# The gravitational slingshot effect

• pinkerpikachu
In summary, the gravitational slingshot effect occurs when a mass, such as a spacecraft, moves in a negative x-direction at its orbital speed (with respect to the Sun) and is then drawn towards a larger mass in a positive x-direction. This effect causes the spacecraft to swing around the larger mass and head off in the opposite direction.
pinkerpikachu
The gravitational slingshot effect. In the diagram below, the planet Saturn moving in the negative xdirection at its orbital speed (with respect to the Sun) of 9.6 km/s. The mass of Saturn is 5.96 × 1026 kg. A spacecraft with mass 825 kg approaches Saturn. When far from Saturn, it moves in the +x-direction at 10.4 km/s. The gravitational attraction of Saturn (aconservative force) acting on the spacecraft causes it to swing around the planet (orbit shown as a dashed line) and head off in the opposite direction. Estimate the final speed of the spacecraft after it is far enough away to be considered free of Saturn’s gravitational pull.m1v1 + m2v2= m1'v1' + m2'v2'

It seems like a simple equation. I know that the speed of Saturn and the mass of Saturn are not going to change. (this is true?) So the focus of this problem should be the spacecraft .

m1v1 = m1'v1' for the spacecraft .

I'm confused about how to factor in the gravitational force of Saturn? and this is obviously (?) important for finding the final speed of the air craft.

i think this is how you would find the gravitation acceleration of saturn:

F = Gm/ r^2; where G is a constant, m= mass of Saturn, and r= the radius of Saturn
= (6.67 X 10^-11 N m^2/kg)(5.96 × 1026 kg)/ (60,268,000^2 m )
= 10.9

is this right? BTW, I'm not so sure about the radius of Saturn...I got different numbers on the web

Okay, now I don't know what to do...

Last edited:
I think the key is to recognize what's happening.

Saturn and the object are approaching each other in opposite directions.

But what is the final result?

LowlyPion said:
I think the key is to recognize what's happening.

Saturn and the object are approaching each other in opposite directions.

But what is the final result?

Okay, as the aircraft approaches Saturn, its going to feel some kind of gravitational pull towards the larger body. Correct? This pull is a force which is stated as conservative. So will it have an impact on the final speed on the air craft? Will this force slow down the aircraft? I know a conservation force is defined something along the lines as: it doesn't matter how many step you take, the work done is the same, but does this apply?

I just realized that only m1v1 = m1'v1' does really make sense. The mass isn't changing so by that equation the velocities would have to be the same.

pinkerpikachu said:
Okay, as the aircraft approaches Saturn, its going to feel some kind of gravitational pull towards the larger body. Correct? This pull is a force which is stated as conservative. So will it have an impact on the final speed on the air craft? Will this force slow down the aircraft? I know a conservation force is defined something along the lines as: it doesn't matter how many step you take, the work done is the same, but does this apply?

I just realized that only m1v1 = m1'v1' does really make sense. The mass isn't changing so by that equation the velocities would have to be the same.

You might also think of a conservative force as what it giveth it taketh away. The speed that it gives inbound it robs out bound. But what about the speed of Saturn itself? Does that affect the final speed?

## 1. What is the gravitational slingshot effect?

The gravitational slingshot effect, also known as the gravity assist maneuver, is a technique used by spacecraft to gain speed and change direction by utilizing the gravitational pull of a planet or other celestial body.

## 2. How does the gravitational slingshot effect work?

As a spacecraft approaches a planet, it is affected by the planet's gravity, which causes it to accelerate and gain speed. Then, as the spacecraft moves away from the planet, it loses some of its velocity, changing its direction. This effect is similar to a slingshot where the planet acts as the "sling" and the spacecraft as the "stone".

## 3. What are the advantages of using the gravitational slingshot effect?

The gravitational slingshot effect allows spacecraft to conserve fuel and travel faster and further than they would be able to with their own propulsion systems. It also enables them to reach distant destinations that would otherwise be impossible to reach.

## 4. What are the limitations of the gravitational slingshot effect?

The gravitational slingshot effect can only be used with certain planets and trajectories. Additionally, the angle and timing of the spacecraft's approach must be precise in order to achieve the desired acceleration and direction change.

## 5. What are some examples of spacecraft that have used the gravitational slingshot effect?

Some famous examples include the Voyager missions, which used the gravitational pull of Jupiter and Saturn to gain speed and travel to the outer reaches of our solar system. The Cassini spacecraft also utilized the gravitational slingshot effect to reach Saturn and its moons.

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