I am looking over some proposed rotating spacecraft such as the Nautilus-X and the Ares from the movie The Martian as well as much more fictional ones such as from the Jovian Chronicles and even Halo.

My question is, would not these spacecraft have a tendency to flip because of the Tennis Racket effect?

And while moving these spacecraft (if they started thrusting) wouldn't inhabitants of the wheel/ring be thrown to the sides of the wheel while it was moving?


1 Answer 1


The tennis racket effect really doesn't apply in any viable solution to a spinning spacecraft as the stable axis is always the one that would be used.

Imagine the spinning of the tennis racket longitudinally - always stable. That is what would be used for a spacecraft. That said, precession is always going to occur any time you apply force on any axis other than the axis of rotation so during manoeuvres spinning is likely to be stopped.

This also solves your unrelated second question - you wouldn't use anything other than micro-thrusts while spinning.

  • $\begingroup$ I see. So at least in the case of the designs for the fictional Ares craft and the proposed Nautilus-X, since the stable axis runs through the wheel, the entire craft isn't "unbalanced" and won't flip as seen in the video of the Wiki page for the Tennis Racket effect, correct? Any design where one tried to add parts to a rotating craft that was not part of the stable axis would fall to the "flipping" action as seen in the same video, correct? $\endgroup$
    – Randster
    Mar 11, 2018 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Any design for a rotating device of any kind always takes this engineering principle into account :-) $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 11, 2018 at 19:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.