Glossary of Space Exploration Terminology

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Back-up
An item kept available to replace an item which fails to perform satisfactorily.
Backscattering
Reflecting light back in the direction of the source.
Ballistics
The science that deals with the motion, behavior, appearance or modification of missiles acted upon by propellants, rifling, wind, gravity, temperature or other modifying conditions of force.
Ballute
An aerodynamic braking device which is both balloon and parachute.
Bar
A unit of pressure equal to one million dynes per square centimeter, or 0.99 atmospheres.
Barycenter
The common center of mass about which two or more bodies revolve.
Basin
A large, >200 km, circular depression from the explosive impact of an asteroid or similar sized body on a planet surface, usually rimmed by mountains.
Battery
A device with two or more connected cells that produce a direct current by converting chemical energy into electrical energy.
Bi-propellant
A rocket propellant consisting of two unmixed or uncombined chemicals (fuel and oxidizer) fed separately into the combustion chamber.
Big Bang theory
The theory that the universe was once clustered and at the 'beginning' it exploded out, as shown by the fact that objects are still moving out from the center.
Binary star
Two stars revolving around a common center of gravity.
BIS
British Interplanetary Society.
Bit
A basic unit of computer information; abbreviation of binary digit.
Black hole
An object whose gravity is so strong that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light.
Black powder
A mixture of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal, used in explosives and as an early propellant for rockets.
Blackout (physiological)
A temporary loss of vision and/or consciousness when a person is subjected to high accelerations.
Blackout (radio)
A temporary loss of radio communications which occurs between a spacecraft reentering the atmosphere and ground stations due to an ionized sheath of plasma which develops around the vehicle.
Boilerplate
A metal replica of the flight model (e.g. of a spacecraft) but usually heavier and cruder for test purposes.
BOL
Beginning Of Life.
Boost
The extra power given to a rocket or space vehicle during liftoff, climb or flight, as with a booster rocket.
Booster
The first stage of a missile or rocket.
Bow shock wave
The compressed wave that forms in front of a spacecraft or satellite as it moves rapidly through Earth's atmosphere; more generally, any such wave that forms between an object and a fluid medium.
Burn
Combustion action in rockets. Propulsion in space is achieved through a sequence of burns.
Bus
A major part of the structural subsystem of a spacecraft which provides a place to attach components internally and externally, and to house delicate modules requiring a measure of thermal and mechanical stability. The bus also establishes the basic geometry of the spacecraft.

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Rocketry & Space Technology

Glossary courtesy of Robert Braeunig's
Rocketry & Space Technology website.