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A projectile is an object that is propelled by the application of an external force and then moves freely under the influence of gravity and air resistance. Although any objects in motion through space are projectiles, they are commonly found in warfare and sports (for example, a thrown baseball, kicked football, fired bullet, shot arrow, stone released from catapult).
In ballistics mathematical equations of motion are used to analyze projectile trajectories through launch, flight, and impact.
Blowguns and pneumatic rifles use compressed gases, while most other guns and cannons utilize expanding gases liberated by sudden chemical reactions by propellants like smokeless powder. Light-gas guns use a combination of these mechanisms.
Railguns utilize electromagnetic fields to provide a constant acceleration along the entire length of the device, greatly increasing the muzzle velocity.
Some projectiles provide propulsion during flight by means of a rocket engine or jet engine. In military terminology, a rocket is unguided, while a missile is guided. Note the two meanings of "rocket" (weapon and engine): an ICBM is a guided missile with a rocket engine.
An explosion, whether or not by a weapon, causes the debris to act as multiple high velocity projectiles. An explosive weapon or device may also be designed to produce many high velocity projectiles by the break-up of its casing; these are correctly termed fragments.
In sports 
In projectile motion the most important force applied to the ‘projectile’ is the propelling force, in this case the propelling forces are the muscles that act upon the ball to make it move, and the stronger the force applied, the more propelling force, which means the projectile (the ball) will travel farther. See pitching, bowling.
As a weapon
Many projectiles, e.g. shells, may carry an explosive charge or another chemical or biological substance. Aside from explosive payload, a projectile can be designed to cause special damage, e.g. fire (see also early thermal weapons), or poisoning (see also arrow poison).
A kinetic energy weapon (also known as kinetic weapon, kinetic energy warhead, kinetic warhead, kinetic projectile, kinetic kill vehicle) is a weapon based solely on a projectile's kinetic energy instead of an explosive or any other kind of payload.
The term Hit-to-kill, or kinetic kill, is also used in the military aerospace field to describe kinetic energy weapons. It has been used primarily in the anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) and anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) area, but some modern anti-aircraft missiles are also hit-to-kill. Hit-to-kill systems are part of the wider class of kinetic projectiles, a class that has widespread use in the anti-tank field.Typical kinetic energy weapons are blunt projectiles such as rocks and round shots, pointed ones such as arrows, and somewhat pointed ones such as bullets. Among projectiles that do not contain explosives are those launched from railguns, coilguns, and mass drivers, as well as kinetic energy penetrators. All of these weapons work by attaining a high muzzle velocity, or initial velocity, generally up to hypervelocity, and collide with their targets, converting the kinetic energy associated with the relative velocity between the two objects into destructive shock waves and heat. Other types of kinetic weapons are accelerated over time by a rocket engine, or by gravity. In either case, it is this kinetic energy that destroys its target.
Some projectiles stay connected by a cable to the launch equipment after launching it:
- for guidance: wire-guided missile (range up to 4,000 metres or 13,000 feet)
- to administer an electric shock, as in the case of a Taser (range up to 10.6 metres or 35 feet); two projectiles are shot simultaneously, each with a cable.
- to make a connection with the target, either to tow it towards the launcher, as with a whaling harpoon, or to draw the launcher to the target, as a grappling hook does.
Typical projectile speeds
This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (December 2018)
|Projectile||Speed||Specific kinetic energy (J/kg)|
|Object falling 1 m (in vacuum, at Earth's surface)||4.43||15.948||14.5||9.9||9.8|
|Object falling 10 m (in vacuum, at Earth's surface)||14||50.4||46||31||98|
|Thrown club (expert thrower)||40||144||130||90||800|
|Object falling 100 m (in vacuum, at Earth's surface)||45||162||150||100||980|
|Refined (flexible) atlatl dart (expert thrower)||45||162||150||100||1,000|
|Ice hockey puck (slapshot, professional player)||50||180||165||110||1,300|
|80-lb-draw pistol crossbow bolt||58||208.8||190||130||1,700|
|War arrow shot from a 150 lbs medieval warbow||63||228.2||208||141||2,000|
|Blunt Impact Projectile shot from a 40mm grenade launcher||87||313.2||285||194.6||3,785|
|Paintball fired from marker||91||327.6||300||204||4,100|
|175-lb-draw crossbow bolt||97||349.2||320||217||4,700|
|6 mm Airsoft pellet||100||360||328||224||5,000|
|Air Rifle BB 4.5 mm||150||540||492||336||11,000|
|Air gun pellet .177" (magnum-power air rifle)||305||878.4||1,000||545||29,800|
|9×19mm (bullet of a pistol)||340||1224||1,116||761||58,000|
|12.7×99 mm (bullet of a heavy machine gun)||800||2,880||2,625||1,790||320,000|
|German Tiger I 88 mm (tank shell- Pzgr. 39 APCBCHE)||810||2,899||2,657||1,812||328,050|
|5.56×45mm (standard round used in many modern rifles)||920||3,312||3,018||2,058||470,000|
|20×102mm (standard US cannon round used in fighter cannons)||1,039||3,741||3,410||2,325||540,000|
|25×140mm (APFSDS, tank penetrator)||1,700||6,120||5,577||3,803||1,400,000|
|2 kg tungsten Slug (from Experimental Railgun)||3,000||10,800||9,843||6,711||4,500,000|
|MRBM reentry vehicle||Up to 4,000||Up to 14,000||Up to 13,000||Up to 9,000||Up to 8,000,000|
|projectile of a light-gas gun||Up to 7,000||Up to 25,000||Up to 23,000||Up to 16,000||Up to 24,000,000|
|Satellite in low Earth orbit||8,000||29,000||26,000||19,000||32,000,000|
|Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle||~10,000||~36,000||~33,000||~22,000||~50,000,000|
|Projectile (e.g., space debris) and target both in low Earth orbit||0–16,000||~58,000||~53,000||~36,000||~130,000,000|
|7 TeV particle in LHC||299,792,455 [note 1]||1,079,252,839||983571079||670,616,536||~6.7 × 1020 [note 2]|
Equations of motion
An object projected at an angle to the horizontal has both the vertical and horizontal components of velocity. The vertical component of the velocity on the y-axis is given as while the horizontal component of the velocity is . There are various calculations for projectiles at a specific angle :
1. Time to reach maximum height. It is symbolized as (), which is the time taken for the projectile to reach the maximum height from the plane of projection. Mathematically, it is given as where = acceleration due to gravity (app 9.81 m/s²), = initial velocity (m/s) and = angle made by the projectile with the horizontal axis.
2. Time of flight (): this is the total time taken for the projectile to fall back to the same plane from which it was projected. Mathematically it is given as .
3. Maximum Height (): this is the maximum height attained by the projectile OR the maximum displacement on the vertical axis (y-axis) covered by the projectile. It is given as .
4. Range (): The Range of a projectile is the horizontal distance covered (on the x-axis) by the projectile. Mathematically, . The Range is maximum when angle = 45°, i.e. .
- Impact depth
- Kinetic bombardment
- Shell (projectile)
- Projectile point
- Projectile use by animals
- Sling ammunition
- Range of a projectile
- Space debris
- Trajectory of a projectile
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- ^ "projectile". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
- ^ "projectile". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
- ^ Pepin, Matt (2010-08-26). "Aroldis Chapman hits 105 mph". Boston.com. Archived from the original on 31 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- ^ "Facts and figures". European Organization for Nuclear Research. CERN. 2008. Archived from the original on 2018-07-02. Retrieved 2018-07-02.
- Heidi Knecht (29 June 2013). Projectile Technology. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-1-4899-1851-2.