The Space Cadet's Guide to Understanding Orbital Dynamics

Prerequisites: Rockets 101, 201 and Universal Pre-K.
  1. 1.
    Take two Space Pennies(Earth Pennies work too) and place them at the edge of your desk. Drop one, and push the other horizontally off the edge.
  2. 2.
    Notice that they hit the floor at exactly the same time. This is because FORCES ACT INDEPENDENTLY of each other. Gravity (the down force) and push (the horizontal force), don't change each other.
  3. 3.
    Now put the Space Pennies back on the desk. Drop one and push the other horizontally as hard as you can. See that the pennies still fall at the same rate, but move apart more quickly.
  4. 4.
    Imagine if you could push one penny horizontally, so hard that it moved so fast, that as it fell, the curve of the Earth made the ground move away from it, and it "misses" the ground. THAT IS HOW YOU ORBIT ! That is all there is to it.
  5. 5.
    OK Space Cadets, now get into your rockets and prepare to launch.
  6. 6.
    LIFTOFF! Now use 2 units of fuel to go UP, and 8 units of fuel to go SIDEWAYS.
  7. 7.
    Now cut your engine and observe.
  8. 8.
    Keep your eye on the ground......,YOU MISSED THE GROUND AND KEPT GOING ! Great job! Now you know how to get into orbit. Note the sideways velocity is key to achieving orbit.
  9. 9.
    Next week: The Space Cadet's Guide to the Holographic Principle.