YOU Gateway to Space - - Contents -

What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween or­bital and sub­or­bital space­craft? The dif­fer­ence is speed. An or­bital space­craft trav­els too fast to fall back to Earth (and is there­fore able to com­plete an or­bit around Earth). Think of throw­ing a ball: if you throw it softly, it will travel a lit­tle dis­tance then fall to the ground. But the more power you put into the throw, the straighter its path above the ground is, un­til it starts los­ing speed.

An or­bital space­craft flies at such a high speed that it is able to main­tain its dis­tance from Earth. A sub­or­bital space­craft can­not go fast enough to achieve or­bit.

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