Areostationary orbit

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An areostationary orbit or areosynchronous equatorial orbit (abbreviated AEO) is a circular areo­synchronous orbit (ASO) in the Martian equatorial plane about 17,032 km (10,583 mi) above the surface, any point on which revolves about Mars in the same direction and with the same period as the Martian surface. Areo­stationary orbit is a concept similar to Earth's geo­stationary orbit (GEO). The prefix areo- derives from Ares, the ancient Greek god of war and counterpart to the Roman god Mars, with whom the planet was identified. The modern Greek word for Mars is Άρης (Áris).


To date, no artificial satellites have been placed in this orbit, but it is of interest to some scientists foreseeing a future tele­communications network for the exploration of Mars. [1] An asteroid or station placed in areostationary orbit could also be used to construct a Martian space elevator for use in transfers between the surface of Mars and orbit.[ citation needed ]


Orbital speed (how fast a satellite is moving through space) is calculated by multiplying the angular speed of the satellite by the orbital radius:

G = Gravitational constant
m2 = Mass of the celestial body
T = rotational period of the body

By this formula one can find the geostationary-analogous orbit of an object in relation to a given body, in this case, Mars (this type of orbit above is referred to as an areostationary orbit if it is above Mars).

The mass of Mars being 6.4171×1023 kg and the sidereal period 88,642 seconds. [3] The synchronous orbit thus has a radius of 20,428 km (12693 mi) from the centre of mass of Mars, [4] and therefore areostationary orbit can be defined as approximately 17,032 km above the surface of the Mars equator.


Any satellites in areostationary orbit will suffer from increased orbital station keeping costs, [5] [6] because the areostationary orbits lie between the orbits of the planet's two natural satellites. Phobos has a semi-major axis of 9,376 km, and Deimos has a semi-major axis of 23,463 km. The close proximity to Phobos' orbit in particular (the larger of the two moons) will cause unwanted orbital resonance effects that will gradually shift the orbit of areostationary satellites.

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Space elevator Proposed type of space transportation system

A space elevator is a proposed type of planet-to-space transportation system. The main component would be a cable anchored to the surface and extending into space. The design would permit vehicles to travel along the cable from a planetary surface, such as the Earth's, directly into orbit, without the use of large rockets. An Earth-based space elevator would consist of a cable with one end attached to the surface near the equator and the other end in space beyond geostationary orbit. The competing forces of gravity, which is stronger at the lower end, and the outward/upward centrifugal force, which is stronger at the upper end, would result in the cable being held up, under tension, and stationary over a single position on Earth. With the tether deployed, climbers could repeatedly climb the tether to space by mechanical means, releasing their cargo to orbit. Climbers could also descend the tether to return cargo to the surface from orbit.

Geosynchronous orbit Orbit keeping the satellite at a fixed longitude above the equator

A geosynchronous orbit is an Earth-centered orbit with an orbital period that matches Earth's rotation on its axis, 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds. The synchronization of rotation and orbital period means that, for an observer on Earth's surface, an object in geosynchronous orbit returns to exactly the same position in the sky after a period of one sidereal day. Over the course of a day, the object's position in the sky may remain still or trace out a path, typically in a figure-8 form, whose precise characteristics depend on the orbit's inclination and eccentricity. A circular geosynchronous orbit has a constant altitude of 35,786 km (22,236 mi).

Geostationary orbit Circular orbit above Earths Equator and following the direction of Earths rotation

A geostationary orbit, also referred to as a geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO), is a circular geosynchronous orbit 35,786 kilometres in altitude above Earth's Equator and following the direction of Earth's rotation.

A synchronous orbit is an orbit in which an orbiting body has a period equal to the average rotational period of the body being orbited, and in the same direction of rotation as that body.

Low Earth orbit Orbit around Earth with an altitude between 160 and 2,000 km

A low Earth orbit (LEO) is an Earth-centered orbit near the planet, often specified as having a period of 128 minutes or less and an eccentricity less than 0.25. Most of the artificial objects in outer space are in LEO, with an altitude never more than about one-third of the radius of Earth.

Phobos (moon) Larger, inner moon of Mars

Phobos is the innermost and larger of the two natural satellites of Mars, the other being Deimos. Both moons were discovered in 1877 by American astronomer Asaph Hall. Phobos is named after the Greek god Phobos, a son of Ares (Mars) and Aphrodite (Venus) and twin brother of Deimos. Phobos was the god and personification of fear and panic.

Deimos (moon) Smaller, outer moon of Mars

Deimos is the smaller and outermost of the two natural satellites of Mars, the other being Phobos. Deimos has a mean radius of 6.2 km (3.9 mi) and takes 30.3 hours to orbit Mars. Deimos is 23,460 km (14,580 mi) from Mars, much farther than Mars's other moon, Phobos. It is named after Deimos, the Ancient Greek god and personification of dread and terror, and who is also a son of Ares and Aphrodite and the twin brother of Phobos.

Phobos program 1988 Soviet missions to Mars

The Phobos program was an unmanned space mission consisting of two probes launched by the Soviet Union to study Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos. Phobos 1 was launched on 7 July 1988, and Phobos 2 on 12 July 1988, each aboard a Proton-K rocket.

<i>Phobos 1</i> Soviet mars probe

Phobos 1 was an uncrewed Soviet space probe of the Phobos Program launched from the Baikonour launch facility on 7 July 1988. Its intended mission was to explore Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos. The mission failed on 2 September 1988 when a computer malfunction caused the end-of-mission order to be transmitted to the spacecraft. At the time of launch it was the heaviest interplanetary spacecraft ever launched, weighing 6200 kg.

