Chapter 3

The Space Environment


The space environment in which a manned spacecraft must carry out part of its mission as it leaves the atmosphere is briefly described. The major influences on human space travel are shown to be the solar wind and the earth’s gravitational and magnetic fields. The nature of solar radiation and the interaction of the solar wind of energetic protons and electrons with the earth’s magnetic field are discussed. Gravitational constraints on achieving orbital motion and rarefied atmospheric drag effects on maintaining an orbit are illustrated. The energetic particles in the Van Allen radiation belts, the electron density in the ionosphere, and the increasing population of space debris are shown to pose dangers ...

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