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Where does space begin?

asked 2016-05-01 20:03:47 -0600

Pascal Le Dramont gravatar image

What is the altitude in Earth's atmosphere where space officially begins?

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answered 2016-05-01 20:30:52 -0600

Rob Mueller gravatar image

updated 2016-05-05 00:18:30 -0600

There is no distinct physical boundary between Earth and space as the atmosphere gets thinner with altitude. In order to define a boundary, the Karman line is used. It lies at an altitude of 100 kilometres (62 miles) above the Earth's sea level, and commonly represents the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space. This definition is accepted by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which is an international standard-setting and record-keeping body for aeronautics and astronautics. Ref:

The line is named after Theodore von Kármán (1881–1963), a Hungarian-American engineer and physicist. He was active primarily in aeronautics and astronautics. He was the first to calculate that around this altitude, the atmosphere becomes too thin to support aeronautical flight, because a vehicle at this altitude would have to travel faster than orbital velocity to derive sufficient aerodynamic lift to support itself (neglecting centrifugal force).

Ref: O'Leary, Beth Laura (2009). Ann Garrison Darrin, eds. Handbook of space engineering, archaeology, and heritage. Advances in engineering. CRC Press. p. 84. ISBN 1-4200-8431-3.

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Asked: 2016-05-01 20:03:47 -0600

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Last updated: May 05 '16