Lecture Notes
Updated Wednesday, 21-Jan-2004 10:00:09 EST

Space Shuttle
(National Space Transportation System --NSTS)



Red (wide) arrow shows force (centripetal force) needed to keep orbiter moving along curved path. This force is transmitted through the structure to the astronaut (to keep him/her also moving along the curved ascent path). To the astronaut, this feels like acceleration down into the seat, indicated by the black (thin) arrow.


q = r v2/2

where r = air density and v = shuttle velocity

aavg = (Sf - Si)/t

where Sf is the final speed (at the end of the interval), Si is the initial speed (at beginning of the interval).

Launch site

Surface speed


0.463 km/s
(1036 mph)

Kourou, French Guiana

0.462 km/s
(1033 mph)

Kennedy Space Center

0.409 km/s
(914 mph)

State College

0.350 km/s
(782 mph)

aavg = (0.894 - 0.463 km/s)/60 sec. = 0.0072 km/s2 = 7.2 m/s2

Note: average acceleration is different from instantaneous acceleration (ainst =F/m), because the acceleration will change as the rocket's mass decreases.

Copyright © 1998, Robert G. Melton

Created 3-Mar-98
Updated Wednesday, 21-Jan-2004 10:00:09 EST