What are the different kinds of satellite orbits, and what purpose do they serve? From low Earth orbits to Lagrange points, we take a high-level view. From space.
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welcome to textile production from my heart: radio, hey there and welcome to tax that I'm your host driving Strickland, I'm an executive bodies with I heart, radio and held the Tec are yet you know. Ever since the them Soviet Union sent up Sputnik way back in nineteen. Fifty seven men made satellites have played a really important role in our work. And in multiple contexts. You know in the early days, at least from a political standpoint, it was a lot about demonstrating scientific and engineering superiority that was kind of what was driving the space race, at least from a financial and political standpoint back when the? U S and U S s: R were racing to achieve firsts in space, but I mean obviously they're also important to further our scientific understanding of
world and beyond, and also to do stuff like lay communications infrastructure that would allow for a global, communication, of course, There are thousands of other applications and said it's a really out of this world. And yes, I also hate me for saying that, and I thought it could be a little bit it showed to talk about the various orbits, that satellites cannon habit and then explain the differences between those orbits and the purposes of them, and I think that's really help. in order to understand stuff like why is the James Webb Space telescope in an orbit that so far out that we cannot reach it with a human crew right? Why is that or why scientists warn us about the dangers of space junk I mean space is huge, so you would think the odds of any two objects. Colliding with one another out in space would be astronomical man. I'm going to have a lot of puns in this episode we're going to go through the various or b
explain why we would send certain types of satellites to one orbit versus another and, first of all, let's that's actually just talk about the word orbit and I'm sure everyone out there has a grasp on this. But technically, what we're talking about is curved path that causes one object to move around a second object or two objects to move found each other due to the pull of gravity and gravity is one of the fundamental forces of the universe is also the weakest one. By the way, it has practical, he no effect. Once you get down to the molecular or atomic level gravity is a force of attraction that exist between stuff in our universe. What has mass right? thing that has mass experiences, the effects of gravity. So technically you could say, there's a gravitational attraction between every
check that has mass and every other object that has mass whatever the magnitude of that attractive force is dependent upon two really important factors. One is the actual mass of the objects in question, though more ass, the greater the attraction so to truly massive objects, lava greater attract to one another, then to very small objects. This is why, when we get down to the molecular and atomic levels gravity is, is negligible. We can just ignore
at this by the way is also why the gravity on the moon is so much less than the gravity on earth. The acceleration due to gravity on the moon is a little less than seventeen percent of that. What we'd experience here on earth, so the gravitational pull between say, the moon and an astronaut is much less than what that astronaut would experience while walking around on earth, because the moon is less massive than the earth. The astronaut is probably about the same, but the other factor is the distance. That's between those two objects that they are really far apart. The gravitational force between them, while technically still being present, will be extremely weak.
Then, if it's really really far apart, you can ignore it because it so weak as to be deal almost nothing. I should also add that I instance, theory of general relativity, actually dismissed the idea of gravity being an actual force. Rather, gravity is the consequence of objects with mass bending space time night gets a little difficult to envision so, let's simplify it. Imagine that you have a trampoline, and then you put pretty heavy bowling ball in the middle of that trampoline. Well, the way to the bowling ball will cause the trampolines surface to form right, it'll dip downward because the weight of the bowling ball. and if you were to try and roll a marble across the trampoline, then instead of
lying in a straight line. The marbles path would be affected by that bend in the trembling it would actually turned toward the dip and thus toward the bowling ball. While Einstein's theory stated that we are seeing that exact same effect out in the universe, except while he could describe the surface of a trampoline effectively as a two dimensional object, the one object that doesn't have depth to it in space. We have to deal with three dimensions at that being spatial dimensions. I mean we also have time, which is the fourth dimension, and this gets are a bit tricky for us to visualize, or at least I find it tricky. Maybe you can do it I can't but yeah when we often refer to gravity as a force. Einstein would correct us on that one and say insane: it's not really a force now with that bowling ball and marble trampoline example, we can actually understand why satellites have to work in the way that they do so.
