Orbital Decay 101
Orbital decay is commonly mentioned in advanced modern technology discussions; however many remain interested in learning more about this topic. What is it all about? What causes it to occur? How can it be prevented? What are the hazards it will bring to the environment and the people? These are just a few of the questions which will be briefly addressed by this article.
What is orbital decay?
Orbital decay is defined by many scientific sites. According to Wikipedia, it is the process of a prolonged reduction of a satellite’s orbit in reference to height. On the other hand, Answers.com refers to it as the lessening of the elliptical orbit eccentricity of a certain artificial satellite.
Which of the two definitions should we consider?
Both refer to the same thing, but a more credible source of information for its definition is provided by NASA. It defines orbital decay as the deterioration of a satellite’s orbit in space due to the interference it experiences while it goes outside the protective atmospheric jurisdiction of the earth. It is an inevitable scientific phenomenon which occurs in all artificial satellite and has to be conquered by mechanical principles for man to successfully launch satellites in outer space.
What are the major causes of orbital decay?
As mentioned by NASA, orbital decay is an event which happens with Low Earth Orbit satellites. These satellites linger around the earth's atmosphere but due to the puffed-up nature of our atmosphere, these satellites' experiences drag down forces resulting to orbital decay.
What are the effects of the different layers of the earth’s atmosphere?
Low orbit satellites will easily be affected by orbital decay, because it gradually sinks back into the earths gravitational system. These are normal effects on these artificial satellites, but if orbital decay can be prevented, then it is all the more economical for everyone. It entails not spending too much on new satellites to be launched each year because the existing satellites will remain efficient even after a couple of years.
Orbital Decay outside the Earth’s Atmosphere
Orbital decay is not limited to the earth atmosphere’s diverse layers. According to the Annual Reviews for the year 1997 of Astronomy & Astrophysics, the satellite in orbit called Solar Maximum Mission shows increasing orbital decay in comparison to the day rotation and the solar cycle. Graphs of these statistical analyses are easily viewed online.