Gravity Assist on Skates

Water color illustration of two people roller blading.  One reaches back and slingshots the other in front.
Credit: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

The gravity assist a spacecraft gets from a nearby planet is similar to a move you might see in a roller derby slingshot maneuver. Imagine a skater gliding steadily along. A second skater approaches, grabs skater #1’s hand for a moment, swings past, and lets go. This brief encounter causes skater #2 to change direction and pick up speed, and skater #1 to lose a little speed.

Categories: Flight Dynamics