If I was orbiting earth in the ISS,?

and in theory: aimed a gun in the prograde position and fired it, would the bullet go off into deep space, or would the bullet just orbit earth but with a higher apoapsis? I'm asking if the bullet has enough force to break Earth's SOF. The gun would be a SIG SAUER P226. The round would be a 9×19mm Parabellum.

6 Answers

  • 6 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    No...and if you even TRIED to build a gun capable of launching a bullet into interplanetary space from the ISS, you'd probably destroy the ISS (or severely damage it).

    As others have pointed out, an increase of only 400 m/s (the approximate muzzle velocity of a 9x19mm Parabellum fired from a SIG Sauer p226) would be far short of the delta-v needed to escape from Earth's sphere of influence.

    The orbital velocity of the ISS is about 7.66 km/s, or 7,660 m/s, and it orbits about 422.5 km (average) above Earth's surface. The escape velocity from Earth, starting at that altitude, is about 11,180 m/s, so you'd need to give the bullet a velocity change of 3,520 m/s in the prograde direction in order to have it escape from Earth's sphere of influence (SOI). That's nearly 9 times faster than the ordinary muzzle velocity. Sorry, but a regular gun isn't going to do it.

    But let's say you built a special gun for a special bullet - a one-of-a-kind contraption that could actually accelerate a bullet up to 3,600 m/s (we'll give the bullet a little extra kick just to be sure). The mass of a 9x19mm Parabellum is 7.45 grams, or 0.00745 kg, so it would take an impulse of 26.8 Ns to kick the bullet up to speed. That momentum would be subtracted from the ISS's orbital momentum, but the ISS is so massive that it wouldn't make a huge difference. (The ISS would slow down by about 0.06 millimeters per second, barely affecting its orbit at all.)

    But what about the force needed? The typical barrel length of the SIG Sauer p226 is 112 mm, or 0.112 m. The bullet must accelerate from 0 to 3600 m/s over that short distance, requiring an average acceleration of about 5.8x10^7 m/s²...nearly six million gees. By comparison, the NORMAL average acceleration of the bullet is about 73,000 gees. An acceleration of six million gees would require an average force of 431,000 newtons (nearly 97,000 pounds) exerted against the back of the bullet. Assuming the cross-sectional area of the bullet is 0.000064 square meters, that's a pressure of 6.76 Gigapascals, 33 times greater than the pressure normally generated in a handgun.

    Now I'm no expert on materials, but I suspect that the consequences of generating so much pressure in a closed container would be catastrophic to the structure of the gun. I suppose the gun would explode violently...NOT something you want to happen on the ISS. Flying pieces of shrapnel would puncture astronauts, sensitive equipment, and the walls. Death and destruction would ensue.

    Skipping all that...the best you can do, as you correctly surmised, would be to raise the bullet's apoapsis a little bit.

    I hope that helps. Good luck!

  • Joe
    Lv 7
    6 years ago

    The bullet would remain in Earth's orbit. Starting with the velocity of the ISS (a vector, magnitude and direction), add the "delta V" of the bullet, and calculate a new orbit for the bullet.

    No production firearm can propel a projectile with anything close to escape velocity.

  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    The bullet would eventually burn up in the atmosphere of the earth because where the ISS orbits is close to a vacuum but still the outer fringes of our atmosphere, causing drag and slowing down the bullet.

  • 6 years ago

    Escape velocity is about 25,000 mph. The station is moving at 17,400 mph. To escape Earth's gravity, you'd need to fire the bullet at about 8,000 mph - which, no handgun is going to be able to accomplish. (And, if it did - watch out for that kick....)

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  • Bruce
    Lv 5
    6 years ago

    No. see Quantum's answer.

  • 6 years ago

    it would orbit earth i'm assuming. eventually it would break-up I assume

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