Physics KS3 / GCSE: Orbital Rendezvous
Kevin Fong demonstrates how hard it is for a spacecraft to catch up with the International Space Station.
This is because the speed of an orbiting object is related to the height of its orbit, so when the spacecraft is closer to the Earth than the ISS, it is travelling faster, so in theory it could catch up with it.
However, as it rises higher from the Earth and closer to the orbit of the ISS, it slows down, and potentially falls behind the ISS.
A student from the audience demonstrates the technique used, using a model demonstration on the floor of the lecture theatre.
This clip is from the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2015.
Students could be introduced to the equations that explain circular motion, and how these can be used to explain the link that Kevin describes in the clip between altitude and speed.
This clip will be relevant for teaching KS3 and GCSE Physics.
This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.