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Physics Hwk. Problem: Center of Mass

  1. Oct 18, 2004 #1
    With the engines off, a spaceship is coasting at a velocity of +250 m/s through outer space. The ship carries rockets that are mounted in firing tubes, the back ends of which are closed. It fires a rocket straight ahead at an enemy vessel. The mass of the rocket is 1200 kg, and the mass of the spaceship (not including the rocket) is 2.0*10^6 kg. The firing of the rocket brings the spaceship to a halt. What is the velocity of the rocket?

    I used the equation vcm=m1*v1+m2*v2 divided by m1+m2. The answer I got is wrong. Am I using the right equation? Please Help ASAP!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2004 #2


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    The initial mass of the rocket, spaceship combination is 2001200 kg and its speed is 250 m/s so its momentum is 500300000 kgm/s. The momentum of the spaceship after firing the rocket is 0 so its momentum then is 0. The momentum of the rocket is
    1200vr and that must equal the original total momentum:

    1200vr= 500300000.

    I have no idea why you are using "vcm" since the problem does not say anything about the center of mass!
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