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Best beginner's material on orbital mechanics

  1. Aug 25, 2014 #1
    Hello experts,

    I would be glad if anyone could help me find out some basic beginners materials on ORBITAL MECHANICS.

    I am looking for ones that would help me understand the practical and technical aspects of launching a satellite, maintaining it in an orbit, changing orbits, results of collisions, the energy requirements to keep a space station in orbit and so on.

    I would be happy to deal with materials that handle core basics and explain these stuff in terms of basic Physics laws.

    I request you to kindly offer me some help regarding the above.
    Thanking You in advance..
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    The topics are not for beginners to physics.
    Try the Sze Tan "Classical Mechanics" notes - 1.7 deals with the "central force problem" which is central <groan> to orbital mechanics. The note-set (all three) provide a crash-course in the mathematical framework you need. From there you'll have a better understanding of what you need. i.e. if that math totally floors you, then you need to work on your math :)
    http://home.comcast.net/~szemengtan/ [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Aug 26, 2014 #3
    Could you please advise me on the best all in one book to learn Mathematical Methods for Physics.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
  5. Aug 26, 2014 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    So you took a look and discovered your maths was a bit wanting?
    What is your current education level?
     
  6. Aug 26, 2014 #5

    Bandersnatch

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    If you want a(bit) more laid-back and enjoyable, albeit less rigorous approach to learning orbital mechanics then try playing this game:
    http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/
    It's a free spaceflight simulator. The manual covers the basics of orbital maneuvers using simple physics. Once you manage to launch yourself into orbit a few times, maybe dock with ISS or even get to the Moon, you'll have a great intuition of the underlying physics. It's much easier to, ahem, launch yourself into underlying math once you can visualise what you're calculating.

    There's another similar game out there called Kerbal Space Program. I think it's on Steam. I hear it's much more fun(and funny), but much less free.
    This xkcd comic illustrates well how effective these games are:
    orbital_mechanics.png


    And as for mathematical methods book, the generally praised college freshman-level book is Mary S.Boas "Mathematical Methods in Physical Sciences". But I'd say you need only upper secondary school(i.e., high school) math to get the basics of the stuff.
     
  7. Aug 26, 2014 #6
    Simon, i completed a bachelors course in Computer Science and Engineering recently, but off late, i found myself more interested and devoted to physics. I had taken physics maths chemistry steam for my higher secondary program, and my interest and capability in mathematics is not weak i guess, and above all, i love and enjoy working with maths and physics. But the problem that i face is that, i have not done that kind of physics or maths stuff during my bachelors degree in detail. And i guess i need a more systematic approach to relay the right kind of mathematical foundation i need to pursue physics now.

    I went through the previews of a couple of books. The one that you mentioned , (Mary L Boas, Mathematical Methods for Physical Sciences) and another one, Mathematical Methods for Physicists (7th Edition) by Arfken, Weber and Harris. I am deeply pondering about which one to buy and follow.

    I request you to kindly help me with some advice.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
  8. Aug 26, 2014 #7

    Filip Larsen

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    "Spaceflight Dynamics" by William E. Weisel is a good introduction to many topics and is fairly light on the math.
     
  9. Aug 26, 2014 #8

    Simon Bridge

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    Do you remember your HS calculus and algebra?

    The topic "mathematical methods of physics" is huge.
    You want to focus on orbital dynamics - you'll want to start out purely classical which means Newtonian gravity.
    The good news is that it stays a bit above HS level for quite a while. You'll want a primer, perhaps a year 1 physics text: you only need the "mechanics" sections: good for the problem sets. But I suggest looking ot the online college courses since you are used to that sort of thinking.

    Expect go back and forth through the levels for a bit finding where you are at, and back-filling where you get ahead of yourself.

    Note: "Orbital mechanics" is usually taught at sen undergrad and post-grad level.
    Try:
    http://biomathman.com/pair/introduction.pdf [Broken]
    ... you need to know about vectors, Newtons laws, and how to read differential equations in Leibnitz notation.
    These should be fairly easy to pick up.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  10. Aug 27, 2014 #9

    Simon Bridge

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    ... but I doubt you will find an all in one book specifically for physical maths which starts at your current level.
     
  11. Aug 27, 2014 #10
    I understand, but if i am willing to put in some work and effort, which one or what would be the most possible or feasible solution?
     
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