Login processing...

Trial ends in Request Full Access Tell Your Colleague About Jove

14.14: Energy of a Satellite in a Circular Orbit

JoVE Core

A subscription to JoVE is required to view this content. Sign in or start your free trial.

Energy of a Satellite in a Circular Orbit

14.14: Energy of a Satellite in a Circular Orbit

Thousands of artificial satellites orbit the Earth every day at various distances from the Earth. Satellites that orbit the Earth below an altitude of 1,600 km are considered to be orbiting in low-Earth orbit (LEO). Research satellites and Earth observation satellites are usually placed in LEO, and mostly orbit the Earth in elliptical orbits. Navigation satellites are placed in medium-Earth orbit (MEO), ranging from 2,000 km to 36,000 km from the surface of the Earth. Meanwhile, communication satellites orbit the Earth at approximately 36,000 km in geostationary or geosynchronous Earth orbits (GEO). These satellites mostly have circular orbits, and their orbital periods are equal to the Earth's rotation period.

The total energy of satellites in circular orbits is conserved and can be derived using Newton's law of gravitation. In such an orbit, the kinetic energy of the satellite is numerically half of its potential energy, and hence the total energy becomes equal to the negative of kinetic energy. The negative sign here indicates that the satellite is gravitationally bound to the Earth.

In elliptical orbits, since the distance of the satellite from the Earth changes every instant, its kinetic energy and potential energy vary. However, its total energy, the sum of its kinetic and potential energy, remains constant.

This text is adapted from Openstax, University Physics Volume 1, Section 13.4: Satellite Orbits and Energy.


Satellite Circular Orbit Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) Geostationary Orbit (GEO) Orbital Period Total Energy Newton's Law Of Gravitation Kinetic Energy Potential Energy Elliptical Orbit

Get cutting-edge science videos from JoVE sent straight to your inbox every month.

Waiting X
Simple Hit Counter