Let's say you roll the marble hard enough to reach the point. Bowling balls presence is going to cause the marbles pathway to change. but you're not rolling it so hard that the marble can make it out the other side to the opposite end of the tramp leaned. So in other words, the marble is unable to escape the bowling balls. Potential pull the marble. Will roll down and hit the bowling ball and come to a stop it at some point, now have you rolled the marble really hard it might be able to get through the deformed area of the trampolines surface like it might have enough momentum to to navigate through the depth, but his path is still going to change right: on a flat surface, is not going to travel in a straight line, they will have abandoned its pathway, but maybe we'll get all the way across the trampoline it just won't be directly across,
However, if we wanted to keep the marbles so that it's constantly circling the bowling ball, well, we would have to have some way to keep the marble at just the right speed. It would need to be fast enough to counteract the marbles tendency to fall toward the bowling ball, but not be so fast as to cause the marble to continue off the pathway and eventually off the edge of the trampoline. If we could add energy to the marble, consistently. We would be all set, because otherwise the friction than the marble would encounter as it rolled across the trampling would be enough to slow it down and it would fall toward the bowling ball. So we'd have to fight
the way to give the marble a little boost now and then, in order for it to maintain its circular pathway around the bowling ball satellites in orbit around something else, whether it's our planet or some other celestial body need to move at a speed. That's fast enough to avoid falling toward whatever it is orbiting around. So Alan Space there aren't nearly as many factors that would slow down a satellite speed as we find here on earth. There is very little friction or air resistance out there. So once you get a satellite an orbit, the speed the satellite has courtesy of the launch vehicle is sufficient to keep most satellites in an orbit for many years. satellites have thrusters and they are fuel, but those thrusters are not meant to accelerate the satellite in order for it to maintain orbital speed. Those Customers are really used to maneuver the satellite, so it can
The transition from one orbit to another go through a transfer orbit, in other words or used to move the satellite out of the pathway of potential space junk or other debris. Now. satellites in lower orbits can and do experience drag from the earth's atmosphere so there is actually no hard boundary for where our planet's atmosphere ends. We do have the Karmann line, which is sword of a convenient definition of the edge of space but its mainly there as a way to define it for political purposes and just have a practical definition as a gay, it's so nebulous again to use another pine and so vague that its very difficult to say this is
categorically where space begins and the Karman line is at one hundred kilometers above sea level here on earth. Now that does not mean, that there is no atmosphere beyond one hundred kilometers and outdated. There is Amis fear beyond that limit, but its extremely thin individual particles can be very far apart from each other, so it doesn't resemble the atmosphere we have here on the surface, and these few particles are still enough to cause drag on lower altitude satellites, so gradually those satellite speeds will slow down enough that you know it will eventually deorbit. It will lose enough. Velocity and fall back to earth unless we were to do something if we were to move it to a different orbit, then that could be enough to extend the life of
satellite, where he might even use thrusters to push the satellite out into an orbit where it'll just be dead out there in space. Now we can classify earth satellite orbits in different ways, including their altitude. Now we can classify earth satellite orbits in several different ways and I'll explain some of those ways when we come back from this break. I I I What? If you were a global bank who wanted to supercharge your audit system, so you tapped by Bm to an silo your data and, with the help of ai start crunching, a year's worth of transactions against thousands of compliance controls. Now, you're making smarter decisions faster operating costs are lower and everyone from your auditors to your bankers feels like a million bucks. Let's create
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The low orbit range is around one hundred eighty two, two thousand kilometers above sea level, so these are well above the Karmann line, obviously river the Karmann lines at a hundred kilometers above sea level. These satellites move really wicked fast. These are satellites that orbit the earth several times each day, so they're not orbiting the earth. In time with the earth's rotation they're actually going faster than the earth's rotation, the lowest orbiting satellites are completing an orbit somewhere around ninety to one hundred minutes per orbit. Them he's a satellite like that could orbit the earth around sixteen times each day. However, law, satellites are going to encounter more drag because they're going to be hitting the occasional particle of Atmos. here, and there orbits will deteriorate faster than those satellites that are at a higher orbit,
he's lower satellites might only be useful for a few years, so you wouldn't want anything designed for a long term mission to be in that orbit. It would, it would not be able to make. Pain that orbit for longer than a few years in the low earth orbit range. We have a lot of satellites that do earth observations, so satellites meant for earth Sciences often occupy the space. In addition, satellites like space axes, starlink network they occupy the low earth orbit range of there around five hundred kilometers above sea level, so
not quite in the middle of low earth, orbit range they're, actually on the lower end and part of space exit strategy for Starlink is to launch tens of thousands of satellites into that general orbit to provide global, consistent coverage for internet service and to essentially resupply those satellites as older ones are decommissioned, which is kind of a fancy way of saying they either get d orbited as then, they fall back to earth or they're pushed into an orbit that no one is using kind of a a graveyard orbit. Now the mid earth orbit that ranges from two thousand kilometers above sea level, up to thirty, five thousand seven hundred eighty kilometers. So a big big range here and a lot.
