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1. KEPLER’s Laws….
3. Universal law of GRAVITATON…
4. Binary System…
5. Central Forces…
6. Newton’s Shell Theorem…
7. Gravitational Potential Energy…
8. Gravitational potential…
9. Gravitational potential integral…
10. Elastic potential energy…

11. Escape velocity…

12. Satellites…

13. Geo-synchronous satellites…

14. Polar satellites…
15. Data transfer from satellites to ground…
Kepler's laws
Though originally stated to describe the motion of planets around
the sun, Kepler's Laws also apply to comets.
LAW 1: The orbit of a planet/comet about the Sun is an ellipse with
the Sun's center of mass at one focus

This is the equation for an ellipse:

LAW 2: A line joining a planet/comet and the Sun sweeps out equal
areas in equal intervals of time

LAW 3: The squares of the periods of the planets are proportional to

the cubes of their semimajor axes:
Ta2 / Tb2 = Ra3 / Rb3
• Square of any planet's orbital period (sidereal) is
proportional to cube of its mean distance (semi-major axis)
from Sun
• Mathematical statement: T = kR3/2 , where T = sideral period,
and R = semi-major axis
• Example - If a is measured in astronomical units (AU = semi-
major axis of Earth's orbit) and sidereal period in years
(Earth's sidereal period), then the constant k in mathematical
expression for Kepler's third law is equal to 1, and the
mathematical relation becomes T2 = R3 .
Examples of Kepler's Third Law
Planet P (yr) a (AU) T2 R3
Mercury 0.24 0.39 0.06 0.06
Venus 0.62 0.72 0.39 0.37
Earth 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00
Mars 1.88 1.52 3.53 3.51
Jupiter 11.9 5.20 142 141
Saturn 29.5 9.54 870 868
Energy of an Orbit
The Total energy of an object in orbit is the sum of kinetic energy
(KE) and gravitational potential energy (PE).
KE = 1/2 mv2
PE = - GMm/r
r = the distance of the orbiting body from the central object and
v = the velocity of the orbiting body
E = 1/2 mv2 - GMm/r
The semi-major axis is directly related to the total energy of the
orbit: E = - GM/2a
Semi-major Axis and Total Energy
The relationship between these two can easily be derived for a
circular orbit and also works for elliptical and hyperbolic
orbits. As we see in the diagram: a = F/m = GM/r2 = v2/r. In the
case of a circle e = 0 and r = a. So
v2 = GM/a and thus:
E = 1/2 m(GM/a) – m(GM)/a = m (GM)/(2a)
E/m = GM/(2a)

Incidently, the concept of circular velocity is useful in describing

elliptical orbits. vc2 = GM/a The energy also provides an expression
for the velocity in orbit
E/m = GM/(2a) = 1/2 v2 - GM/r
and hence v2 = GM/a[2/r - 1/a]
but written in terms of the circular velocity
v2 = vc2[2/r - 1/a]
Keplers 2nd Law

We have already discussed Kepler's 1st Law without giving it its

name. Kepler discovered first that planets move in elliptical orbits
about the Sun. The 2nd Law of Kepler describes the relative
velocity of the objects in their elliptical orbits. He discovered that
the line from the Sun to the planet swept out equal areas in equal
times. At first this does not seem very helpful but if we use a little
geometery then we can use it quantitatively. The diagram on the
right illustrates the law.

The area of the shaded segment from A to B equal the area from
segment C to D. Any body in the orbit around the Sun (o) will
travel from A to B in the same time that it travels from C to D. The
rate of sweeping our area by the line between Sun and orbiting
object is called the Areal Velocity, A . In one period, P, of the orbit
the line sweeps out the area of the ellipse so we can calculate this
velocity from
A = (area of ellipse)/(period of ellipse) = (π a b) / P
A = π (1 - e2)1/2 a2/P
Look at the diagram again; as an orbiting object goes from a to b
the area swept out is approximately the area of the triangle o-a-b.
That area is equal to the isoceles triangle o-a'-b' . The area of the
later triangle can be calculate easily; that area is one half the base
(length a'-c-b') times the height (length o-c).
The height of the triangle is just the radius, r, of the orbit at point c
and the base of the triangle is the velocity perpendicular, v_, to the
radius line at that same point times the time of transit from a to b.
So the rate of sweeping out area in the triangle at c is:
A = v_r/2
There are only two points in the orbit where the perpedicular
velocity equals the orbit velocity and that is a perihelion and
aphelion. As a result we can relate the speed in orbit at these two
poins most easily.

rp = a (1 - e) and ra = a (1 + e)
vara/2 = vprp/2 = (π a b) / P
va = vp( 1 + e)/(1 - e)

With a little more derivation (using Kepler's 3rd Law) we can show

va = vc[( 1 + e)/( 1 - e )]1/2

va = vc[( 1 - e)/( 1 + e )]1/2
Kepler's 3rd Law - Relationship between
Period and Semi-major Axis
This law was derived empirically by Kepler. He found that if the
period of the planet was given in years and the semi-major axis
was given in Astronomical Units (AU) then
P2 = a3
It is easily derived for a circular orbit and the result applies to
elliptical orbits when the radius of the circle is replaced by the
semi-major axis of the ellipse. The period of an object in a circular
orbit where r = a is
P = 2π a/v
and hence since v = (GM/a)1/2
P = 2π a3/2/(GM)1/2
This relationship is in metric units. If we transform to AU and
years then we get 2π /(GM)1/2 = 1yr/ AU3/2
Newton refined Kepler's 3rd law using center of mass motion.
When this is considered then the mass, M is not just the mass of
the central body (the Sun for the planets) but the sum of the masses
of both the 'central' and 'orbiting' object. In the case of the solar
system, Kepler was not too far off because the mass of the Sun is
more than a thousand times the masses of all the planets and their
mass add only a small amount. So the correct relationship is:
P = 2π a3/2/(G(M+m))1/2
Sir Isaac Newton
The Universal Law of Gravitation
There is a popular story that Newton was sitting under an apple
tree, an apple fell on his head, and he suddenly thought of the
Universal Law of Gravitation. As in all such legends, this is almost
certainly not true in its details, but the story contains elements of
what actually happened.

