The Gravitational Slingshot Essay

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The Gravitational Slingshot

The gravitational slingshot is a way that scientists have truly harnessed the gravitational pull of a planet by using it to launch satellites and other useful projectiles towards their desired locations. This method was developed through the use of Newton's Laws of Gravity and Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion. When these ideas of gravity and the shape of a planet's orbit were brought together piece by piece, this new theory changed how a projectile traveling through space could simply cross an orbital pattern, which would in turn change the path of the moving object. The change in the path accelerates the object at a higher rate and sends it speeding off in its proper direction. The gravitational
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Kepler established the Laws of Planetary Motion. The first Law states that the orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci. The second law states that a line joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time. And the final Law tells that the square of the orbital period of a planet is directly proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit. Kepler's Laws also come into play with the use of the gravitational slingshot, because Kepler believed that the orbit that a planet takes around another body follows an elliptical pattern, instead of traveling in a perfect circle. Of course each planet has a specific elliptical orbit, just as humans have different fingerprints to identify them. Before launching their equipment into space, each planet must have its pattern identified to ensure accurate results for the launch. This knowledge helps scientists identify where the ellipses are in relation to the paths of orbit so that they can launch satellites in the proper direct, at the proper time, with the proper velocity. Combining both of these sets of theories together has lead the way to the effect we know as the gravitational slingshot effect.

Today, the gravity assist effect is used extremely often by NASA and the Air Force. It is the most fuel efficient, naturally occurring “booster” in

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