Navigation, satellites and spies lights occupy this space as out here, you can put satellites in an orbit where they stay above particular regions for a good amount of time. Each day, and in fact that now we need to talk about a special subset of orbits that are a kind of between MID earth and high earth orbit, and you probably heard terms like GEO, synchronous and geostationary orbits. These orbits are just of touch further out from the mid orbits, and sometimes they even get grouped with high earth orbit. It really just depends on whom you're talking to and very easy to confuse GEO synchronous would geostationary at technically geostationary. Orbits are a subset of GEO synchronous orbits. So at this attitude this far out from the earth, the satellites or,
It is the same as the rotational speed of the earth, so in other words, these satellite maintains its relative position to the earth. Throughout the full day. The satellite remains over the same general region of the earth throughout the entirety of the day. Now we have remember that the earth also has a tilt to its axis, and this means that if a satellite is at this altitude, but not directly over the equator, the allies position with reference to the earth's surface will actually move north and south. throughout the day, so it will still maintain its position with regard to Longitude, that is, east and west. It's gonna remain in that same location, EAST verses, West, but Latitude, an old position north versus south that'll, very throughout the day, a geostationary orbit
Is an orbit above the equator? That means there's a zero degree inclination with reference to the equator and the satellite will remain over the same spot. On the earth's surface, But again this only works. If you are along the equator, this can get pretty congested like there's a lot. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to put a satellite there so that it's over the same reference point on earth throughout the day, but obviously there is a limited number of of orbits that you can put satellites in above the equator. For one thing, you know just to avoid things like communication interference, so it gets pray tricky. Also you, you often will fine countries that do have,
based programs getting treaties and agreements with countries that don't, but are equatorial countries so that they can essentially get the rights to places at a light above those countries. This is one of those cases where it's not just science and technology, but politics that become important and then will you also have high earth orbit was where we start to go beyond the geostationary and geo synchronous. Orbits we're timeout altitudes greater than thirty five thousand seven hundred a clue winners now way out here. You typically are talking about things like communication satellites, and it can be other things too, but you know you start to get limited in what useful stuff you can put out in this orbit up, though, oddly enough, when you go much further out, you can find other really interesting uses like the James Webb Space Telescope, but we'll get there now I mentioned
GEO stationary orbits, which requires the satellite to not only be above the MID earth, orbital range, but also over the equator aka zero inclination with reference to the equatorial plane. But we can classify other orbits by referencing inclination, for example. A polar orbit is one that passes over the north and South pole over the course of its orbit, and this requires an inclination of ninety degrees. That is, it needs to be at a right angle, with reference to the acute and then you have sun synchronous, orbits, okay, so it gets really complicated but I'll, try and give you a very, very high level view again, another pun and Might want a satellite in a sun synchronous orbit to observe certain regions of the earth and you want the lighting of those regions to be consistent from one day to the next
well. If you want to do that, you put a satellite in a polar sun synchronous orbit then inclination of about ninety eight degrees. So it's a little bit further out from a right angle and a satellite in this orbit will orbit North South or, depending upon your point of reference south now earth around the earth. And meanwhile, the earth is continuing to rotate east West below the satellite. Now interesting. The satellites orbital path will also begin to rotate, in fact, that's actually crucial, because if the oars what path did not rotate you, you can think of it like a hula hoop around the globe the hula hoop is going over the north and south. So it's vertical with respect to the globe, then imagine He would slowly twist the hula hoop, so that it is actually orbiting the earth that way as well. It's important because
