Projectile Motion Formula

Team Physics -
Created by: Team Physics -, Last Updated: May 8, 2024

Projectile Motion Formula

What is Projectile Motion Formula?

Projectile motion is a captivating topic in physics, deeply rooted in the foundational work of Galileo Galilei. Galileo was the first to accurately describe the characteristics of projectile motion, distinguishing the independent roles of horizontal and vertical motions in the trajectory of an object under the influence of gravity. The key formulas that calculate the velocity, distance, and trajectory of a projectile. The horizontal velocity (𝑉ₓ​) of a projectile is constant throughout its flight, given by

  • 𝑉π‘₯π‘œβ€‹ is the initial horizontal velocity.

In contrast the, c (𝑉ᡧ) changes over time due to gravity and is calculated using the formula

𝑉ᡧ = 𝑉ᡧₒ βˆ’ 𝑔 Γ— 𝑑
  • g = Acceleration due to gravity
  • 𝑑 = Time elapsed.

The projectile’s horizontal distance is simply

π‘₯ = 𝑉ₓₒ Γ— 𝑑

reflecting the consistency of horizontal motion. Meanwhile, the vertical distance (y) it covers is determined by

𝑦 = 𝑉ᡧₒ Γ— 𝑑 βˆ’ (1 / 2) Γ— 𝑔 ×𝑑²

To calculate the maximum height (𝐻) a projectile reaches, we use

𝐻 = 𝑉ᡧₒ² / 2𝑔​​

The total horizontal range (R) of the projectile is derived from

𝑅=𝑉ₒ² Γ— sin⁑(2πœƒ) / 𝑔

highlighting the influence of the launch angle (πœƒ) and initial velocity (𝑉ₒ​). The time of flight until the projectile hits the ground again (assuming it lands back at the same vertical level it was launched) can be found by setting 𝑦(𝑑)=0 and solving for 𝑑 :

0=𝑉ₒsin⁑(πœƒ) β‹… π‘‘βˆ’( 1 / 2) 𝑔 β‹… 𝑑²

Solving this quadratic equation, we get:

𝑑 = 2𝑉ₒ x sin⁑(πœƒ) / 𝑔

This is the total time the projectile spends in the air. These formulas are essential tools in physics, enabling accurate predictions and a deeper understanding of the motion of objects in a gravitational field.

Applications of Projectile Motion Formula

  1. Sports: Coaches use projectile motion to improve athletes’ performance in sports like basketball, football, and volleyball by optimizing throwing angles and velocities.
  2. Engineering: Engineers design trajectories for objects such as rockets and missiles, ensuring accuracy and efficiency in their paths.
  3. Video Games: Developers simulate realistic movements for objects in games, enhancing the gaming experience by adhering to the laws of physics.
  4. Forensic Science: Experts Reconstruct crime scenes involving trajectories, such as Determining the path of a bullet in shootings.
  5. Military: The military applies these formulas to predict the impact points of projectiles, improving the accuracy of artillery fire.
  6. Aerospace: Scientists calculate the orbits of satellites and other spacecraft, ensuring they enter the correct orbits around the Earth or other celestial bodies.
  7. Education: Teachers and students use projectile motion to understand fundamental physics concepts, illustrating the practical application of Newtonian mechanics.

Example Problems on Projectile Motion Formula

Example 1: Calculating Maximum Height

Problem: A soccer player kicks a ball at an initial vertical velocity of 20β€‰π‘š/𝑠. Calculate the maximum height the ball reaches.

Solution: We use the formula for maximum height: 𝐻=𝑉ᡧₒ² / 2𝑔

Plugging in the values: 𝐻 = (20β€‰π‘š/𝑠)Β² / (2Γ—9.81β€‰π‘š/𝑠²) = 40019.62 β‰ˆ 20.39β€‰π‘š

Result: The soccer ball reaches a maximum height of approximately 20.39β€‰π‘š.

Example 2: Finding Horizontal Range

Problem: An athlete throws a javelin at a speed of 30β€‰π‘š/𝑠 from an angle of 45 relative to the Horizontal. Calculate the horizontal range of the javelin.

Solution: The formula for Horizontal range is: 𝑅 = ( 𝑉ₒ² Γ— sin⁑(2πœƒ) ) / 𝑔

For πœƒ=45, sin⁑(90) = 1:

𝑅 = (30β€‰π‘š/𝑠)Β² Γ— 19.81β€‰π‘š/𝑠² = 9009.81 β‰ˆ 91.74β€‰π‘š

Result: The javelin covers a Horizontal distance of approximately 91.74β€‰π‘š.

Example 3: Determining Time of Flight

Problem: A basketball is thrown with an initial Velocity of 12β€‰π‘š/𝑠 at an angle of 60. Calculate the total time the basketball spends in the air.

Solution: First, calculate the initial Vertical Velocity (𝑉ᡧₒ​):

𝑉ᡧₒ = 𝑉ₒ Γ— sin⁑(πœƒ) = 12β€‰π‘š/𝑠 Γ— sin⁑(60) = 12 Γ— 0.866β‰ˆ10.392β€‰π‘š/𝑠

The total time in the air (𝑑t) is given by the time to rise to the peak and the time to fall back down, using:

𝑑=(2 ×𝑉ᡧₒ ) / 𝑔 = ( 2 Γ— 10.392β€‰π‘š/𝑠 ) / 9.81β€‰π‘š/𝑠² β‰ˆ 2.12 𝑠

Result: The basketball stays in the air for approximately 2.12β€‰π‘ π‘’π‘π‘œπ‘›π‘‘π‘ .


What is the Use of the Projectile Motion Formula?

The projectile motion formula calculates the path, range, and duration of an object thrown into the air under gravity’s influence.

Define Trajectory

A trajectory is the curved path a projectile follows.

How Do You Calculate the Flight Time of a Projectile?

Calculate a projectile’s flight time using: 𝑑=2𝑒 sin⁑(πœƒ) / 𝑔​.

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