energy
Joules
J
2
m
Mass
Kilograms
Kg
§ E = mc
c
Speed of light
3 x 108
m s-1
Mass and Energy are interchangeable
Time Dilation, Length Contraction – Space Travel
Time and length are different for people on earth and those who are travelling. Calculations
must be made so that both are referring to the same lengths and time.
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