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Dropping and launching space shuttles

  1. May 30, 2010 #1
    Take two identical of those nice NASA space shuttles and at the same time as you launch one you drop the other from its orbit around earth. What happens first? Do the one going up reach orbit before the one falling hits the ground?

    There's a nice little thread about the shuttles acceleration here:

    But I have no idea. Any ideas are welcome, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2010 #2
    The two situations are not particularly comparable. As it starts its way into orbit, the Shuttle is accelerating at several gravities and gaining velocity more than altitude. On the way back from orbit, the Shuttle is using atmospheric braking to shed most of that velocity, after using a smaller maneuvering thruster burn to change its orbit to dip into the atmosphere, and then gliding to a runway. A Shuttle dropped from a relative halt at orbital altitude would hit ground sooner, but this doesn't resemble anything the Shuttle ever actually does. The specifics of how long it'd take would be non-trivial to calculate and would also depend on how the Shuttle was oriented during reentry and flown once in the atmosphere, and would also not hold much meaning.
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