As they say, the fifth times the charm, or do they? Once again our August launch date has been moved due to things out of our control. The date was pushed further this time to November 21, 2016, the Monday before Thanksgiving. We have been told that this was due to 2 separate 2 week blackout periods due to orbital mechanics. For those of you needing clarification, Orbital mechanics also known as astrodynamics or flight mechanics, is the study of the motions of artificial satellites and space vehicles moving under the influence of forces (out of our control) such as gravity, atmospheric drag, thrust, etc.
The motion of these objects is usually calculated from a combination of Newton’s laws of motion and Newton’s law of universal gravitation. Orbital mechanics is a modern offshoot of celestial mechanics, which is the study of the motions of natural celestial bodies such as the moon and planets. Thus, Newton’s formulas based off celestial mechanics, which date back to the 17th century are used today in this core discipline within space mission design and control.
The engineering applications of orbital mechanics is used by mission planners to predict the results of propulsive maneuvers and includes spacecraft trajectories, such as orbital maneuvers, reentry and landing, rendezvous computations, and lunar and interplanetary trajectories.
I guess we’ll just have to be patient and wait for the laws of gravity to comply.
Written by Sandra Milescu
Image Credit: NASA
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.