What Really Happened with the Apple?

Probably the more correct version of the story is that Newton, upon
observing an apple fall from a tree, began to think along the
following lines: The apple is accelerated, since its velocity changes
from zero as it is hanging on the tree and moves toward the ground.
Thus, by Newton's 2nd Law there must be a force that acts on the
apple to cause this acceleration. Let's call this force "gravity", and
the associated acceleration the "accleration due to gravity". Then
imagine the apple tree is twice as high. Again, we expect the apple to
be accelerated toward the ground, so this suggests that this force
that we call gravity reaches to the top of the tallest apple tree.
Sir Isaac's Most Excellent Idea
Now came Newton's truly brilliant insight: if the force of gravity
reaches to the top of the highest tree, might it not reach even
further; in particular, might it not reach all the way to the orbit
of the Moon! Then, the orbit of the Moon about the Earth could
be a consequence of the gravitational force, because the
acceleration due to gravity could change the velocity of the Moon
in just such a way that it followed an orbit around the earth.
This can be illustrated with the thought experiment shown in the
following figure. Suppose we fire a cannon horizontally from a
high mountain; the projectile will eventually fall to earth, as
indicated by the shortest trajectory in the figure, because of the
gravitational force directed toward the center of the Earth and
the associated acceleration. (Remember that an acceleration is a
change in velocity and that velocity is a vector, so it has both a
magnitude and a direction. Thus, an acceleration occurs if either
or both the magnitude and the direction of the velocity change.)

But as we increase the muzzle velocity for our imaginary cannon, the projectile will travel further
and further before returning to earth. Finally, Newton reasoned that if the cannon projected the
cannon ball with exactly the right velocity, the projectile would travel completely around the Earth,
always falling in the gravitational field but never reaching the Earth, which is curving away at the
same rate that the projectile falls. That is, the cannon ball would have been put into orbit around
the Earth. Newton concluded that the orbit of the Moon was of exactly the same nature: the Moon
continuously "fell" in its path around the Earth because of the acceleration due to gravity, thus
producing its orbit.
By such reasoning, Newton came to the conclusion that any two
objects in the Universe exert gravitational attraction on each other,
with the force having a universal form:

The constant of proportionality G is known as the universal

gravitational constant. It is termed a "universal constant" because
it is thought to be the same at all places and all times, and thus
universally characterizes the intrinsic strength of the gravitational
The Center of Mass for a Binary System

If you think about it a moment, it may seem a little strange that in

Kepler's Laws the Sun is fixed at a point in space and the planet
revolves around it. Why is the Sun privileged? Kepler had rather
mystical ideas about the Sun, endowing it with almost god-like
qualities that justified its special place. However Newton, largely as
a corollary of his 3rd Law, demonstrated that the situation actually
was more symmetrical than Kepler imagined and that the Sun does
not occupy a privileged postion; in the process he modified
Kepler's 3rd Law.

We may define a point called the center of mass between two

objects through the equations

where R is the total separation between the centers of the two

objects. The center of mass is familiar to anyone who has ever
played on a see-saw. The fulcrum point at which the see-saw will
exactly balance two people sitting on either end is the center of
mass for the two persons sitting on the see-saw.
Newton's Modification of Kepler's Third Law
Because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,
Newton realized that in the planet-Sun system the planet does not
orbit around a stationary Sun. Instead, Newton proposed that both
the planet and the Sun orbited around the common center of mass
for the planet-Sun system. He then modified Kepler's 3rd Law to

where P is the planetary orbital period and the other quantities

have the meanings described above, with the Sun as one mass and
the planet as the other mass. (As in the earlier discussion of
Kepler's 3rd Law, this form of the equation assumes that masses
are measured in solar masses, times in Earth years, and distances
in astronomical units.) Notice the symmetry of this equation: since
the masses are added on the left side and the distances are added
on the right side, it doesn't matter whether the Sun is labeled with
1 and the planet with 2, or vice-versa. One obtains the same result
in either case.
Now notice what happens in Newton's new equation if one of the
masses (either 1 or 2; remember the symmetry) is very large
compared with the other. In particular, suppose the Sun is labeled
as mass 1, and its mass is much larger than the mass for any of the
planets. Then the sum of the two masses is always approximately
equal to the mass of the Sun, and if we take ratios of Kepler's 3rd
Law for two different planets the masses cancel from the ratio and
we are left with the original form of Kepler's 3rd Law:
Thus Kepler's 3rd Law is approximately valid because the Sun is
much more massive than any of the planets and therefore
Newton's correction is small. The data Kepler had access to were
not good enough to show this small effect. However, detailed
observations made after Kepler show that Newton's modified form
of Kepler's 3rd Law is in better accord with the data than Kepler's
original form.
Two Limiting Cases
We can gain further insight by considering the position of the
center of mass in two limits. First consider the example just
addressed, where one mass is much larger than the other. Then, we
see that the center of mass for the system essentially concides with
the center of the massive object:

