Suborbital Flight | PuuchoIAS

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Suborbital Flight

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III – Space

In news Recently, a six person crew on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spaceship undertook a brief trip to the “edge of space” which is known as Suborbital Flight.

  • Sirisha Bandla, an astronaut born in India, was a part of the crew. She was the third woman of Indian origin to go to space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
  • Virgin Galactic is a British-American spaceflight company, operating in the USA.

What is Suborbital Flight/Trajectory?

  • An object traveling above atmosphere at a horizontal speed of ~28,000 km/hr (orbital velocity or escape velocity) or more goes into orbit around the earth
    • Such a satellite would be accelerating towards the Earth due to gravity, but its horizontal movement is fast enough to offset the downward motion so that it moves along a circular path.
  • Any object travelling slower than 28,000 km/hr must eventually return to Earth.
  • Any object that launches to space but does reach sufficient horizontal velocity to stay in space falls back to Earth. This is known as flying in a suborbital trajectory.
  • It means that while these vehicles will cross the ill-defined boundary of space & atmosphere (known by Karman Line), they will not be going fast enough to stay in space once they get there & thus fall back to earth (see the projector in the figure below)

What is the significance of Suborbital Flights?

  • Increased Access for design innovation and experimental manipulation due to high projected flight rates.
  • They would be far less expensive than carrying experiments and people to the International Space Station. Helpful for microgravity research. 
  • They could also be an alternative to parabolic flights in aeroplanes that space agencies currently use to simulate zero gravity.

News Source: IE

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