Flight Dynamics

Aircraft and spacecraft fly in totally different environments, so they need different methods to direct their movement and to maintain their orientation.

To provide stability and control, most airplanes use various control surfaces that work on the same principle as a wing, while spacecraft use thrust and spin.

Airplane Axes

Airplanes are controlled along three axes: the longitudinal axis (front to back), the lateral axis (wingtip to wingtip), and the vertical axis (top to bottom).

Credit: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution