AQA A Level Physics

Revision Notes

4.3.4 Projectile Motion

Projectile Motion

  • The trajectory of an object undergoing projectile motion consists of a vertical component and a horizontal component
    • These need to be evaluated separately
  • Some key terms to know, and how to calculate them, are:
    • Time of flight: how long the projectile is in the air
    • Maximum height attained: the height at which the projectile is momentarily at rest
    • Range: the horizontal distance travelled by the projectile

Projectile Motion, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

How to find the time of flight, maximum height and range

  • Remember: the only force acting on the projectile, after it has been released, is gravity
  • There are three possible scenarios for projectile motion:
    • Vertical projection
    • Horizontal projection
    • Projection at an angle
  • Let’s consider each in turn:

Worked Example

To calculate vertical projection(free fall)

A science museum designed an experiment to show the fall of a feather in a vertical glass vacuum tube.

The time of fall from rest is 0.5 s.

WE - Projectile Motion Worked Example 1 question image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

What it the length of the tube, L?

WE - Projectile Motion Worked Example 1 answer image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Worked Example

To calculate horizontal projection

A motorcycle stunt-rider moving horizontally takes off from a point 1.25 m above the ground, landing 10 m away as shown.

What was the speed at take-off?

WE - Projectile Motion Worked Example 2 question image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

WE - Projectile Motion Worked Example 2 answer image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Worked Example

To calculate projection at an angle

A ball is thrown from a point P with an initial velocity u of 12 m s-1 at 50° to the horizontal.

What is the value of the maximum height at Q?

WE - Projectile Motion Worked Example 3 question image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

WE - Projectile Motion Worked Example 3 answer image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Exam Tip

Make sure you don’t make these common mistakes:

  • Forgetting that deceleration is negative as the object rises
  • Confusing the direction of sin θ and cos θ
  • Not converting units (mm, cm, km etc.) to metres

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Ashika graduated with a first-class Physics degree from Manchester University and, having worked as a software engineer, focused on Physics education, creating engaging content to help students across all levels. Now an experienced GCSE and A Level Physics and Maths tutor, Ashika helps to grow and improve our Physics resources.
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