This is the situation in the Solar System: the Sun is so massive

compared with any of the planets that the center of mass for a Sun-
planet pair is always very near the center of the Sun. Thus, for all
practical purposes the Sun IS almost (but not quite) motionless at
the center of mass for the system, as Kepler originally thought.
However, now consider the other limiting case where the two
masses are equal to each other. Then it is easy to see that the
center of mass lies equidistant from the two masses and if they are
gravitationally bound to each other, each mass orbits the common
center of mass for the system lying midway between them:
This situation occurs commonly with binary stars (two stars bound
gravitationally to each other so that they revolve around their
common center of mass). In many binary star systems the masses
of the two stars are similar and Newton's correction to Kepler's 3rd
Law is very largeThese limiting cases for the location of the center
of mass are perhaps familiar from our afore-mentioned
playground experience. If persons of equal weight are on a see-
saw, the fulcrum must be placed in the middle to balance, but if
one person weighs much more than the other person, the fulcrum
must be placed close to the heavier person to achieve balance.
A central force is one whose magnitude depends only on the scalar
distance r of the object from the origin and is directed radially
outward from the origin. Since the force depends only on the
distance from the chosen origin, the field is spherically
This has some important consequences: 1.) The angular
momentum of the system is conserved and 2.) the energy of the
system is conserved. Since a central force is always parallel to
the object's position vector, the torque exerted by a central force
on the object is zero and the motion takes place in a plane
perpendicular to the angular momentum vector. The statement
that energy is conserved in a central force is equivalent to
saying that a central force is a conservative field.
A central force can always be expressed as the negative gradient of
a potential:

As a consequence the curl of a central field is zero:

An object in a central force field obeys Kepler's second law due to

conservation of angular momentum.
Gravitational force and Coulomb force are two familiar examples
with F(r) being proportional to 1/r2
Variations of Earth's gravity
Gravity varies by altitude, latitude and local variation.
On the earth's surface, the gravity will depend on the location at
which it is measured, and is smaller at lower latitudes, for two
The first is that in a rotating non-inertial or accelerated reference
frame, as is the case on the surface of the earth, there appears a
'fictitious' centrifugal force acting in a direction perpendicular
to the axis of rotation. The gravitational force on a body is
partially offset by this centrifugal force, reducing its weight.
This effect is smallest at the poles, where the gravitational force
and the centrifugal force are orthogonal, and largest at the
equator. This effect on its own would result in a range of values
of g from 9.789 m·s-2 at the equator to 9.832 m·s-2 at the poles
[1] .
The second reason is that the Earth's equatorial bulge (itself also
caused by centrifugal force), causing objects at the equator to
be farther from the planet's centre than objects at the poles.
Because the force due to gravitational attraction between two
bodies (the Earth and the object being weighed) varies inversely
with the square of the distance between them, objects at the
equator experience a weaker gravitational pull than objects at
the poles.
The combined result of these two effects is that g is 0.052 m·s-2
more, hence the force due to gravity of an object is 0.5 % more,
at the poles than at the equator.
If the terrain is at sea level, we can estimate g:

where gf = acceleration in m·s-2 at latitude f

This is the International Gravity Formula 1967, the 1967 Geodetic
Reference System Formula, Helmert's equation or Clairault's
The first correction to this formula is the free air correction (FAC),
which accounts for heights above sea level. Gravity decreases
with height, at a rate which near the surface of the Earth is
such that linear extrapolation would give zero gravity at a
height of one half the radius of the Earth, i.e. the rate is 9.8
m·s-2 per 3200 km. Thus:

where h = height in meters above sea level

For flat terrain above sea level a second term is added, for the
gravity due to the extra mass; for this purpose the extra mass
can be approximated by an infinite horizontal slab, and we get
2pG times the mass per unit area, i.e. 4.2×10-10 m3·s-2·kg-1
(0.042 µGal·kg-1·m2)) (the Bouguer correction). For a mean
rock density of 2.67 g·cm-3 this gives 1.1×10-6 s-2 (0.11
mGal·m-1). Combined with the free-air correction this means a
reduction of gravity at the surface of ca. 2 µm·s-2 (0.20 mGal)
for every meter of elevation of the terrain. (The two effects
would cancel at a surface rock density of 4/3 times the average
density of the whole Earth.)
For the gravity below the surface we have to apply the free-air
correction as well as a double Bouguer correction. With the
infinite slab model this is because moving the point of
observation below the slab changes the gravity due to it to its
opposite. Alternatively, we can consider a spherically
symmetrical Earth and subtract from the mass of the Earth that
of the shell outside the point of observation, because that does
not cause gravity inside. This gives the same result.
Local variations in both the terrain and the subsurface cause
further variations; the gravitational geophysical methods are
based on these: the small variations are measured, the effect of
the topography and other known factors is subtracted, and from
the resulting variations conclusions are drawn. See also
physical geodesy and gravity anomaly.