You have to remember: the earth is in orbit around the sun, so in order for you to have a consistent satellite view with the same lighting over the same region each day, the orbit has to rotate right because the earth is going around a circular path of the sign of the orbit didn't rotate. Then you wouldn't have that effect of passing over the same region, at the same time of day each day now, the rotation of the orbit happens because the earth is not a perfect sphere. It's a bit bigger around the equator and holy cats. I can totally relate to that, and so the equator region exerts a gravitational pull on the satellite that, if no other physics were involved, would ultimately cause the satellites orbit to drift into one. That's over the equator,
but due to the satellites, angular momentum, the satellites orbit doesn't tilt down to become ecuadorean. Instead, the whole orbit rotates. If you, if you were to areas a coin- and you ve seen a coin start to do that- that cool rotate thing on a table like it's starting to fall, but as, actually clattered flat on the table, but it's doing that thing where it's kind of rotating around almost like a top, that's kind of what the orbit is doing and the rotational speed of the earth, the rotational speed of the orbit and the period of the orbit line up well, so that the satellite will always pass over a specific spot on the equator at the same time of day each day. So let's say it passes over Bogota, at three p m. Well, that's going to happen from there on out.
Tomorrow, it'll be overhead of Bogota three p M and the next day and the next day, and so on. A subsequent orbits throughout the day we'll have the satellite pass over different ecuadorean cities like say Singapore or Nairobi, and it will always pass over those respective cities at the same time of day each day for that city, I'm not saying it will pass. over bogus Singapore in Nairobi at three p m that would be impossible, but that they will pass over those respective cities at the same time, the day- and I realise that this gets really tricky to imagine- is hard to explain without visual aids So, if you're having trouble getting a handle on polar Sun synchronous orbits, I recommend searching for videos that illustrate how they work. Also, I'm not even scratching the surface here. As far as
complicated these get. If you really want to learn more, I recommend a paper by Ronald J Boeing and it's titled AV seas of Sun synchronous Orbit mission design. It is a really good paper that into the technical details. Anyway, you might wonder why we would even worry about getting that kind of information in the first place like what's the big deal, why do even care about getting a satellite out there to pass over the same part of the at the same time of day to day or one reason is that it helps us track changes in a region over time. This has been generally important as we examined the effects of climate change in that region. So you want as many factors to be the same in your observation, so that any differences you see you can say
while this clearly didn't show up, because the satellite is passing over at different times a day. So the lighting at a different angle instead really reflective of actual changes that are happening on the ground. So keeping as much of your other factors, system as possible is really important. Keeping in mind that obviously, like angles of light are gonna change as the seasons change, but no that's something you can you can factor in, whereas, like you want to be able to say like from one summer to the next, oh we ve seen that say. The coastline of this region has changed dramatically in the potentially that's due to climate change. That's why you would need to have they like this, so that you can draw those kind of conclusions. Are we ve done more to say about orbits? I know it's. Just gonna
bongo and around it around cause us what orbits do, but before we get to that lets, take another quick break. I would, if you were me you're transit system, with billions of passengers taking millions of trips every year. You are about to let any cyber slow you down, so you if I began to build a security architecture to keep your data network and applications protected. Now you can tackle threat, so they don't bring you to a grinding halt and We once going places, including you, let's create cyber security that keeps your business on track. Ibm, let's create, learn more easily and dot com, prevention knows the importance of having a rock in your life. Everyone needs a rock, a rock and help you turn the far fetched into within reach. When you have one, you can reach a potential, your dreams your goals and when it comes to your financial goals, potential is the rock you can rely on.
