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A satellite is said to occupy an inclined orbit around Earth if the orbit exhibits an angle other than 0° to the equatorial plane. This angle is called the orbit's inclination. A planet is said to have an inclined orbit around the Sun if it has an angle other than 0° to the ecliptic plane.
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object that has been intentionally placed into orbit. These objects are called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth's Moon.
Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet. Normally, orbit refers to a regularly repeating trajectory, although it may also refer to a non-repeating trajectory. To a close approximation, planets and satellites follow elliptic orbits, with the central mass being orbited at a focal point of the ellipse, as described by Kepler's laws of planetary motion.
A geosynchronous orbit is an inclined orbit with an altitude of 37,000 km (23,000 mi) that completes one revolution every sidereal day tracing out a small figure-eight shape in the sky. A geostationary orbit is a special case of geosynchronous orbit with no inclination, and therefore no apparent movement across the sky from a fixed observation point on the Earth's surface.
In astronomy, an analemma is a diagram showing the position of the Sun in the sky, as seen from a fixed location on Earth at the same mean solar time, as that position varies over the course of a year. The diagram will resemble the figure 8. Globes of Earth often display an analemma.
A geostationary orbit, often referred to as a geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO), is a circular geosynchronous orbit 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above Earth's equator and following the direction of Earth's rotation. An object in such an orbit appears motionless, at a fixed position in the sky, to ground observers. Communications satellites and weather satellites are often placed in geostationary orbits, so that the satellite antennas that communicate with them do not have to rotate to track them, but can be pointed permanently at the position in the sky where the satellites are located. Using this characteristic, ocean-color monitoring satellites with visible and near-infrared light sensors can also be operated in geostationary orbit in order to monitor sensitive changes of ocean environments.
Due to their inherent instability, geostationary orbits will eventually become inclined if they are not corrected using thrusters. At the end of the satellite's lifetime, when fuel approaches depletion, satellite operators may decide to omit these expensive manoeuvres to correct inclination and only control eccentricity. This prolongs the life-time of the satellite as it consumes less fuel over time, but the satellite can then only be used by ground antennas capable of following the north-south movement, satellite-tracking Earth stations.
In astrodynamics, the orbital maneuvers made by thruster burns that are needed to keep a spacecraft in a particular assigned orbit are called orbital station-keeping.
A polar orbit has an inclination of 90 degrees passing over the poles of the planet on each pass. These types of orbits are often used for earth observation and weather services.
This is a special type of orbit that precesses at the same rate that the sun moves along the ecliptic, causing the satellite to rise over a fixed location on the earth's surface at the same mean solar time every day.
Nodal precession is the precession of the orbital plane of a satellite around the rotational axis of an astronomical body such as Earth. This precession is due to the non-spherical nature of a rotating body, which creates a non-uniform gravitational field. The following discussion relates to low Earth orbit of artificial satellites, which have no measurable effect on the motion of Earth. The nodal precession of more massive, natural satellites like the Moon is more complex.
These orbits have an inclination governed by the equation:
where is the orbital inclination, and is the oribital period.
A geosynchronous orbit is an orbit around Earth of a satellite with an orbital period that matches Earth's rotation on its axis, which takes one sidereal day. 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. Satellites are typically launched in an eastward direction. A circular geosynchronous orbit is 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above Earth's surface. Those closer to Earth orbit faster than Earth rotates, so from Earth, they appear to move eastward while those that orbit beyond geosynchronous distances appear to move westward.
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.
Orbital inclination measures the tilt of an object's orbit around a celestial body. It is expressed as the angle between a reference plane and the orbital plane or axis of direction of the orbiting object.
The orbital period is the time a given astronomical object takes to complete one orbit around another object, and applies in astronomy usually to planets or asteroids orbiting the Sun, moons orbiting planets, exoplanets orbiting other stars, or binary stars.
A geosynchronous transfer orbit or geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) is a Hohmann transfer orbit—an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits of different radii in the same plane—used to reach geosynchronous or geostationary orbit using high-thrust chemical engines.
