# 27.5 Worked Example: Gravitational Slingshot | Summary and Q&A

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June 2, 2017
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MIT OpenCourseWare
27.5 Worked Example: Gravitational Slingshot

## TL;DR

Gravitational slingshot is a technique where spacecraft uses the gravitational pull of big planets like Saturn to increase its velocity for outer space exploration.

## Key Insights

• 👾 Gravitational slingshot is a technique that utilizes the gravitational pull of large planets to increase a spacecraft's velocity for deep space exploration.
• 🖐️ Large planets like Jupiter and Saturn play a crucial role in providing the necessary velocity kick for spacecraft to reach distant destinations in the solar system.
• 🐎 The relative velocity between the spacecraft and the planet is crucial in understanding the increase in speed achieved through gravitational slingshot.
• 🖐️ The energy momentum law plays a vital role in establishing the relationship between initial and final relative velocities.

## Transcript

Let's consider a gravitational slingshot. What is that? Well, once in a while, people like to send spacecrafts out into the solar system, particularly the outer solar system, to explore what's going on there. And because we can't on Earth give enough speed to these little spacecrafts, we need the big planets around us to help us a little. And so we... Read More

## Questions & Answers

### Q: What is a gravitational slingshot and how does it work?

A gravitational slingshot is a technique where a spacecraft uses the gravitational pull of a planet to increase its velocity by flying close to it. The planet's gravity gives the spacecraft a boost in speed, making it useful for deep space exploration.

### Q: Why do we need large planets like Jupiter and Saturn for gravitational slingshot?

Large planets have stronger gravitational forces due to their size and mass. This makes them ideal for providing a significant velocity kick to spacecraft, which enables them to travel farther into the outer solar system during exploration missions.

### Q: How is the final velocity of the spacecraft calculated in a gravitational slingshot?

The final velocity of the spacecraft can be calculated by subtracting the planet's initial and final velocities from the initial velocity of the spacecraft. The mass ratio between the planet and the spacecraft is considered, allowing for a gain in speed during the slingshot maneuver.

### Q: How did the New Horizons mission utilize gravitational slingshot to reach Pluto?

The New Horizons mission to Pluto utilized the gravitational slingshot technique to gain speed and travel a significant distance. By flying close to Jupiter, New Horizons acquired a velocity boost that enabled it to reach Pluto and provide valuable insights about the dwarf planet.

## Summary & Key Takeaways

• Gravitational slingshot involves using the gravitational attraction of large planets like Saturn to increase a spacecraft's velocity for outer space exploration.

• The relative velocity between the spacecraft and Saturn plays a crucial role in calculating the final velocity of the spacecraft.

• Energy momentum law helps in understanding the relationship between initial and final relative velocities.

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