Mitchell, Jeffrey C. Spaceport Graduate Center, Florida Institute of Technology, Satellite Beach, Florida.
Gordon, Gary D. Communications Satellite Corporation, Clarksburg, Maryland.
Last reviewed:September 2018
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- Basic Technology
- Structure and materials
- Thermal control
- Tracking and positioning
- Attitude control
- Electrical power
- Telemetry and command
- Special-Purpose Technology
- Space probes
- Reentry vehicles
- Crewed spacecraft
- Additional Readings
The systematic application of engineering and scientific disciplines to the exploration and utilization of outer space. Space technology developed so that spacecraft and humans could function in an environment radically different from the surface of the Earth (Fig. 1). Conditions that humans take for granted on terra firma do not exist in outer space. Objects do not fall in space. There is no atmosphere to breathe, to keep people warm in the shade, to transport heat by convection, or to enable the burning of fuels. Stars do not twinkle. Liquids evaporate very quickly and are deposited on nearby surfaces. The solar wind from the Sun sends electrons that create a charge within spacecraft, leading to lightning-like discharges that may damage the vessel's electronics. Cosmic rays and solar protons damage electronic circuits and human flesh. The vast distances in space require reliable structures, electronics, mechanisms, and software to enable the craft to perform when it gets to its goal—and all of this with the design requirement that the spacecraft be the smallest and lightest it can be to cut down on launch costs, while still operating as reliably as possible. See also: Astronautical engineering; Cosmic ray; Earth; Electron; Electronics; Free fall; Gravitation; Heat convection; Heat transfer; Proton; Satellite (spacecraft); Solar wind; Space; Space station; Star; Sun
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