Hubble Space Telescope over Earth (during the STS-109 mission)

Astronautics, and related astronautical engineering, is the theory and practice of navigation beyond the Earth's atmosphere. In other words, it is the science and technology of space flight.

The term astronautics was coined by analogy with aeronautics. As there is a certain degree of technology overlapping between the two fields, the term aerospace is often used to describe them both.

As with aeronautics, the restrictions of mass, temperatures, and external forces require that applications in space survive extreme conditions: high-grade vacuum, the radiation bombardment of interplanetary space, the magnetic belts of low Earth orbit. Space launch vehicles must withstand titanic forces, while satellites can experience huge variations in temperature in very brief periods.[1] Extreme constraints on mass cause astronautical engineers to face the constant need to save mass in the design in order to maximize the actual payload that reaches orbit.



The early history of astronautics is theoretical: the fundamental mathematics of space travel was established by Isaac Newton in his 1687 treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.[2] Other mathematicians, such as Swiss Leonhard Euler and Italian Joseph Louis Lagrange also made essential contributions in the 18th and 19th centuries. In spite of this, Astronautics did not become a practical discipline until the mid-20th century. On the other hand, the question of space flight tickled the literary imaginations of such figures as Jules Verne and HG Wells.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky derived the famous rocket equation, the governing equation for a rocket-based propulsion. This equation makes it possible to compute the final velocity of a rocket from the mass of spacecraft(m1), combined mass of propellant and spacecraft (m0) and exhaust velocity of the propellant (ve).

\Delta v\ = v_e \ln \frac {m_0} {m_1}

For more information on the mathematical basis of space travel, see space mathematics.

By the early 1920s, the American Robert Goddard was developing liquid-fueled rockets, which would in a few brief decades become a critical component in the designs of such famous rockets as the V-2 and Saturn V.


Although many regard Astronautics itself as a rather specialized subject, engineers and scientists working in this area must be knowledgeable about many distinct fields of knowledge.

Related fields of study

See also


  1. ^ Understanding Space: An Introduction to Astronautics, Sellers. 2nd Ed. McGraw-Hill (2000)
  2. ^ Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, Bate, Mueller, and White. Dover: New York (1971).

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  • astronautics — as tro*naut ics n. the theory and practice of navigation through the upper atmosphere or outer space; the science of travel in space. [WordNet 1.5 +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • astronautics — 1929, see ASTRONAUT (Cf. astronaut) + ICS (Cf. ics) …   Etymology dictionary

  • astronautics — [as΄trə nôt′iks, as΄trənät′iks] n. [< Fr astronautique (coined 1927): see ASTRO & AERONAUTICS] the science that deals with spacecraft and with travel in outer space, esp. to the moon and to other planets astronautical adj. astronautically adv …   English World dictionary

  • astronautics — (New American Roget s College Thesaurus) Science of space Nouns 1. (sciences of space) astronautics, cosmonautics, space travel or flight, manned or unmanned flight; space or celestial navigation, astrogation, astronavigation; outer or… …   English dictionary for students

  • astronautics — astronautika statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. astronautics vok. Astronautik, f rus. астронавтика, f pranc. astronautique, f …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • astronautics — noun plural but singular or plural in construction Date: 1928 the science of the construction and operation of vehicles for travel in space beyond the earth s atmosphere • astronautic or astronautical adjective • astronautically adverb …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • astronautics — /as treuh naw tiks, not iks/, n. (used with a sing. v.) the science of or technology involved in travel beyond the earth s atmosphere, including interplanetary and interstellar flight. [1925 30; see ASTRONAUTICAL, ICS] * * * …   Universalium

  • astronautics — noun a) Navigation through space. b) The science and technology of spaceflight …   Wiktionary

  • astronautics — Synonyms and related words: aeronautics, aerospace medicine, aerospace research, aerospace science, aerospace technology, air service, airline, aviation, ballooning, bioastronautics, blind flying, cloud seeding, commercial aviation, contact… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • astronautics — as·tro·nau·tics || ‚æstrÉ™ nɔːtɪks n. science of space travel …   English contemporary dictionary

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