<i>Phobos 2</i> Soviet mars probe

Phobos 2 was the last space probe designed by the Soviet Union. It was designed to explore the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. It was launched on 12 July 1988, and entered orbit on 29 January 1989.

A geocentric orbit or Earth orbit involves any object orbiting Earth, such as the Moon or artificial satellites. In 1997, NASA estimated there were approximately 2,465 artificial satellite payloads orbiting Earth and 6,216 pieces of space debris as tracked by the Goddard Space Flight Center. More than 16,291 objects previously launched have undergone orbital decay and entered Earth's atmosphere.

Stickney (crater) Largest crater on Phobos

Stickney is the largest crater on Phobos, which is a satellite of Mars. It is 9 km (5.6 mi) in diameter, taking up a substantial proportion of the moon's surface.

The areosynchronous orbits (ASO) are the synchronous orbits for artificial satellites around the planet Mars. They are the martian equivalent of the geosynchronous orbits (GSO) on the Earth. The prefix areo- derives from Ares, the ancient Greek god of war and counterpart to the Roman god Mars, with whom the planet was identified. The modern Greek word for Mars is Άρης (Áris).

Moons of Mars Natural satellites orbiting Mars

The two moons of Mars are Phobos and Deimos. They are irregular in shape. Both were discovered by American astronomer Asaph Hall in August 1877 and are named after the Greek mythological twin characters Phobos (fear) and Deimos who accompanied their father Ares into battle. Ares, god of war, was known to the Romans as Mars.

A supersynchronous orbit is either an orbit with a period greater than that of a synchronous orbit, or just an orbit whose apoapsis is higher than that of a synchronous orbit. A synchronous orbit has a period equal to the rotational period of the body which contains the barycenter of the orbit.

Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Due to their small size, both moons were discovered only in 1877, by astronomer Asaph Hall. Nevertheless, they frequently feature in works of science fiction.

Yinghuo-1 Chinese Mars orbiter, never left Earth orbit

Yinghuo-1 was a Chinese Mars-exploration space probe, intended to be the first Chinese planetary space probe and the first Chinese spacecraft to orbit Mars. It was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on 8 November 2011, along with the Russian Fobos-Grunt sample return spacecraft, which was intended to visit Mars' moon Phobos. The 115-kg (250-lb) Yinghuo-1 probe was intended by the CNSA to orbit Mars for about two years, studying the planet's surface, atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic field. Shortly after launch, Fobos-Grunt was expected to perform two burns to depart Earth orbit bound for Mars. However, these burns did not take place, leaving both probes stranded in orbit. On 17 November 2011, Chinese state media reported that Yinghuo-1 had been declared lost by the CNSA. After a period of orbital decay, Yinghuo-1 and Fobos-Grunt underwent destructive re-entry on 15 January 2012, finally disintegrating over the Pacific Ocean.

In celestial mechanics, the term stationary orbit refers to an orbit around a planet or moon where the orbiting satellite or spacecraft remains orbiting over the same spot on the surface. From the ground, the satellite would appear to be standing still, hovering above the surface in the same spot, day after day.

The gravity of Mars is a natural phenomenon, due to the law of gravity, or gravitation, by which all things with mass around the planet Mars are brought towards it. It is weaker than Earth's gravity due to the planet's smaller mass. The average gravitational acceleration on Mars is 3.72076 ms−2 and it varies. In general, topography-controlled isostasy drives the short wavelength free-air gravity anomalies. At the same time, convective flow and finite strength of the mantle lead to long-wavelength planetary-scale free-air gravity anomalies over the entire planet. Variation in crustal thickness, magmatic and volcanic activities, impact-induced Moho-uplift, seasonal variation of polar ice caps, atmospheric mass variation and variation of porosity of the crust could also correlate to the lateral variations. Over the years models consisting of an increasing but limited number of spherical harmonics have been produced. Maps produced have included free-air gravity anomaly, Bouguer gravity anomaly, and crustal thickness. In some areas of Mars there is a correlation between gravity anomalies and topography. Given the known topography, higher resolution gravity field can be inferred. Tidal deformation of Mars by the Sun or Phobos can be measured by its gravity. This reveals how stiff the interior is, and shows that the core is partially liquid. The study of surface gravity of Mars can therefore yield information about different features and provide beneficial information for future landings.


  1. Lay, N.; C. Cheetum; H. Mojaradi; J. Neal (15 November 2001). "Developing Low-Power Transceiver Technologies for In Situ Communication Applications" (PDF). IPN Progress Report 42-147. 42 (147): 22. Bibcode:2001IPNPR.147A...1L. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  2. "Calculating the Radius of a Geostationary Orbit - Ask Will Online". Ask Will Online. 2012-12-27. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  3. Lodders, Katharina; Fegley, Bruce (1998). The Planetary Scientist's Companion. Oxford University Press. p. 190. ISBN   0-19-511694-1.
  4. "Stationkeeping in Mars orbit". Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  5. Romero, P.; Pablos, B.; Barderas, G. (2017-07-01). "Analysis of orbit determination from Earth-based tracking for relay satellites in a perturbed areostationary orbit". Acta Astronautica. 136: 434–442. Bibcode:2017AcAau.136..434R. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2017.04.002. ISSN   0094-5765.
  6. Silva and Romero's paper even includes a graph of acceleration, where a reaction force could be calculated using the mass of desired object: Silva, Juan J.; Romero, Pilar (2013-10-01). "Optimal longitudes determination for the station keeping of areostationary satellites". Planetary and Space Science. 87: 16. Bibcode:2013P&SS...87...14S. doi:10.1016/j.pss.2012.11.013. ISSN   0032-0633.