A geocentric orbit or Earth orbit involves any object orbiting Planet Earth, such as the Moon or artificial satellites. In 1997 NASA estimated there were approximately 2,465 artificial satellite payloads orbiting the Earth and 6,216 pieces of space debris as tracked by the Goddard Space Flight Center. Over 16,291 previously launched objects have decayed into the Earth's atmosphere.
A Sun-synchronous orbit is a nearly polar orbit around a planet, in which the satellite passes over any given point of the planet's surface at the same local mean solar time. More technically, it is an orbit arranged so that it precesses through one complete revolution each year, so it always maintains the same relationship with the Sun.
In celestial mechanics, the longitude of the periapsis, also called longitude of the pericenter, of an orbiting body is the longitude at which the periapsis would occur if the body's orbit inclination were zero. It is usually denoted ϖ.
Orbital inclination change is an orbital maneuver aimed at changing the inclination of an orbiting body's orbit. This maneuver is also known as an orbital plane change as the plane of the orbit is tipped. This maneuver requires a change in the orbital velocity vector at the orbital nodes.
Spacecraft flight dynamics is the science of space vehicle performance, stability, and control. It requires analysis of the six degrees of freedom of the vehicle's flight, which are similar to those of aircraft: translation in three dimensional axes; and its orientation about the vehicle's center of mass in these axes, known as pitch, roll and yaw, with respect to a defined frame of reference.
The orbital plane of a revolving body is the geometric plane in which its orbit lies. Three non-collinear points in space suffice to determine an orbital plane. A common example would be the positions of the centers of a massive body (host) and of an orbiting celestial body at two different times/points of its orbit.
A Tundra orbit is a highly elliptical geosynchronous orbit with a high inclination, an orbital period of one sidereal day, and a typical eccentricity between 0.2 and 0.3. A satellite placed in this orbit spends most of its time over a chosen area of the Earth, a phenomenon known as apogee dwell, which makes them particularly well suited for communications satellites serving high latitude regions. The ground track of a satellite in a Tundra orbit is a closed figure 8 with a smaller loop over either the northern or southern hemisphere. This differentiates them from Molniya orbits designed to service high-latitude regions, which have the same inclination but half the period and do not loiter over a single region.
A ground track or ground trace is the path on the surface of a planet directly below an aircraft or satellite. In the case of a satellite, it is the projection of the satellite's orbit onto the surface of the Earth.
A geosynchronous satellite is a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, with an orbital period the same as the Earth's rotation period. Such a satellite returns to the same position in the sky after each sidereal day, and over the course of a day traces out a path in the sky that is typically some form of analemma. A special case of geosynchronous satellite is the geostationary satellite, which has a geostationary orbit – a circular geosynchronous orbit directly above the Earth's equator. Another type of geosynchronous orbit used by satellites is the Tundra elliptical orbit.
Orbital perturbation analysis is the activity of determining why a satellite's orbit differs from the mathematical ideal orbit. A satellite's orbit in an ideal two-body system describes a conic section, usually an ellipse. In reality, there are several factors that cause the conic section to continually change. These deviations from the ideal Kepler's orbit are called perturbations.
In orbital mechanics, a frozen orbit is an orbit for an artificial satellite in which natural drifting due to the central body's shape has been minimized by careful selection of the orbital parameters. Typically, this is an orbit in which, over a long period of time, the satellite's altitude remains constant at the same point in each orbit. Changes in the inclination, position of the lowest point of the orbit, and eccentricity have been minimized by choosing initial values so that their perturbations cancel out. This results in a long-term stable orbit that minimizes the use of station-keeping propellant.
The position of the Sun in the sky is a function of both the time and the geographic location of observation on Earth's surface. As Earth orbits the Sun over the course of a year, the Sun appears to move with respect to the fixed stars on the celestial sphere, along a circular path called the ecliptic.