Astrodynamics

Overview

**Orbital mechanics**or

**astrodynamics**is the application of ballistics

Ballistics

Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

and celestial mechanics

Celestial mechanics

Celestial mechanics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the motions of celestial objects. The field applies principles of physics, historically classical mechanics, to astronomical objects such as stars and planets to produce ephemeris data. Orbital mechanics is a subfield which focuses on...

to the practical problems concerning the motion of rocket

Rocket

A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

s and other spacecraft

Spacecraft

A spacecraft or spaceship is a craft or machine designed for spaceflight. Spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, planetary exploration and transportation of humans and cargo....

. The motion of these objects is usually calculated from Newton's laws of motion

Newton's laws of motion

Newton's laws of motion are three physical laws that form the basis for classical mechanics. They describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and its motion due to those forces...

and Newton's law of universal gravitation

Newton's law of universal gravitation

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them...

. It is a core discipline within space mission design and control. Celestial mechanics treats more broadly the orbital dynamics of systems under the influence of gravity, including both spacecraft and natural astronomical bodies such as star systems, planet

Planet

A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

s, moon

Moon

The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

s, and comet

Comet

A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

s.

Unanswered Questions

Discussions

Encyclopedia

**Orbital mechanics**or

**astrodynamics**is the application of ballistics

Ballistics

Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

and celestial mechanics

Celestial mechanics

Celestial mechanics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the motions of celestial objects. The field applies principles of physics, historically classical mechanics, to astronomical objects such as stars and planets to produce ephemeris data. Orbital mechanics is a subfield which focuses on...

to the practical problems concerning the motion of rocket

Rocket

A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

s and other spacecraft

Spacecraft

A spacecraft or spaceship is a craft or machine designed for spaceflight. Spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, planetary exploration and transportation of humans and cargo....

. The motion of these objects is usually calculated from Newton's laws of motion

Newton's laws of motion

Newton's laws of motion are three physical laws that form the basis for classical mechanics. They describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and its motion due to those forces...

and Newton's law of universal gravitation

Newton's law of universal gravitation

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them...

. It is a core discipline within space mission design and control. Celestial mechanics treats more broadly the orbital dynamics of systems under the influence of gravity, including both spacecraft and natural astronomical bodies such as star systems, planet

Planet

A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

s, moon

Moon

The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

s, and comet

Comet

A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

s. Orbital mechanics focuses on spacecraft trajectories

Trajectory

A trajectory is the path that a moving object follows through space as a function of time. The object might be a projectile or a satellite, for example. It thus includes the meaning of orbit—the path of a planet, an asteroid or a comet as it travels around a central mass...

, including orbital maneuver

Orbital maneuver

In spaceflight, an orbital maneuver is the use of propulsion systems to change the orbit of a spacecraft.For spacecraft far from Earth—for example those in orbits around the Sun—an orbital maneuver is called a deep-space maneuver .-delta-v:...

s, orbit plane changes, and interplanetary transfers, and is used by mission planners to predict the results of propulsive maneuvers

Spacecraft propulsion

Spacecraft propulsion is any method used to accelerate spacecraft and artificial satellites. There are many different methods. Each method has drawbacks and advantages, and spacecraft propulsion is an active area of research. However, most spacecraft today are propelled by forcing a gas from the...

. General relativity

General relativity

General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics...

is a more exact theory than Newton's laws for calculating orbits, and is sometimes necessary for greater accuracy or in high-gravity situations (such as orbits close to the Sun).

## History

Until the rise of space travelSpaceflight

Spaceflight is the act of travelling into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft which may, or may not, have humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the Russian Soyuz program, the U.S. Space shuttle program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station...

in the twentieth century, there was little distinction between orbital and celestial mechanics. The fundamental techniques, such as those used to solve the Keplerian problem (determining position as a function of time), are therefore the same in both fields. Furthermore, the history of the fields is almost entirely shared.

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler was a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. A key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution, he is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion, codified by later astronomers, based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican...

was the first to successfully model planetary orbits to a high degree of accuracy, publishing his laws

Kepler's laws of planetary motion

In astronomy, Kepler's laws give a description of the motion of planets around the Sun.Kepler's laws are:#The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci....

in 1605. Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

published more general laws of celestial motion in his 1687 book,

*Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica*.

### Rules of thumb

The following rules of thumb are useful for situations approximated by classical mechanicsClassical mechanics

In physics, classical mechanics is one of the two major sub-fields of mechanics, which is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces...

under the standard assumptions of astrodynamics. The specific example discussed is of a satellite orbiting a planet, but the rules of thumb could also apply to other situations, such as orbits of small bodies around a star such as the Sun.

