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Book Reviews


How Spacecraft Fly
Authors: Graham Swinerd

Publisher: Copernicus Books

ISBN: 978-0387765716

Price: £15 (Hb), 268pp


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There are hundreds of satellites orbiting the Earth, but how are these satellites designed and controlled? What hazards do they face and how do they get into orbit in the first place? Once the fundamental principles and basic orbits have been described, the author goes on to examine real orbits, as he puts it. These involve dealing with gravity anomalies, extraneous third body forces, aerodynamic forces and solar radiation. I don't think this is discussed at a popular level in science books often enough, so I found this to be most informative.

The text then moves on to spacecraft design, such as attitude control, spacecraft stabilisation, propulsion and power sources. Spacecraft communications would need an entire book in itself but it was nice to see the matter examined, and I found the discussion about thermal control to be most interesting.

There is a great deal of useful information that you do not find readily elsewhere and given the rather dry nature of the subject, the book is written in a lucid and engaging style that makes enjoyable reading. The subtitle states, Spaceflight without Formulae, but this did leave me slightly disappointed. The complexity of orbits is illustrated in some detail and I felt that this book should have included the relevant formulae, especially when mention and workings-through of Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation are given but without stating the actual equation itself. The author says that he has tried to explain everything in an understandable manner, and he has, but the inclusion of the equation would have been a useful reference.

Towards the end of the book the author gives his views on the financial and scientific viability of missions to the Moon, Mars and the ISS, which seemed out of context, but these criticisms should not detract from what is a very good book.

Robin Flegg

 

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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