Helmert's equation may be written equivalently to the version

above as either:
gf = 9.8061999 - 0.0259296cos(2f) + 0.0000567cos2(2f) or
gf = 9.780327 + 0.0516323sin2(f) + 0.0002269sin4(f)
An alternate formula for g as a function of latitude is the WGS
(World Geodetic System) 84 Ellipsoidal Gravity Formula:
A spot check comparing results from the WGS-84 formula with
those from Helmert's equation (using increments 10 degrees of
latitude starting with zero) indicated that they produce values
which differ by less than 1e-6 m/s2.
Calculated value of g
Given the law of universal gravitation, g is merely a collection of

factors in that equation:

where g is the bracketed factor and thus:

To find the acceleration due to gravity at sea level you can plug in
values of G and the mass (in kilograms) and radius (in meters)
of the Earth to obtain the calculated value of g:

This agrees approximately with the measured value of g. The

difference may be attributed to several factors:
· The Earth is not homogeneous
· The Earth is not a perfect sphere
· The choice of a value for the radius of the Earth (an average
value is used above)
· This calculated value of g does not include the centrifugal force
effects that are found in practice due to the rotation of the
There are significant uncertainties in the values of r and of m1 as
used in this calculation. However, the value of G can be
measured precisely and in fact, Henry Cavendish performed the
reverse calculation to estimate the mass of the Earth.
Newton's Shell Theorem
Gravitating Spheres
While exploring Netwon's gravitational discoveries, we calculated
g using the fact that the distance between the mass m and the
earth was the radius of the earth. In other words, we assumed that
all the mass of the earth is concentrated at its center. This
supposition may seem reasonable when we are far away from the
earth (that is we are at such a distance that the radius of the earth
is negligible in comparison), but it doesn't seem so good at all
when we are at the earth's surface. However, we will see that this
assumption does hold exactly for any body outside the surface of a
gravitating sphere (to which the earth is a good approximation).
This is a profound result. It is a consequence of superposition, the
inverse square law, and the symmetry of a sphere.
Gravitational Potential Energy

Gravity is a conservative force so that we can assign

gravitational potential energy to any object moving under the
influence of gravity. However, in the previous discussion the
gravitational acceleration of the object was assumed constant,
and we now know that this is only approximately true for
objects that move through vertical distances that are small
compared to the radius of the Earth. More generally, (for
example for satellite orbits) we must take into account the fact
that the gravitational acceleration changes as the object moves.
Instead of gravitational potential energy being simply
proportional to the height above the Earth's surface, one finds
that it is inversely proportional to the distance from the object
to the center of the Earth. It is reasonable that gravitational
potential energy depends on Newton's constant and the Earth's
mass in the same way that the gravitational force does. The
correct expression for gravitational potential energy for an
object a distance r from the center of the Earth is:

{ Where m= mass of the body and M= mass of the earth

And r= distance between earth And object }
The minus sign ensures that the potential energy decreases
(gets more and more negative) as the object falls towards
the center of the Earth.
The dependence of the gravitational potential energy
U on the distance r from the center of the Earth is
illustrated in the Figure below.

Gravitational Potential Energy

Gravitational potential energy is energy an object possesses

because of its position in a gravitational field. The most
common use of gravitational potential energy is for an object
near the surface of the Earth where the gravitational
acceleration can be assumed to be constant at about 9.8 m/s2.
Since the zero of gravitational potential energy can be
chosen at any point (like the choice of the zero of a coordinate
system), the potential energy at a height h above that point is
equal to the work which would be required to lift the object to
that height with no net change in kinetic energy. Since the
force required to lift it is equal to its weight, it follows that the
gravitational potential energy is equal to its weight times the
height to which it is lifted.

The general expression

For gravitational potential energy arises from the
law of gravity and is equal to the work done against
gravity to bring a mass to a given point in space.
Because of the inverse square nature of the gravity
force, the force approaches zero for large distances, and
it makes sense to choose the zero of gravitational
potential energy at an infinite distance away. The
gravitational potential energy near a planet is then
negative, since gravity does positive work as the mass
approaches. This negative potential is indicative of a
"bound state"; once a mass is near a large body, it is
trapped until something can provide enough energy to
allow it to escape.

In everyday experience, gravitational potential

energy arises most familiarly when an object is
raised in the Earth's gravitational field. The
object's increase in gravitational potential
energy is equal to the amount of energy
required to raise it, or, equivalently, the amount
of energy that would be released if it were
allowed to fall back to its original level.

This expression is useful for the calculation of escape velocity,

energy to remove from orbit, etc. However, for objects near the
earth the acceleration of gravity g can be considered to be
approximately constant.

The gravitational force keeps the planets in

orbit about the Sun.

This expression is useful for the calculation of escape velocity,

energy to remove from orbit, etc. However, for objects near the
earth the acceleration of gravity g can be considered to be
approximately constant.

Gravitational potential is the potential

energy per unit mass of an object due to
its position in a gravitational field.

Gravitational Potential
Gravitational Potential Integral
In astrodynamics the gravitational
potential function has to account for the
non-spherical and non-homogeneous nature
of typical sources of gravitational potential.
In this case a gravitational potential may
depend on polar and azimuth direction of
vector .

The most widely used form of the gravitational

potential function depends on (latitude)
and potential coefficients, Jn, called the
zonal coefficients:

Elastic potential energy

A gas filled shock absorber is an example of a
device based on elastic potential energy.
Elastic potential energy is the potential energy
of an elastic object (for example a bow or a
catapult) that is deformed under tension or
compression (often termed under the word
stress by physicists). It arises as a consequence
of a force that tries to restore the object to its
original shape, which is most often the
electromagnetic force between the atoms and
molecules that constitute the object.

Calculation of elastic potential energy

In the case of a spring of natural length l and
modulus of elasticity λ Under an extension of x,
elastic potential energy can be calculated using
the formula:

This formula is obtained from the integral of

Hooke's Law:

The equation is often used in calculations of

positions of mechanical equilibrium.
In the general case, elastic energy is given by
the Helmholtz potential per unit of volume f as a
function of the strain tensor components Eij:

Where λ and µ are the Lamé elastical

coefficients. The connection between stress
tensor components and strain tensor
components is:

For a material of Young's modulus, Y (same as

modulus of elasticity λ), cross sectional area,
A0, initial length, l0, which is stretched by a
length, λ l:

Where Ue is the elastic potential energy.

