What Happens When an Object Is Dropped from the ISS?

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In summary, when an astronaut releases a wooden spoon from a revolving space station into empty space, it will either orbit Earth at a constant distance from the station or take a different orbit depending on the initial velocity given. The tidal forces of Earth and the station's gravity may also affect the spoon's orbit, causing it to have a slightly elliptical orbit or periodic movement. Tidal forces can also be used to create a poor man's attitude control system for a satellite.
  • #1
officialmanojsh
An astronaut on a revolving space station releases a wooden spoon out of the satellite, into empty space. Will the spoon fall toward Earth ? What will happen next ?
 
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If released at zero relative velocity, it will orbit earth, staying at a constant distance from the station. If given an impulse instead, it will take a different orbit, which may or may not hit Earth's surface (or cause it to enter the atmosphere and either rebound or burn depending on angle of entry I think). There should be some difference though if we take into account the tenuous atmosphere at the station's orbit which may slow down the spoon more (or less) than it does the station, but this would be a long term effect.
 
  • #3
wabbit said:
If released at zero relative velocity, it will orbit earth, staying at a constant distance from the station.

I would say the distance will either decrease due to the gravity of the station and the tidal forces of Earth or it will increase due to the tidal forces of Earth, but I'm to lazy to calculate it.
 
  • #4
What do you mean with "revolving"?

An astronaut is released from the ISS every time the astronaut stops touching the walls. What happens next?
 
  • #5
DrStupid said:
I would say the distance will either decrease due to the gravity of the station and the tidal forces of Earth or it will increase due to the tidal forces of Earth, but I'm to lazy to calculate it.
Well, tidal forces mean differential gravity. So if the spoon is released below the station it will be moving marginally too slow for a circular orbit, which should give it a slightly elliptical orbit with a periodic movement relative to the station I guess. But if released at the same height as the center of gravity of the station, this tidal force is just the difference required for it to orbit at a constant distance on the same path.
 
  • #6
wabbit said:
Well, tidal forces mean differential gravity. So if the spoon is released below the station it will be moving marginally too slow for a circular orbit, which should give it a slightly elliptical orbit with a periodic movement relative to the station I guess. But if released at the same height as the center of gravity of the station, this tidal force is just the difference required for it to orbit at a constant distance on the same path.

This is the correct answer. It's actually an important phenomenon. You can create a poor man's attitude control system for a satellite by just giving one axis a much larger moment of inertia than the other axes. Not a great attitude control system as you could easily see just by looking at what happens when the satellite moves, but you could keep one side generally pointed at the Earth. (Unless your gravity gradient boom flexes too much in response to temperature differentials and winds up flipping your satellite upside down, which has actually happened before.)
 
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Related to What Happens When an Object Is Dropped from the ISS?

1. What is the path of an object dropped from the International Space Station (ISS)?

The path of an object dropped from the ISS will follow a parabolic trajectory due to the combined effects of the Earth's gravity and the object's initial velocity.

2. How fast does an object dropped from the ISS fall?

The object will initially fall at a speed of approximately 7.66 kilometers per second (4.76 miles per second) due to the ISS's orbital velocity. However, as it falls, it will accelerate due to the Earth's gravity.

3. Does air resistance affect the path of an object dropped from the ISS?

Yes, air resistance will affect the path of an object dropped from the ISS, causing it to slow down and deviate from its ideal parabolic trajectory. However, this effect will be more significant for larger and less aerodynamic objects.

4. How long does it take for an object to reach the ground when dropped from the ISS?

The time it takes for an object to reach the ground will vary depending on its initial velocity, size, and shape, as well as the atmospheric conditions. However, on average, it will take around 10 minutes for an object to reach the ground.

5. Where will an object dropped from the ISS land?

The object will most likely land in the ocean, as 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by water. However, it is also possible for it to land on land, depending on the trajectory, atmospheric conditions, and other factors.

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