- Kepler's laws of planetary motionKepler's laws of planetary motionIn astronomy, Kepler's laws give a description of the motion of planets around the Sun.Kepler's laws are:#The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci....

, which can be mathematically derived from Newton's laws, hold strictly only in describing the motion of two gravitating bodies, in the absence of non-gravitational forces, or approximately when the gravity of a single massive body like the Sun dominates other effects:- Orbits are ellipticalEllipseIn geometry, an ellipse is a plane curve that results from the intersection of a cone by a plane in a way that produces a closed curve. Circles are special cases of ellipses, obtained when the cutting plane is orthogonal to the cone's axis...

, with the planet at one focusFocus (geometry)In geometry, the foci are a pair of special points with reference to which any of a variety of curves is constructed. For example, foci can be used in defining conic sections, the four types of which are the circle, ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola...

of the ellipse. Special cases of this are circular orbits (a circle being simply an ellipse of zero eccentricityEccentricity (mathematics)In mathematics, the eccentricity, denoted e or \varepsilon, is a parameter associated with every conic section. It can be thought of as a measure of how much the conic section deviates from being circular.In particular,...

) with the planet at the center, and parabolicParabolaIn mathematics, the parabola is a conic section, the intersection of a right circular conical surface and a plane parallel to a generating straight line of that surface...

orbits (which are ellipses with eccentricity of exactly 1, which is simply an infinitely long ellipse) with the planet at the focus. - A line drawn from the planet to the satellite sweeps out
*equal areas in equal times*no matter which portion of the orbit is measured. - The square of a satellite's orbital period is proportional to the cube of its average distance from the planet.

- Orbits are elliptical
- Without applying thrustThrustThrust is a reaction force described quantitatively by Newton's second and third laws. When a system expels or accelerates mass in one direction the accelerated mass will cause a force of equal magnitude but opposite direction on that system....

(such as firing a rocket engine), the height and shape of the satellite's orbit won't change, and it will maintain the same orientation with respect to the fixed stars. - A satellite in a low orbit (or low part of an elliptical orbit) moves more quickly with respect to the surface of the planet than a satellite in a higher orbit (or a high part of an elliptical orbit), due to the stronger gravitational attraction closer to the planet.
- If thrust is applied at only one point in the satellite's orbit, it will return to that same point on each subsequent orbit, though the rest of its path will change. Thus to move from one circular orbit to another, at least two brief applications of thrust are needed.
- From a circular orbit, thrust in a direction which slows the satellite down will create an elliptical orbit with a lower periapse (lowest orbital point) at 180 degrees away from the firing point. If thrust is applied to speed the satellite, it will create an elliptical orbit with a higher apoapse 180 degrees away from the firing point.

The consequences of the rules of orbital mechanics are sometimes counter-intuitive. For example, if two spacecraft are in the same circular orbit and wish to dock

Space rendezvous

A space rendezvous is an orbital maneuver during which two spacecraft, one of which is often a space station, arrive at the same orbit and approach to a very close distance . Rendezvous requires a precise match of the orbital velocities of the two spacecraft, allowing them to remain at a constant...

, unless they are very close, the trailing craft cannot simply fire its engines to go faster. This will change the shape of its orbit, causing it to gain altitude and miss its target. One approach is to actually fire a reverse thrust to slow down, and then fire again to re-circularize the orbit at a lower altitude. Because lower orbits are faster than higher orbits, the trailing craft will begin to catch up. A third firing at the right time will put the trailing craft in an elliptical orbit which will intersect the path of the leading craft, approaching from below.

To the degree that the standard assumptions of astrodynamics do not hold, actual trajectories will vary from those calculated. For example, simple atmospheric drag is another complicating factor for objects in Earth orbit. These rules of thumb are decidedly inaccurate when describing two or more bodies of similar mass, such as a binary star system (see n-body problem

N-body problem

The n-body problem is the problem of predicting the motion of a group of celestial objects that interact with each other gravitationally. Solving this problem has been motivated by the need to understand the motion of the Sun, planets and the visible stars...

). (Celestial mechanics

Celestial mechanics

Celestial mechanics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the motions of celestial objects. The field applies principles of physics, historically classical mechanics, to astronomical objects such as stars and planets to produce ephemeris data. Orbital mechanics is a subfield which focuses on...

uses more general rules applicable to a wider variety of situations.) The differences between classical mechanics

Classical mechanics

In physics, classical mechanics is one of the two major sub-fields of mechanics, which is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces...

and general relativity

General relativity

General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics...

can also become important for large objects like planets.

