From COSMOS: “How do spacecraft get a speed boost from gravity assists?”

Science Springs

Cosmos Magazine bloc

COSMOS

24 August 2016
Jake Port

1
No rocket ever made could have provided the acceleration, or deltaV budget, to propel Rosetta to the speed it needed to rendezvous with comet 67P. ESA

Back in 2014, the Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after a 10-year journey. The moment was significant as it again demonstrated that how much fuel a spacecraft carries did not necessarily determine how far it could go.

But how was this possible and what forces are at play when it comes to making spacecraft travel further than they should?

Scientists designing rocket missions have a few tricks up their sleeve that allow them to accelerate an object to a speed that is higher than its fuel store would allow. To understand this better let’s start with how astronomers and space scientists view energy.

DeltaV

When you describe how far a form of transport on Earth…

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