Our knowledgeable financial professionals. We can help you get to new heights plan, invest in visit. Your tire the IRA pretensions farms can of America North New Jersey. we're living in a fast changing world. One of the best ways to succeed in it is to learn how to code tried Codecademy today and see where coding can take you, more than fifty million people already know that Codecademy is the best way to learn to code. That's because code, Ketamine, not only teaches you job ready coding skills, but also helps you build unique projects for your portfolio, earn certificates and even prep for technical interviews. Ya'll coating skills are more important in the job field than ever before, and this is an opportunity to build up your own skill set a knowledge base which can open up the doors to new jobs and career. Pass. It's time to invest in your self add code. Canopy you can choose what
heading downtown and needs a park download. I park it for the most affordable and easiest way to park downtown. When you, gentlemen, use I park if you get the best prices at nineteen public parking, righteous conveniently located in the loop River North and mag mile safe twenty percent on your first five, I park it expressed transactions when you create an account download, I park it support for theatres, dining, the river walk, work and play I park. It has the lowest rates and never has hidden these. What you see is what you pay download I park at in saving downtown Chicago the so far described are you could essentially call them circular orbits? They don't have to be, but that's the way we typically imagine orbits or at least the way. I typically imagine an orbit is kind of like a circle around
whatever body it's orbiting, so they more or less keep a consistent distance from the the orbiting ah center. So the earth, in other words like they, would just keep a a pretty consistent distance from the earth, but orbits do not have to be perfectly circular or even circular, at all, can have elliptical orbits and an elliptical orbit is oval in shape, and this means that the satellites distance from the earth varies throughout its orbital path. That also means that the satellites velocity will change as it orbits the earth, so as the satellite is moving toward the earth it's velocity will start to increase due to the earth's gravitational pull and as it moves away from the earth, its velocity begins to slow down again because the earth's gravity is
pulling back on it now the low point of the orbit. So the part where the satellite is closest to the earth is called the perigee. The furthest point from the earth is the apogee. That's the high Point of the orbit and a lot of communication satellites have an elliptical orbit and you might wonder why well because, and I go orbit means that a satellite is going to travel over a specific region for a really long time as it moves through its apogee right cause. It's slow, and this is the part where it's furthest from the so. You can provide a long period of coverage using this kind of order. And then when it moves out of sight when it's out of line of sight, it's actually starting to approach perigee, so to speak, so this round around the back of the earth. So this way you have learned
did interruptions of coverage and if you have just a few communication satellites that have these kind of elliptical orbits over region? You can have consistent communications coverage over that region. and you don't have to use as many satellites do just have to have enough, so that there's one to cover when he has been settled. He is moving at a site. You have a satellite, be that you can switch to that will continue coverage, so these are really important, orbits, specifically for communications satellites, not just them, but that's a big
reason, two to use an elliptical orbit, and sometimes we describe these satellites with these orbits as having highly elliptical, orbits or h e o's, and then let's wrap this up with Lagrange Orbits or Lagrange points. Okay. So there are a few positions in space in our solar system where, if you place an object there, it hens to stay there. Relatively speaking, I mean you have to remember that all of us, our solar system, we're all whizzing through space. So really We say it stays there. We really mean relative to earth or, in their doesn't have to be honest, can. I will agree points around any orbiting objects, but we primarily concern ourselves with the earth. Log range points. So at these points in space, the gravitational pull of two large masses on an object, precisely matchless intrepidity force needed for that object to move with
I am so that that's complicated, but it's kind of like saying imagine: you've got a tug of war game and both sides of the game are of perfectly equal strength. So the middle of the rope that being used in the tug of war isn't going anywhere because the forces that are acting on it on either side are equal. There are five Lagrange points in our earth and Sun relationship: Earth, Sun, moon. One is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. so it's always on the night side, because it's always going to be on the opposite side of the earth. From where the sun is This is a point that actually beyond our moon, so it's beyond lunar orbit, this is the L2 Lagrange
This is where the James Webb Space Telescope is, along with a few other space observation satellites and it's useful because when you put satellites out in this point, they are protected from the radiation of the sun. So if you're trying to detect very faint sources of radio haitian out in the in the in the universe, then you don't have to worry about the radiation from the sun interfering. You only need a heat shield on one side of the satellite, because it's going to be the heat this radiated from the sun and the earth which will be behind that satellite. Well, it's facing out