### Orbital transfer

Transfer orbits are usually elliptical orbits that allow spacecraft to move from one (usually substantially circular) orbit to another. Usually they require a burn at the start, a burn at the end, and sometimes one or more burns in the middle.- Hohmann transfer orbitHohmann transfer orbitIn orbital mechanics, the Hohmann transfer orbit is an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits, typically both in the same plane....

requires a minimal delta-vDelta-vIn astrodynamics a Δv or delta-v is a scalar which takes units of speed. It is a measure of the amount of "effort" that is needed to change from one trajectory to another by making an orbital maneuver....

. - Bi-elliptic transferBi-elliptic transferIn astronautics and aerospace engineering, the bi-elliptic transfer is an orbital maneuver that moves a spacecraft from one orbit to another and may, in certain situations, require less delta-v than a Hohmann transfer....

s can sometimes require less energy than a Hohmann transfer. - For faster transfers, any orbit that intersects both the original orbit and destination orbit may be used.

### Gravity assist and the Oberth effect

In a gravity assist, a spacecraft swings by a planet and leaves in a different direction, at a different speed. This is useful to speed or slow a spacecraft instead of carrying more fuel.This maneuver can be approximated by an elastic collision

Elastic collision

An elastic collision is an encounter between two bodies in which the total kinetic energy of the two bodies after the encounter is equal to their total kinetic energy before the encounter...

at large distances, though the flyby does not involve any physical contact. Due to Newton's Third Law (equal and opposite reaction), any momentum gained by a spacecraft must be lost by the planet, or vice versa. However, because the planet is much, much more massive than the spacecraft, the effect on the planet's orbit is negligible.

The Oberth effect

Oberth effect

In astronautics, the Oberth effect is where the use of a rocket engine when travelling at high speed generates much more useful energy than one at low speed...

can be employed, particularly during a gravity assist operation. This effect is that use of a propulsion system works better at high speeds, and hence course changes are best done when close to a gravitating body; this can multiply the effective delta-v

Delta-v

In astrodynamics a Δv or delta-v is a scalar which takes units of speed. It is a measure of the amount of "effort" that is needed to change from one trajectory to another by making an orbital maneuver....

.

### Interplanetary Transport Network and fuzzy orbits

It is now possible to use computers to search for routes using the nonlinearities in the gravity of the planets and moons of the solar system. For example, it is possible to plot an orbit from high earth orbit to Mars, passing close to one of the Earth's Trojan points. Collectively referred to as the Interplanetary Transport NetworkInterplanetary Transport Network

The Interplanetary Transport Network is a collection of gravitationally determined pathways through the solar system that require very little energy for an object to follow. The ITN makes particular use of Lagrange points as locations where trajectories through space are redirected using little...

, these highly perturbative, even chaotic, orbital trajectories in principle need no fuel (in practice keeping to the trajectory requires some course corrections). The biggest problem with them is they can be exceedingly slow, taking many years to arrive. In addition launch windows can be very far apart.

They have, however, been employed on projects such as Genesis

Genesis (spacecraft)

The Genesis spacecraft was a NASA sample return probe which collected a sample of solar wind and returned it to Earth for analysis. It was the first NASA sample return mission to return material since the Apollo Program, and the first to return material from beyond the orbit of the Moon...

. This spacecraft visited Earth's Lagrange point and returned using very little propellant.

## Laws of astrodynamics

The fundamental laws of astrodynamics are Newton's law of universal gravitationNewton's law of universal gravitation

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them...

and Newton's laws of motion

Newton's laws of motion

Newton's laws of motion are three physical laws that form the basis for classical mechanics. They describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and its motion due to those forces...

, while the fundamental mathematical tool is his differential calculus

Calculus

Calculus is a branch of mathematics focused on limits, functions, derivatives, integrals, and infinite series. This subject constitutes a major part of modern mathematics education. It has two major branches, differential calculus and integral calculus, which are related by the fundamental theorem...

.

Every orbit and trajectory outside atmospheres is in principle reversible, i.e., in the space-time function the time is reversed. The velocities are reversed and the accelerations are the same, including those due to rocket bursts. Thus if a rocket burst is in the direction of the velocity, in the reversed case it is opposite to the velocity. Of course in the case of rocket bursts there is no full reversal of events, both ways the same delta-v is used and the same mass ratio

Mass ratio

In aerospace engineering, mass ratio is a measure of the efficiency of a rocket. It describes how much more massive the vehicle is with propellant than without; that is, it is the ratio of the rocket's wet mass to its dry mass...

applies.

