Do heavier satellites orbit closer to Earth and lighter ones farther away?  

Asked on by airhead996

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william1941 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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For a satellite orbiting the Earth, there is force of gravitation between the Earth and the satellite that keeps it in the required orbit. Else the satellite would move in a tangential straight line.

Now the Gravitational force is given as G*Ms*Me*/R^2, where Ms is the mass of the satellite, Me is the mass of the Earth, R is the distance of the satellite from the Earth and G is the universal gravitational constant.

Now depending of the speed of the satellite the centripetal force can be expressed as Ms*v^2/R

Equating the two we get G*Ms*Me*/R^2 = Ms*v^2/R

=> G*Me/R = v^2

=> R = [G*Me/v^2]

So we see that the radius of the satellite’s orbit or what is its distance from the Earth is not decided by its mass, but rather by the speed it is moving at. A faster satellite orbits closer to the Earth and a slower satellite orbits farther from the Earth.

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