Sunday, April 1, 2007

NASA Trajectory Design Tool

"Ever try to shoot a slow-flying duck while standing rigidly on a fast rotating platform, and with a gun that uses bullets which curve 90° while in flight?" This question appeared in the July 1963 issue of Lab-Oratory, in an article about spacecraft trajectory design. Today, computer-generated plots and animations are used to calculate the path of spacecraft during a flyby.

The trajectory design model shown above allowed Mariner mission planners during mission development in 1967 to illustrate the orientation of the planet and calculate the the expected path of the Mariner 6 and 7 spacecraft, as well as the window of opportunity for the instruments and television cameras to operate during the flyby.

Image credit: NASA/JPL