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Ballistic Missile Essay

2588 words - 11 pages



















Ballistic missile
A ballistic missile is a missile that follows a sub-orbital ballistic flight path with the objective of delivering one or more warheads to a predetermined target. To date, ballistic missiles have ...view middle of the document...

The powered flight portion can last from a few tens of seconds to several minutes and can consist of multiple rocket stages.

When in space and no more thrust is provided, the missile enters free-flight. In order to cover large distances, ballistic missiles are usually launched into a high sub-orbital spaceflight; for intercontinental missiles the highest altitude (apogee) reached during free-flight is about 1200 km.

The re-entry stage begins at an altitude where atmospheric drag plays a significant part in missile trajectory, and lasts until missile impact.

Missile re-enters the Earth's atmosphere.

Propulsion, control, and guidance

Although missiles can be propelled by either liquid-fueled or solid-fueled rocket engines, solid fuel is preferred for military uses because it is less likely to explode and can be kept ready-loaded for quick launch. Such engines commonly propel tactical guided missiles—i.e., missiles intended for use within the immediate battle area—toward their targets at twice the speed of sound. Strategic missiles (weapons designed to strike targets far beyond the battle area) are either of the cruise or ballistic type. Cruise missiles are jet-propelled at subsonic speeds throughout their flights, while ballistic missiles are rocket-powered only in the initial (boost) phase of flight, after which they follow an arcing trajectory to the target. As gravity pulls the ballistic warhead back to Earth, speeds of several times the speed of sound are reached.

Almost all missiles are steadied in flight by stabilizing fins. In addition, guided missiles contain control systems to adjust their flight paths. The simplest control systems are aerodynamic, making use of movable vanes or flaps that alter the flow of air past the stabilizing fins. A more complicated system—used especially in ballistic missiles, which often travel beyond the Earth’s atmosphere—is thrust vectoring. In this system the stream of gases from the rocket engine is deflected by placing vanes within the exhaust nozzle or by swiveling the entire engine.

The guidance system is the most important and sophisticated part of the missile. In tactical missiles, electronic sensors locate the target by detecting energy emitted or reflected from it. For example, heat-seeking missiles carry infrared sensors that allow them to “home” onto the hot exhaust of jet engines. Anti radiation missiles home onto radar emissions, while one type of optically homing missile may “lock” onto an image of the target that is captured by a television camera. Upon receiving information through its sensor, the guidance system relays instructions for course correction to the control mechanism through some type of autopilot contained within the missile or through commands transmitted from the launch platform.

Ballistic missiles contain some type of inertial guidance system, which compares the missile’s actual speed and position to the positions that it must assume in order to hit...

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