The elastic potential energy per unit volume is
given by:

Where is the strain in the material.

Escape Velocity
Escape velocity is defined as the smallest speed
that we need to give an object in order to allow it
to completely escape from the gravitational pull
of the planet on which it is sitting. To calculate
it we need only realize that as an object moves
away from the center of a planet, its kinetic
energy gets converted into gravitational
potential energy. Thus we need only figure out
how much gravitational potential energy an
object gains as it moves from the surface of the
planet off to infinity. According to the above
discussion for a planet with mass M and radius
R, this gain in gravitational potential energy is
GmM/R. For an object to just barely escape to
infinity (without any residual speed), all its
initial kinetic energy must go into this increase
in gravitational potential energy. Thus, the
initial kinetic energy must be equal to GmM/R.
Since kinetic energy is mv2/2, equating these
two expressions tells us that the square of the
initial velocity must be equal to twice the
gravitational potential energy divided the
inertial mass of the object.
However, since gravitational potential energy is
proportional to inertial mass, we find finally
that the square of the escape velocity depends
only on the mass and radius of the planet (and
of course Newton's gravitational constant):
VXV =2GM / R
Note that the inertial mass of the object has
cancelled, so that the escape velocity of any
object is independent of its mass. This means
that if you want to throw a grain of rice or an
elephant into outer space, you need to give them
both the same initial velocity which for the Each
works out to be about
10,000 meters per second.
You will also notice from the above expression
that if the mass of a planet or star stays fixed,
but its radius decreases, then the escape velocity
necessarily increases.

What seems the first fictional depiction of an

artificial satellite launched into Earth orbit
seems to be in Jules Verne's The Begum's
Millions (1879). In this book, however, this is a
completely unintentional result of the book's
villain building an enormous artillery piece in
order to destroy his enemies, and imparting to
the shell a greater velocity than intended.
In 1903 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935)
published Исследование мировых пространств
реактивными приборами (The Exploration of
Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices),
which was arguably the first academic treatise
on rocketry. He calculated the escape velocity
from Earth into orbit at 8 km/second and that a
multi-stage rocket fueled by liquid oxygen and
liquid hydrogen would be required. During his
lifetime he published over 500 works on space
travel and related subjects, including science
fiction novels. Among his works are designs for
rockets with steering thrusters, multi-stage
boosters, space stations, airlocks for exiting a
spaceship into the vacuum of space, and closed
cycle biological systems to provide food and
oxygen for space colonies. He also delved into
theories of heavier-than-air flying machines,
independently working through many of the
same calculations that the Wright brothers were
performing at about the same time.

In 1928 Herman Potocnik (1898-1929)

published his sole book, Das Problem der
Befahrung des Weltraums - der Raketen-motor
(The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket
Motor), a plan for a breakthrough into space
and a permanent human presence there. He
conceived of a space station in detail and
calculated its geostationary orbit. He described
the use of orbiting spacecraft for detailed
peaceful and military observation of the ground
and described how the special conditions of
space could be useful for scientific experiments.

The book described geostationary satellites

(first put forward by Tsiolkovsky) and discussed
communication between them and the ground
using radio, but fell short of the idea of using
satellites for mass broadcasting and as
telecommunications relays.

In 1945 the English science fiction writer

Arthur C. Clarke (b. 1917) conceived of the
possibility for mass artificial communication
satellites in his Wireless World article. [1]
Clarke examined the logistics of satellite
launch, possible orbits and other aspects of the
creation of a network of world-circling
satellites, pointing to the benefits of high-speed
global communications. He also suggested that
three geostationary satellites would provide
coverage over the entire planet.

First voyage to space

The first artificial satellite was Sputnik 1 launched by
Soviet Union on 4 October 1957.
In May 1946, Project RAND released the Preliminary
Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship,
which stated, "A satellite vehicle with appropriate
instrumentation can be expected to be one of the most
potent scientific tools of the Twentieth Century. The
achievement of a satellite craft would produce
repercussions comparable to the explosion of the atomic
The space age began in 1946, as scientists began using
captured German V-2 rockets to make measurements in the
upper atmosphere. [2] Before this period, scientists used
balloons that went up to 30 km and radio waves to study the
ionosphere. From 1946 to 1952, upper-atmosphere
research was conducted using V-2s and Aerobic rockets.
This allowed measurements of atmospheric pressure,
density, and temperature up to 200 km. (see also:
magnetosphere, Van Allen radiation belt)

The United States had been considering launching orbital

satellites since 1945 under the Bureau of Aeronautics of
the United States Navy.

The Air Force's Project RAND eventually released the

above report, but did not believe that the satellite was a
potential military weapon; rather they considered it to be a
tool for science, politics, and propaganda. In 1954, the
Secretary of Defense stated, "I know of no American
satellite program."
Following pressure by the American Rocket Society, the
National Science Foundation, and the International
Geophysical Year, military interest picked up and in early
1955 the Air Force and Navy were working on Project
Orbiter, which involved using a Jupiter C rocket to launch
a small satellite called Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958.
On July 29, 1955, the White House announced that the
U.S. intended to launch satellites by the spring of 1958.
This became known as Project Vanguard. On July 31, the
Soviets announced that they intended to launch a satellite
by the fall of 1957.
On October 4, 1957 Sputnik 1 was launched into orbit,
which triggered the Space Race between the two already
adversarial nations.

