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Orbital Decay

  1. Oct 17, 2006 #1
    Hey guys.
    Could someone please explain orbital decay to me, with reference to the kinetic energy lost, and stuff like that. Also i would like to know how the equation for mechanical energy in orbits is derived, and how it is used.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2006 #2
    Isn't orbital decay just friction?
  4. Oct 17, 2006 #3
    The question is rather vague. orbital decay of waht? Satalites? Moons? Planets? galaxies? Atoms?
  5. Oct 17, 2006 #4


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    Going on the assumption that you mean the decay of artificial satellite orbits, I believe that it's primarily a result of friction with the very tenuous bits of atmosphere that still exist at orbital altitudes, as Senior Frog mentioned. The same thing could happen, however, if the original orbital set-up was flawed. It could also result from collision with other orbital bodies. This is not an area that I'm particularly knowledgeable in, however, so you should wait for other opinions.
  6. Oct 18, 2006 #5
    Sorry, yep I mean orbital decay of artificial satelltes.
  7. Oct 18, 2006 #6
    This is determined by orbital height, composition, design and trajectory and debris in path.

    Atmospheric drag does slow the satelltes which is determined by height.
    Collisions with debris slow down the satelltes,
    And the EMF produced by crossing earth's magnetic field slow down the satelltes.
  8. Oct 19, 2006 #7


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    Good catch on the EMF, quinn. I never thought of that.
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