word the space, the L one Lagrange point is between the earth and the sun. It's actually much closer to the earth than the sun, but that makes sense because remember the gravitational force. Sorry, Einstein is dependent upon not just mass but distance. So you have, since the earth is far less massive than the sun, you have to have the satellite at a position, that's much closer to the earth than it is to the sun, but once you get to that sweet spot, it'll pretty much stay there and we've got satellites in that orbit that are designed to observe the sun. So that's how we do get something that is in a fixed orbit between the earth and the sun. It can maintain that orbit and it can have continuous observation of the sun, which is really useful. Science. Information for us there's the l, four and L five Lagrange points. There are actually along the earth orbit around the sun, so there's one
and leading the earth's orbit and one failing behind the earth orbit and their each at a sixty degree angle out from the earth with respect to the sun. These points are the only ones where an orbit can just be stable without further adjust. Or orbits at the other. Lagrange points are delicate. They require near constant adjustments to contain in place, I saw one analogy that suggested it's kind of like perching a ball on the point of pyramid- and you have to do it just right for it to maintain balance and you hopefully are going to have to do constant adjustments so that it doesn't Tipp over. And finally, we have the EL three Lagrange point, this one's on the opposite side of the sun
from the earth. So if you were to draw a straight line from the earth through the sun to the other side, that's where the EL three point is. we are not likely to ever use that for a satellite for a good reason, because the sun would always be between us and that satellite and the sun would block any communications that we could send to or that satellite that you could presumably have some form of space, Isn't there, I guess but It would be one that would be effectively cut off from the earth without you know some other network out there, because again the sun's huge going to block all other communication efforts. but that is a quick run down of satellite orbits, obvious
It gives way more complex than this, and again I didn't touch things like orbits around other planets, which can get pretty complicated, particularly with planets. I have lots of moons on them and obviously the plants also have different masses, which means that your taking different things into consideration as far as the gravitational pull so yeah it does get really complicated. But I wanted to make sure that we had sort of a basic coverage of the subject It kind of of chemicals appreciation for all how complicated this is. As for space junk. Well I mean There are certain orbits that are very valuable and they can only hold a certain amount of satellites before you start to run into the possibility of collisions in that orbit.
which obviously can cause an enormous problem. Not only are we talking about the potential destruction of at least two satellites dear also talking about those satellites, then creating more space. John, like more shrapnel, if you well, that can potentially put other satellites in danger
It can become this cascade effect, though there are graveyard orbits that we've had you know, satellites get pushed into in order to kind of be out of the way, but that will eventually get pretty complicated to also another big issue for astronomers here on earth. Is that the more satellites we put out in space, the more interference there is for astronomical observations, at least using earthbound telescopes? So that's another big issue and it it's complicated. Like you start looking at things like Spacex his plan with Starlink, and it's not the only internet based satellite system- that's been proposed to use you know thousands and thousands of satellites. There are other
as well, and you start to see where the potential issues are and we've had people warning about the dangers of space junk for a very long time, but I feel like there hasn't really been. a huge move on the regulations side. To kind of curb that, and of course, certain countries are probably a bit more gung ho about pursuing opportunities to get satellites are in orbit than others So this is going to continue to be an issue and is just going to get worse before it gets better. It is odd to think that, for something as vast as space there is this legitimate concern about the potential for collisions in these specific orbits, but that's where we are. Ok,
It said for our brief overview of satellite orbits hope you learned something hope you enjoyed this hope you go out and look up more information about this, so that you know my poor explanations can become more clear. As you see things like video representations of these orbits, it can kind of understand why we use the orbits that we do and if you have suggestions for future topics. I should cover on tech stuff, whether it's a technology accompany a person in tech, a trend, something basic, that you would like me to explain in a text tidbits. Let me know the best way to do that is to reach out on twitter. The handle for the show is taxed, stuffed h, W and I'll talk to you again really soon. text up is an eye heart radio production or more podcast. From my heart radio visit the eye hard radio out
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-31.