The largest artificial satellite currently orbiting the Earth is

the International Space Station.

Types of satellites
1. Anti-Satellite weapons:
Sometimes called "Killer satellites" are satellites
designed to destroy "enemy" satellites, other orbital
weapons and targets. Some are armed with kinetic
rounds, while others use energy and/or particle weapons
to destroy satellites, ICBMs, MIRVs. Both the U.S. and
the USSR had these satellites. Links discussing "Killer
satellites", ASATS (Anti-Satellite satellite) include
USSR Tests ASAT weapon and ASAT Test.
2. Astronomical satellites:
Are satellites used for observation of distant
planets, galaxies, and other outer space objects.
3. Biosatellites:
Are satellites designed to carry living organisms,
generally for scientific experimentation.
4. Communications satellites:

Are an artificial satellite stationed in space for the

purposes of telecommunications. Modern
communications satellites typically use geosynchronous
orbits, Molniya orbits or low Earth orbits.
5. Miniaturized satellites:
Are satellites of unusually low weights and small sizes.
New classifications are used to categorize these
satellites: minisatellite (500-200 kg), microsatellite
(below 200 kg), and nanosatellite (below 10 kg).
6. Navigation satellites:
Are satellites that use radio time signals
transmitted to enable mobile receivers on the ground
to determine their exact location. The relatively clear
line of sight between the satellites and receivers on
the ground, combined with ever-improving
electronics, allows satellite navigation systems to
measure location to accuracies on the order of a few
metres in real time.
7. Reconnaissance satellites:
Are Earth observation satellite or
communications satellites deployed for military or
intelligence applications. Little is known about the
full power of these satellites, as governments who
operate them usually keep information pertaining
to their reconnaissance satellites classified.
8. Earth observation satellites:

Are satellites intended for non-military uses such as

environmental monitoring, meteorology, map making
etc. (See especially Earth Observing System.)
9.Solar power satellites:
Are proposed satellites built in high Earth orbit
that use microwave power transmission to beam
solar power to very large antennae on Earth where
it can be used in place of conventional power

10.Space stations:
Are man-made structures that are designed for
human beings to live on in outer space. A space
station is distinguished from other manned
spacecraft by its lack of major propulsion or landing
facilities - instead, other vehicles are used as
transport to and from the station. Space stations are
designed for medium-term living in orbit, for periods
of weeks, months, or even years.
11.Weather satellites:
Are satellites that primarily are used to monitor
Earth's weather and climate.

is designed to acquire precise atmospheric and
oceanic measurements to provide a greater
understanding of their role in the Earth's climate
and its variations. The satellite's instruments provide
regional to global land cover, land cover change, and
atmospheric constituents.

2.Aura's mission
is designed to observe the atmosphere to answer the
following three high-priority environmental
questions: Is the Earth's ozone layer recovering? Is
air quality getting worse? How is the Earth's climate
changing? Aura's new objective over previous
atmospheric research missions is also to probe the
Earth's troposphere.


a cooperative mission with Canada, will use
advanced radar to "slice" through clouds to see their
vertical structure, providing a completely new
observational capability from space. CloudSAT will
look at the structure, composition, and effects of
clouds and will be one of the first satellites to study
clouds on a global basis.


will provide key measurements of aerosol and cloud
properties needed to improve climate predictions.
CALIPSO will fly a 3-channel LIDAR with a suite of
passive instruments in formation with Aqua to obtain
coincident observations of radiative fluxes and
atmospheric conditions.
will also fly in formation with CALIPSO to provide a
comprehensive characterization of the structure and
composition of clouds and their effects on climate
under all weather conditions.

(Polarization and Anisotropy of Réflectances
for Atmospheric Sciences coupled with
Observations from a Lidar) is a French's CNES
microsatellite project. Its main purpose is to
improve the characterization of the clouds and
aerosols microphysical and radiative properties,
needed to understand and model the radiative
impact of clouds and aerosols. (Credit: CNES)
From the Satellite to the Ground

The Basic Process

{A satellite accumulates data (1), transmits it to a receiving system (2), where it is relayed to
a science center (3) }

There are three stages to getting the data from a satellite

to the ground. First, you need to accumulate the data on
the satellite. Then, when you get a chance, you zap it
down as telemetry to one of the handful of receiving
systems. From there, it has to get to the actual science
center, typically using ordinary telecommunications
lines. Let's start with accumulating the data.
Accumulating Data on the Satellite
Satellite telescopes gather a huge amount of data. There
are really two kinds of data. "Housekeeping data" is
information about the satellite and its health and safety.
It tells you where the satellite thinks it is pointing, what
its temperature is, which parts are working, and similar
status information. This housekeeping data is used by
the ground crew to make sure everything is working
In addition, the instruments on board also have their
data, "Science data". This is the fun stuff -- the images,
spectra, count rates, and other measurements of the
celestial object you want to study. Most of the data that
you transmit to the ground will be this science data.
Scientists also use the housekeeping data to evaluate
how well the instruments were functioning during the
collection of their science data.
Data is stored onboard the satellite and sent down to
earth in batches, every orbit or every day or as often as
possible. Sometimes, data can be sent in realtime -- as
the instruments make their observations, they instantly
beam the results back to Earth.
What can go Wrong with Data on the

