7.1.2 Satellite Motion

Because of the small value of G, (G=6.67\times {{10}^{{-11}}}\text{ N k}{{\text{g}}^{{-2}}}\text{ }{{\text{m}}^{2}}), gravitational force is a negligibly weak force between everyday objects of ordinary masses. However, the gravitational force exerted by massive bodies such as planets and stars are large and influential. Gravitation is the reason why apples fall to the ground, satellites orbit the Earth and planets orbit the Sun.


Ignoring air resistance, calculate the required speed v0 for an object to go into orbit just above the Earth’s surface.

Earth’s radius =6370\text{ km}

Earth’s mass =5.97\times {{10}^{{24}}}\text{ kg}


Gravitational pull provides the required centripetal force.

\displaystyle \begin{aligned}{{F}_{g}}&={{F}_{c}}\\G\frac{{Mm}}{{{{r}^{2}}}}&=m\frac{{{{v}^{2}}}}{r}\\v&=\sqrt{{\frac{{GM}}{r}}}\\&=\sqrt{{\frac{{(6.67\times {{{10}}^{{-11}}})(5.97\times {{{10}}^{{24}}})}}{{6370\times {{{10}}^{3}}}}}}\\&=7910\text{ m }{{\text{s}}^{{-1}}}\end{aligned}

Video Explanation

Why doesn’t the Moon Fall Down? (Alice and Bob in Wonderland)

How to Park a Satellite?

How to Calculate Orbital Speed?


Newton’s Cannon

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