NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1049051
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Jan
Pages: 4
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-9120
How Long Does It Take for a Satellite to Fall to Earth?
Lira, Antonio
Physics Education, v50 n1 p71-74 Jan 2015
The purpose of this paper is to introduce students of science and engineering to the orbital lifetimes of satellites in circular low Earth orbits. It is only necessary to know about classical mechanics for this calculation. The orbital decay of satellites is due to the interaction of the satellite with the surrounding gas, atmospheric drag. Perturbative forces arise from solar and lunar gravitational fields, solar radiation pressure and geomagnetic activity, in addition to aerodynamic drag. Our calculation uses a simple model for atmospheric density as a function of altitude. Finally, the result is compared with another calculation using an improved force model.
Institute of Physics Publishing. The Public Ledger Building Suite 929, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 215-627-0880; Fax: 215-627-0879; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A