{ A satellite in Earth orbit encounters radiation from many sources }

Space is rather hostile to electronics, especially the radiation and

streams of charged particles (protons and electrons) from the solar
wind, not to mention cosmic rays, all of which can zap electronics.
On older satellites, data was stored on magnetic tape (just like in
an old science fiction movie). Tape is very reliable, since it isn't
easily wiped out by cosmic rays or charged particles that stream
from the sun. The main disadvantage with tape is that it requires
moving parts, and moving parts in vacuum require special

Modern satellites store their data in solid state memory -- a huge

'bank' of computer memory chips. These are very similar to
ordinary computer memory, except they are usually 'radiation
hard', meaning they are less likely to get wiped out by random
cosmic radiation. Since they have no moving parts, they are more
reliable than tape systems from an engineering standpoint.
Memory chips are more sensitive to radiation and particle damage
than tape, though, so they have to provide extra memory for
redundancy. By storing extra data (either a copy of all data, or
'checksums' that indicate whether a given batch of data is good or
not), you can minimize the dangers of memory errors.

There are 'single event upsets', which occur when a particle zaps a
chip and changes one memory value. Modern systems can deal
with this, so no data is lost and no data is accidentally corrupted.
There are also double events or multiple events, when a bunch of
memory values are changed. Generally, in these cases you can tell
that the data was messed up, but not necessarily what it was
supposed to be. This is okay, even though you lose a bit of data.

One way to think about this is to imagine that someone tells you
their phone number. The best result is if you hear the full number
(555-1212). Second best is if you hear most of it (555-121?),
because then you know exactly what 6 of the digits are, and you
know for certain that you are missing the last digit. The worst case
is if you thought you heard it, but actually one digit is wrong (they
say "555-1212", you hear "555-1219"), because then you think
you have everything correct, but the entire number is wrong.

Similarly, when storing and transmitting data, it is more important

that you not get 'wrong' data, than that you get all the data. If
there is data that may be incorrect, you want to mark it as
'questionable'. And anything not marked as incorrect is assumed to
be 100% accurate.
Getting to the Ground: Telemetry and

Okay, having all this data stored on the satellite is a good first step,
but hardly useful to your researchers back on Earth. So, first
chance we get, we'll dump the telemetry to the ground. This is the
'downlink' part of the process. There are a few methods for doing
this. We'll cover two of them: satellite relays and ground antenna.

Transmission from satellites is either by a high gain antenna or a

low gain antenna. High gain antennas have to be pointed in
exactly the right direction, but can send a lot of data very quickly.
Low gain antennas don't require precise pointing, but transmit
data much more slowly. Naturally, you generally want to use the
high gain antenna. The low gain antenna is frequently used when
you initially launch, while testing the satellite and waiting to deploy
the high gain antenna. It's also available as a backup in case the
satellite gets temporarily confused about where it is pointing (and
is in 'safehold') or when the high gain antenna isn't working.

The simple picture is that you transmit your data by radio to an

earth-based antenna. The data then gets stored in a data center
and awaits further handling. From an operations point of view,
you want to see your satellite data as soon as possible. From an
efficiency standpoint, you want to send data at the fastest rate
possible. Economically, though, there are a limited number of
earth-based antennas, so you have to schedule your time with them
in advance so they can serve all their customers fairly.
Typically you schedule time with an earth-based antenna system
(DSN, or your own antenna) or with a satellite relay system like
TDRSS (which handles the earth antenna part for you). You ask
for as much time as they can give you, and they allocate time fairly
to all the missions they support. Then, as your satellite
accumulates data, you store it on your satellite and patiently await
your next downlink opportunity.

One of the best relay systems (in terms of speed and quality) is the
TDRSS system. This involves several Tracking and Data Relay
Satellites (TDRSs) in geostationary orbits around the earth. You
figure out when your orbiting satellite can see their TDRS satellite
and request time to use it as a relay. TDRSS gives 'forward links'
for sending commands to your satellite, and 'return links' for
sending your data from the satellite to the ground.

You use the forward link to tell your satellite "begin transmitting"
(or you preprogram the satellite to transmit at a scheduled time).
Then, you zap your data over the TDRS satellite return link as
quick as you can. The TDRS routes that telemetry down to their
own set of earth-based antenna and it gets stored in their
computers. Success! Your data has made it to earth!
TDRSS can receive and send data very quickly, at rates from 6
Mbps (mega-bits per second) to 300 Mbps. For comparison,
computer modems on 2002 phone lines typically go at about 56
kbps (kilo-bits per second), or 1/10000th the speed of the fastest
TDRS relays.

If you're lucky, you can even get dedicated TDRSS time. Then you
can send your data in realtime -- no storage, just transmitting the
telemetry through TDRSS to earth as quickly as you gather it. This
isn't a very efficient use of the TDRSS network, though; it is more
efficient to store the data and send it down in periodic batches of

