Flight dynamics is the study of the performance, stability, and control of vehicles
through the air or in
outer space Outer space is the expanse that exists beyond Earth and between celestial bodies. Outer space is not completely empty—it is a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles, predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as elec ...
. It is concerned with how forces acting on the vehicle determine its
velocity The velocity of an object is the rate of change of its position with respect to a frame of reference, and is a function of time. Velocity is equivalent to a specification of an object's speed and direction of motion (e.g. to the north). Veloc ...

attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology), an individual's predisposed state of mind regarding a value * Metaphysics of presence * Propositional attitude, a relational mental state connecting a person to a propos ...
with respect to time. For a
fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine, such as an airplane, which is capable of flight using wings that generate lift caused by the aircraft's forward airspeed and the shape of the wings. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct f ...
, its changing
orientation Orientation may refer to: Positioning in physical space * Map orientation, the relationship between directions on a map and compass directions * Orientation (housing), the position of a building with respect to the sun, a concept in building design ...
with respect to the local air flow is represented by two critical angles, the angle of attack of the wing ("alpha") and the angle of attack of the vertical tail, known as the
sideslip A slip is an aerodynamic state where an aircraft is moving ''somewhat'' sideways as well as forward relative to the oncoming airflow or relative wind. In other words, for a conventional aircraft, the nose will be pointing in the opposite direction ...
angle ("beta"). A sideslip angle will arise if an aircraft yaws about its centre of gravity and if the aircraft sideslips bodily, i.e. the centre of gravity moves sideways.Flightwise - Volume 2 - Aircraft Stability And Control, Chris Carpenter 1997, Airlife Publishing Ltd., , p.145 These angles are important because they are the principal source of changes in the aerodynamic forces and moments applied to the aircraft. Spacecraft flight dynamics involve three main forces: propulsive (rocket engine), gravitational, and atmospheric resistance.Depending on the vehicle's mass distribution, the effects of gravitational force may also be affected by attitude (and vice versa), but to a much lesser extent. Propulsive force and atmospheric resistance have significantly less influence over a given spacecraft compared to gravitational forces.


Axes to control the attitude of a plane Flight dynamics is the science of air-vehicle orientation and control in three dimensions. The critical flight dynamics parameters are the
angles of rotation 250px, The angle of rotation from the black ray to the green segment is 60°, from the black ray to the blue segment is 210°, and from the green to the blue segment is . A complete °,_or_2pi.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirec ...
with respect to the three aircraft's principal axes about its center of mass, center of gravity, known as ''roll'', ''pitch'' and ''yaw''. Aircraft engineers develop control systems for a vehicle's orientation (Aircraft attitude, attitude) about its center of mass, center of gravity. The control systems include actuators, which exert forces in various directions, and generate rotational forces or moment (physics), moments about the center of gravity of the aircraft, and thus rotate the aircraft in pitch, roll, or yaw. For example, a pitching moment is a vertical force applied at a distance forward or aft from the center of gravity of the aircraft, causing the aircraft to pitch up or down. Roll, pitch and yaw refer, in this context, to rotations about the Aircraft principal axes, respective axes starting from a defined equilibrium state. The equilibrium roll angle is known as wings level or zero bank angle, equivalent to a level Heeling (sailing), heeling angle on a ship. Yaw is known as "heading". A
fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine, such as an airplane, which is capable of flight using wings that generate lift caused by the aircraft's forward airspeed and the shape of the wings. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct f ...
increases or decreases the lift generated by the wings when it pitches nose up or down by increasing or decreasing the angle of attack (AOA). The roll angle is also known as bank angle on a fixed-wing aircraft, which usually "banks" to change the horizontal direction of flight. An aircraft is streamlined from nose to tail to reduce Drag (physics), drag making it advantageous to keep the sideslip angle near zero, though aircraft are deliberately "side-slipped" when landing in a cross-wind, as explained in slip (aerodynamics).

Spacecraft and satellites

The forces acting on space vehicles are of three types: spacecraft propulsion, propulsive force (usually provided by the vehicle's engine thrust); gravitational force exerted by the Earth and other celestial bodies; and aerodynamic force, aerodynamic lift and drag (when flying in the atmosphere of the Earth or another body, such as Mars or Venus). The vehicle's attitude must be controlled during powered atmospheric flight because of its effect on the aerodynamic and propulsive forces. There are other reasons, unrelated to flight dynamics, for controlling the vehicle's attitude in non-powered flight (e.g., thermal control, solar power generation, communications, or astronomical observation). The flight dynamics of spacecraft differ from those of aircraft in that the aerodynamic forces are of very small, or vanishingly small effect for most of the vehicle's flight, and cannot be used for attitude control during that time. Also, most of a spacecraft's flight time is usually unpowered, leaving gravity as the dominant force.

See also

* * * * * *


{{reflist Aerospace engineering Aerodynamics Spaceflight concepts