And now, the thing that indirectly led to last week’s post on Race Into Space: the Kerbal Space Program.
Rockets suck. This is a thing that we have established here; they’re terrifically awful ways of getting into space that are only used because nobody has really come up with anything better. There’s all sorts of ideas for wacky drive systems once your spacecraft is actually in space – ion drives, solar sails, Bussard ramjets – but these all sidestep the real problem facing future space travel, which is that you have to get out of the Earth’s gravity well first. This is not easy; even though the Earth is pretty small for a planet it’s still the heaviest of the four terrestrials and has what is to us a very hefty gravitational pull.
Edit: I forgot the best orbit of all, the Hohmann transfer orbit. This has now been amended.
Yes yes I’m twenty minutes late. Sue me. It occured to me while thinking of ideas for future science articles that it might be useful to talk about satellite orbits for a little bit so that I have some explanations on hand for why LEO sucks and why geostationary orbit is hard. There’s no ultimate conclusion here, just background information on the most common types of satellite orbit and their advantages/disadvantages. Enjoy.