The Space-Flight Speed or How Fast Does the ISS Travel?

Space-flight speed of the International Space Station is very important if we want to determine what the future of space travel and exploration will look like. Give this article a read if you want to understand more about the space community, how fast does the ISS travel, and what scientific role the International Space Station (ISS) plays in our world. The more you know about the International Space Station and how this mega structure travels, the more you can learn about what it means to be in orbit. Who knows? One day, we all may have to make it there. 

The International Space Station acts as an orbiting scientific laboratory that rotates around our home planet. Many astronauts and cosmonauts live on the International Space Station, which serves for all sorts of scientific experiments. There were many nations that worked together to build the International Space Station we have in orbit now. In fact, this modular structure was built by astronauts directly in orbit but attaching modules to each other. The altitude at which the International Space Station orbits our planet is about 250 miles. And it does this every 90 minutes, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour. NASA is currently using the International Space Station to help us learn more about what’s happening in orbit and how we can work there.

Does the ISS travel faster than the speed of sound?

The International Space Station’s speed is around 17,500 miles or 28,000 km per hour. It is 25 times faster than the speed of sound. In astronaut language, that’s called “Mach 25.” Astronauts aboard the International Space Station accelerate toward our planet’s center at about 8.7 m per s², and the ISS follows the same acceleration value. This means that astronauts don’t experience any relative acceleration or force when abroad.

The International Space Station is moving around our planet in circles at just about the speed it needs to move to keep its orbit. And then, there’s a centrifugal force that pushes it away exactly when gravity pulls it in. This kind of balance is called a stable orbit. This stable orbit will remain unchanged as long as no outside forces interfere with it. The International Space Station takes about 92.68 minutes to orbit our planet. In other words, it makes a trip around Earth about 16 times every day. Such a speed is difficult to conceptualize, but Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut, was interested in helping people on Earth understand the International Space Station’s moving speed, and he provided some calculations. 

Why does the ISS orbit so fast?

Orbiting Laboratory

According to Orbital Today, International Space Station speed matters a lot when we try to analyze things further in terms of speed in an open cosmos and our planet’s orbits. When you are far away from Earth, our planet’s gravity starts pulling you less and less, and then you move slower. However, International Space Station is rather close to our planet, so Earth’s gravity is affecting it at 90% of the gravity pull. So, ISS must move rather fast to remain up in its required orbit. 

It’s not surprising that the International Space Station can move at 17,000 miles per hour speed, especially if we consider that Earth aircraft move at 1,600 miles per hour. When an aircraft moves through our planet’s atmosphere, it uses fuel to generate energy. At the same time, it moves against air resistance. Space stations are not affected by air resistance in Low Earth Orbit. International Space Station motion depends only on orbital mechanics, which leads to higher velocities in time.

Do astronauts feel the speed of the ISS?

Now that we know how fast the ISS travels, it’s time to discover if astronauts actually feel how fast the ISS travel. No more than you feel how fast an airplane moves when in it. While moving in orbit at 17,500 miles or 28,000 km per hour, astronauts don’t feel anything — just like what we feel when flying on a plane. ISS astronauts accelerate toward the Earth’s center at 8.7 m/s². However, the International Space Station accelerates at the same speed, which means there’s no relative acceleration or force to experience. 

When out in orbit, astronauts with their spacecraft still have mass, even if the gravitational force of our planet is reduced. However, astronauts don’t feel any weight because there’s nothing to push against them. Depending on the acceleration intensity and looking at relativity models, acceleration can’t be distinguished from gravity. This means you would feel acceleration, just like you would feel gravity. And the acceleration rate corresponds to the gravity strength felt.