If you aren't using TDRSS, you can try the Deep Space Network
(DSN), a set of ground-based telescopes located in several
countries that provide a similar service. Several space centers
(such as Kagoshima, in Japan) also run their own small radio
antenna for use with their own missions. It is also possible to mix
of methods -- using your own antenna plus time on the DSN, for
Getting Data to the Operations Center
Even though your data is on the ground, it's not quite home yet --
it's sitting in the computers at the antenna facility. They don't want
to keep it, and you want it as quickly as possible. So the final step is
to get the data from their station to your operations and/or data
One method to retrieving the data is to have a hardline. This is just
a telecommunications line that connects your center with the
antenna station. Hardlines are useful because you don't have to
share them with other people. Instead, as soon as the data reaches
the ground station, they can transmit it over the hardline to your
There are several data networks that can transmit this information,
depending on where the ground antenna is and where your
operations center is. Originally, the Internet itself was just a
collection of hardlines between a handful of research centers --
then it grew. In much the same way, there are several 'nodes' that
are connected by hardlines, then they use local networks to get the
data to you specifically.
This means that the data might take a few hops -- from the antenna
over a hardline to a place like Goddard Space Flight Center
(GSFC), for example, then over the GSFC network to the actual
operations room.
Another process involves using a data network to send some of the
more important data, then using tapes to deliver the rest. The
ground station would transmit the most urgent data -- realtime
transmissions or essential health-and-safety data, for example. The
bulk of the stored data that reached their ground station would be
saved to tapes and mailed to you.
Data Processing
Have you ever wondered what data from a spacecraft actually look
like? You may think that the picture you see from the Hubble
Space Telescope or the Chandra X-ray Observatory is exactly what
the satellite in orbit sends down to Earth, like broadcasts from a tv
station, but that's not the case.
Data from a satellite, or "telemetry," is usually in a special format,
like a code, designed so a lot of information can be transmitted in a
very short time. It's the job of the Data Processing group to turn
the telemetry or raw data from a satellite into something that
astronomers can easily read and interpret.
Packets, and Realtime Data
Data is generally sent in packets: specific amounts of bit-sized data
that have a time stamp. Transmission of these packets can be
uneven. For example, part of the relay system may 'drop packets'
due to static or transmission errors. Those dropped packets are
retransmitted, so no data is lost. Also, stored data and realtime data
can be transmitted at the same time, each with their different time
stamps. The end result of these scenarios is that the data received
on the ground, while complete, may not be in the proper order. The
packet's time stamp lets you reassemble the data in the order
observed, rather than the order you receive it. Naturally, it makes
sense to wait until your entire transmission is complete before
doing the final sorting.The sorting can be done by either the
ground station, or your local processing center. For both, the
method is the same. You store all the incoming telemetry on your
computer. Then, when the transmission is complete (or all data
tapes have been received from remote sites), you sort the packets by
time stamps to create, essentially, a perfect copy of what had
originally been on the satellite.
What Comes In To Data Processing
A satellite in Earth orbit has several types of data it may send to people
on the ground. It can send science data, like observations of matter
falling into black holes in the case of an x-ray telescope satellite. It can
send "housekeeping" data about the spacecraft's health, like how the
solar panels are doing and whether the battery is fully charged. And it
can send "attitude" data, which tells exactly where the satellite is
pointed and how high above the Earth it currently is. For an
astronomer to use a satellite, he or she needs to know all these things at
once: *where* was the satellite looking, *what* did it see, and was
everything functioning normally at the time? The problem is, the
satellite can't tell you everything it's doing at once. The different types
of data come from different systems on board the satellite: the telescope
collects science data, the power system keeps track of the solar panels
and any batteries, the "attitude control" system tells where the satellite
is pointed, etc. When it's time to send data to the ground, the different
systems take turns, like tv reporters on the evening news.When you
watch the evening news, you might hear what the government did today,
then what the weather was like, and then what happened in sports. You
don't hear one reporter say, "Today, at 3pm, the President gave a
speech, the Yankees won the first of a double-header, and a bad storm
ripped through Nebraska. Then, at 5pm, Congress worked late on some
legislation, the Orioles had a great triple play, and there was flooding in
Florida." Instead, one reporter tells you what the weather was like all
over the country, and after that another reporter tells you everything
that happened that day in sports, etc. It's the same with an orbiting
satellite: first, you might get all the data about where the satellite
pointed that day, then all the things the telescope saw, then a read out
of the spacecraft's health. The Ground System makes sure all the data
are received correctly, then sends everything to Data Processing, where
the tricky task of matching up the separate reports from the different
satellite systems begins.
Data Analysis
Once you have data from a satellite in your hands in a useful
format, you will want to scrutinize that data in as many ways
available. By using different tools, you can reveal information
about how the source behaves over time, at various energy ranges
and at different points in space. The following are tools that you
would use to understand your new data.

Light Curves
A light curve is a graph of an object's brightness over a period of
time. Some types of sources have distinctive light curves, so you
might be able to tell what your source is just by looking at the light
curve. As an example, the light curve of an eclipsing binary system
will display two "dips," each occurring when one of the stars
"eclipses" the other.

Light curves also reveal how a source's brightness changes over

time, which can constrain some of the source's properties. If the
source is changing in a cyclic manner, the change is likely to be
either from the rotation the source itself or from an orbiting object.
This is because rotations and orbits repeat with definite periods.
The period over which the light curve repeats puts limits on the
source's mass and size.
{ The light curve of the x-ray binary system GX301-2, obtained by the All Sky
Monitor aboard the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer. The regular increase and
decrease in intensity follows the motion of the neutron star around a massive
normal star companion once every 41.5 days.}

A spectrum is a plot of a source's intensity at different energies (or,
equivalently, wavelengths or frequencies). By looking at spectra,
you can determine which elements (like hydrogen, helium, etc.) are
present either in the source or between Earth and the source. This
can be done because each element emits and absorbs light at very
specific energies. Therefore, the energies where spikes or dips
appear in a spectrum reveal which elements are present.
Those spikes and dips in the spectrum, called spectral lines, hold
information other than just what element emitted them. They can
tell you information about magnetic field of the source, how fast
the material was moving when it emitted its light, and whether the
source is orbiting another object.
A spectrum of the cataclysmic variable system BY Cam, taken by
the Broad Band X-ray Telescope.