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Space Capsules

March 4, 2012 by  


tufailSpace capsules were the first major form of space craft for manned space exploration. They were used in critical missions from putting the first human beings into orbit to helping man get to the moon. The most amazing fact is for all the important roles they played and continue to play in the history manned space flight their design is very simple. Space Capsules do not have wings like atmospheric air craft. They are basically spherical. However the true genius of the space capsule is not in how it looks but the thought put into its design.All in all the capsule has become the most reliable mode of transportation into space besides the space shuttle. With its versatile design for both low orbit and deep space travel it’s design has endured in one form or another for the past 5 decades. New programs such as the Space X Dragon seek to use this design and improve upon it leading to more affordable space flights.

Space Capsules are designed for the purpose of putting living payloads into space. To do this they must meet an important set of requirements. First they need to be designed so that aconventional rocket can launch them into space. The science of calculating the needed thrust to enter orbit is a complex process and building a capsule that can be realistically sent to space was an important hurdle. The next important factor was the life support systems. Space is an hostile environment a near perfect vacuum that can kill any lifeform within seconds. The big challenge for engineers and scientists was to make space capsules that had the right composition of air that would be safe to breath and not flammable. The capsule also had to be pressurized and sealed properly against the vacuum of space.

Another major challenge was to figure out how to get the space capsule safely back to earth. The solution came in two parts. The first part was to cover the bottom of the capsule in an ablative material. This substance would absorb heat from the air compressed by the capsule’s reentry into the atmosphere. The result would be that the capsule would not burn up. The other part was to slow down the capsule to safe speeds by means of a parachute. This would help to complete the reduction in speed caused by reentry even further making landings safer for astronauts.

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