Orbital Mechanics Post #2


 

Today's topic: The other 2 types of orbits. However, these are actually trajectories not orbits as they will not keep going around the same body.

A hyperbolic trajectory is a path around a central body where the spacecraft has enough velocity to escape the gravitational pull of the central body. If you have ever heard of using a planetary fly-by for a gravity assist, that's a hyperbolic trajectory. Essentially, the spacecraft is going so fast it wont get pulled into the planet or into orbit around it. This was utilized by both Voyager probes and New Horizons.

A parabolic trajectory is similar but the spacecraft is traveling at exactly escape velocity at it's closest point. It will eventually slow down to a velocity of zero as it gets further away from the body. Parabolic trajectories are unlikely to occur in nature. The velocity is such that they are on the edge of being in a closed orbit or escaping the orbit.


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