V. N. Dvornychenko
Introduction to Space Dynamics
By William Tyrrell Thomson
When this little book came out, in the early sixties, it created quite an impact. For one thing, it marks the transition from the "old astrodynamics" to the "new". The term "astrodynamics" is attributed to the late Samuel Herrick, and was coined in the forties or early fifties. Prior to sputnik, astrodynamics was heavily centered on determining the orbits of comets and asteroids from optical observations. When artificial satellites became imminent, the emphasis shifted to determining physical constants (e.g., figure of the earth) from satellite tracking data.
"Introduction to Space Dynamics" represents a new departure. First, it places considerable emphasis on launch vehicle (rocket) performance, including some optimization analysis based on the calculus of variations. The older texts tended to completely ignore this topic (possibly because much was classified). Also, except for Lawden's monograph, many of the papers on optimized launch vehicle performance were difficult to obtain - and generally difficult to read. Second, Thomson inserts considerable material on gyroscopic motion, stabilized platforms, and inertial navigation. This represents a transition away from the optical-tracking-orientation of earlier texts. Thomson's book also enjoys the benefit of more modern notation, and uses vector and matrix notation throughout.
A curious included topic -- to which I was first introduced by this very book -- is "jet damping." The jet damping effect tends to dampen-out any angular motion of a rocket during thrusting periods. However, the effect is small to the point of usually being negligible. (Witness the notorious instability of rockets, particularly unguided ones.) Considering how much material Thomson devotes to this very specialized topic, one gets the impression that Thomson himself must have performed considerable research on this, and was determined to pass his knowledge on.
It is almost inevitable to compare this book with Herrick's "Astrodynamics", which came out some ten years after "Introduction to Space Dynamics." While Herrick's book is without question beautifully written and very comprehensive, it is basically backward-looking. Thomson's book, on the other hand, was very progressive for its time. Consequently, Thomson's book was very influential; Harrick's book was something of a curiosity, and almost certainly a disappointment for its author.
Despite the forty-some years since its debut, "Introduction to Space Dynamics" is still valuable, and should be read by everyone seriously interested in astrodynamics.
As an electrical engineer working in the space industry, I've been using this book as a self-study reference to better understand the issues related to spacecraft dynamics and control. It lays out the basics of rigid body/space vehicle motion and also contains a nice little introduction to orbital mechanics. Despite the date of publication almost all of the material is still relevant today and is a great bargain for ~$10. I noticed a couple of the reviews mention the difficulty of the material - I would say if you've studied calculus, linear algebra, and physics (mechanics) you have a shot at learning it but it would definitely help if you've taken a college-level dynamics course as well. If you don't have this background you're going to get overwhelmed.
This is really well-written. Although the introduction claims that the text is outdated, it still provides a great introduction to space dynamics, astrodynamics, and dynamics generally. There is an implied understanding in vector mathematics before beginning; the book has an overview of vector calculus, but I think the author assumes you already know it. I actually read this book before taking my undergraduate classes in engineering, and I referenced it many times when my own textbook wasn't as clear as this is. Thomson does use a lot of math, to back up everything he says, but he doesn't bog the text down like math books tend to do. I'm still using some of the math notation I picked up from this book, and my teachers hate it.
"Introduction to Space Dynamics" by William Tyrrell Thomson
Overall, this is a classic and essential book for those serious about astrodynamics and understanding space systems. The text is a great introduction to a broad set of categories in space dynamics including both rocket and satellite systems. In my opinion, it is appropriate for a undergraduate text in aerospace engineering or perhaps a graduate text for other engineering or science disciplines that are interested in space. Requirements for following the book are a good understanding of calculus and linear algebra and some exposure at least to concepts and notation in kinematics/mechanics/etc.
Chapters 1-3 are introductory chapters on prerequisite material for the remaining chapters. These cover basic vector mathematics, kinematics, and reference coordinate frames and the transformation between frames.
Chapter 4 covers particle mechanics in space (basic astrodynamics). This includes basic satellite orbits unpowered and powered. This section is a really good introduction to perturbation of orbital parameters, ballistic trajectories, effects of Earth's oblateness, and rendezvous problems.
Chapters 5 and 6 is a serious treatment of gyrodynamics and gyro instruments that the author devotes 92 pages to cover.
Chapter 7 covers non-particle spacecraft dynamics. This includes spacecraft attitude problems, and an introduction to the basics of guidance, navigation, and control.
Chapter 8 covers rocket performance and optimization techniques including staging and trajectory optimization.
The final chapter, Chapter 9, introduces the reader to the generalized theories of mechanics (Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics). This is also known as advanced dynamics.
"Introduction to Space Dynamics" makes a great reference for space industry professionals and anyone interested in knowing more about space systems. The text can be used (and often is used) to develop computational tools for solving more sophisticated problems in space dynamics. This text also complements some of the other great texts in these areas such as Fundamentals of Astrodynamics (Dover Books on Aeronautical Engineering) by Bate, Mueller, and White (for orbital mechanics), Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics (Dover Books on Aeronautical Engineering) by Hughes (for attitude dynamics), Space Vehicle Dynamics and Control (AIAA Education) by Wie (for controls), and Space Propulsion Analysis and Design by Humble (for rocket and spacecraft propulsion).
This a fantastic book. An absolute must have. The author does a great job of presenting the information in a clear and enjoyable format.