Daily News Analysis

Orbital Vs Suborbital Flight

16th July, 2021 Science and Technology


  • Recently, 6 people on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity Spaceship took a trip to the edge of space known as Super-orbital Flight.



  • The main difference between orbital and suborbital flight is the speed at which a vehicle is traveling.
  • An orbital spacecraft must achieve what is known as orbital velocity, whereas a suborbital rocket flies at a speed below that.
  • Orbital velocity is the speed that an object must maintain to remain in orbit around a planet.
  • To orbit 125 miles (200 kilometers) above Earth, a spacecraft must travel at 17,400 mph (28,000 km/h).
  • Suborbital flight, in contrast, requires much lower speeds. A suborbital rocket doesn't have the power to achieve orbit.
  • Instead, it will fly up to a certain height that depends on its speed, and then come back down once its engines are shut off.
  • To reach 125 miles above Earth, a suborbital vehicle needs to fly at a relatively sedate 3,700 mph (6,000 km/h), although that's still much faster than a commercial airplane, which flies at around 575 mph (925 km/h).
  • At the top of their flight arc, passengers in a suborbital vehicle will still achieve a few minutes of weightlessness. They are, in fact, falling back toward Earth, but they are experiencing freefall.