What is the lowest altitude for a satellite to orbit?
Can you clarify a bit?
Does the orbit have to be stable?
Did you try google first? I did:
Virtually any satellite in LEO is slowed by friction with rarefied atmosphere, causing it to lose altitude. They need the ability to boost themselves back up occasionally.
How low an orbit can be depends on how broadly you apply the term 'occasionally'.
At some altitude, its speed will be slowed so much that it needs to boost continually, just to stay at altitude.
In practical terms this too has a limit, due to a limited supply fuel as well as friction/shock heating destroying the craft.
Presumably, if boosting continually, it should no longer be considered 'orbiting'.
Single, un-boosted, complete (though decayed) revolution?
Based on the data for Tiangong-1, the orbital decay gets that severe right about 140 km. The graph of altitude versus time gets steep there at the end.
It looks steep based on the scale, but it is only losing about 1-2 km per orbit at that point, which is slower than walking speed (it's about 0.4 m/s). Google tells me an ISS orbit maintenance burn might be 1.3 m/s delta-V over 12 minutes (not sure how typical that is). Yes, if you burned continuously you'd run out of fuel fast, but in terms of the decay rate, at that point it was only about 5% of what a continuous burn could reverse in one orbit.
This is common fodder for sci-fi movies and I'd be curious to know if more can be said. Let's say we have enough fuel for a 1 hour burn, at the above acceleration rate. What is the minimum altitude you could recover from without being back in the same predicament in, say, a week?
You're being generous.
Common fodder for sci-fi movies is that,the moment your engines stop, your orbit immediately starts decaying rapidly, even if you're as far out as the Moon.
I did check that page, and It doesn't say anything about it, only examples of low earth orbiting satellites like ISS
Thank you, but at what altitude will it be stable, like it requires extremely low amount of boosting
altitude where boosting is required very little far lower than the ISS for example
I don't think you're being fair to us. You seem to want an exact answer from us, but are only willing to vaguely specify the problem. "altitude where boosting is required very little" and "extremely low amount of boosting". How long is a piece of string?
The Wikipedia article has examples. You're not going to do any better than that.
The ISS requires monthly boosting. Does that satisfy "extremely low" or "very little"? Feels like a fair amount to me...
I'm sorry if I'm being unfair, i just need an approximate value of range like periodic monthly boosting or something, so I could put in a minor part of project, not serious, so don't spend too much time thinking about it, but thank you anyway for helping out.
Ok, fine that is fair enough for me, thank you.
This article is light on numbers but does mention the use of ion thrusters at an altitude of 235 km. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_station-keeping
That seems like a great application for in engines; I hadn't heard that had been done.
With a mass of about 1000 kg, that works out to an acceleration of about 0.1 m/s/orbit.
[edit: unit typo fixed]
And even if you can find a number for one satellite, the answer for other satellites depends on the orientation of that satellite and drag vs mass in that orientation.
Is this a trick question? I think the lowest possible altitude of a satellite orbiting the earth would be just above sea level. The satellite would have to achieve escape velocity, have thrust available to overcome drag, and have to be able to navigate around landmasses, but technically that should qualify as a satellite in orbit.
For a smooth planet with no atmosphere, yes.
Post #13 clarifies the purpose of the question. It is a practical matter -- roughly how high does one need to go so that the station keeping requirements are manageable.
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