Standard assumptions in astrodynamics include non-interference from outside bodies, negligible mass for one of the bodies, and negligible other forces (such as from the solar wind, atmospheric drag, etc.). More accurate calculations can be made without these simplifying assumptions, but they are more complicated. The increased accuracy often does not make enough of a difference in the calculation to be worthwhile.

Kepler's laws of planetary motion

Kepler's laws of planetary motion

In astronomy, Kepler's laws give a description of the motion of planets around the Sun.Kepler's laws are:#The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci....

may be derived from Newton's laws, when it is assumed that the orbiting body is subject only to the gravitational force of the central attractor. When an engine thrust or propulsive force is present, Newton's laws still apply, but Kepler's laws are invalidated. When the thrust stops, the resulting orbit will be different but will once again be described by Kepler's laws. The three laws are:

- The orbitOrbitIn physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

of every planetPlanetA planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

is an ellipseEllipseIn geometry, an ellipse is a plane curve that results from the intersection of a cone by a plane in a way that produces a closed curve. Circles are special cases of ellipses, obtained when the cutting plane is orthogonal to the cone's axis...

with the sun at one of the fociFocus (geometry)In geometry, the foci are a pair of special points with reference to which any of a variety of curves is constructed. For example, foci can be used in defining conic sections, the four types of which are the circle, ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola...

. - A lineLine (mathematics)The notion of line or straight line was introduced by the ancient mathematicians to represent straight objects with negligible width and depth. Lines are an idealization of such objects...

joining a planet and the sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time. - The squares of the orbital periodOrbital periodThe orbital period is the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object.When mentioned without further qualification in astronomy this refers to the sidereal period of an astronomical object, which is calculated with respect to the stars.There are several kinds of...

s of planets are directly proportionalProportionality (mathematics)In mathematics, two variable quantities are proportional if one of them is always the product of the other and a constant quantity, called the coefficient of proportionality or proportionality constant. In other words, are proportional if the ratio \tfrac yx is constant. We also say that one...

to the cubeCube (arithmetic)In arithmetic and algebra, the cube of a number n is its third power — the result of the number multiplying by itself three times:...

s of the semi-major axisSemi-major axisThe major axis of an ellipse is its longest diameter, a line that runs through the centre and both foci, its ends being at the widest points of the shape...

of the orbits.

### Escape velocity

The formula for escape velocityEscape velocity

In physics, escape velocity is the speed at which the kinetic energy plus the gravitational potential energy of an object is zero gravitational potential energy is negative since gravity is an attractive force and the potential is defined to be zero at infinity...

is easily derived as follows. The specific energy

Specific energy

Specific energy is defined as the energy per unit mass. Common metric units are J/kg. It is an intensive property. Contrast this with energy, which is an extensive property. There are two main types of specific energy: potential energy and specific kinetic energy. Others are the gray and sievert,...

(energy per unit mass

Mass

Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

) of any space vehicle is composed of two components, the specific potential energy

Potential energy

In physics, potential energy is the energy stored in a body or in a system due to its position in a force field or due to its configuration. The SI unit of measure for energy and work is the Joule...

and the specific kinetic energy

Kinetic energy

The kinetic energy of an object is the energy which it possesses due to its motion.It is defined as the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes...

. The specific potential energy associated with a planet of mass

Mass

Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

*M*is given by

while the specific kinetic energy of an object is given by

Since energy is conserved

Conservation of energy

The nineteenth century law of conservation of energy is a law of physics. It states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant over time. The total energy is said to be conserved over time...

, the total specific orbital energy

Specific orbital energy

In the gravitational two-body problem, the specific orbital energy \epsilon\,\! of two orbiting bodies is the constant sum of their mutual potential energy and their total kinetic energy , divided by the reduced mass...

does not depend on the distance, , from the center of the central body to the space vehicle in question. Therefore, the object can reach infinite only if this quantity is nonnegative, which implies

The escape velocity from the Earth's surface is about 11 km/s, but that is insufficient to send the body an infinite distance because of the gravitational pull of the Sun. To escape the solar system from a location at a distance from the Sun equal to the distance Sun-Earth, but not close to the Earth, requires around 42 km/s velocity, but there will be "part credit" for the Earth's orbital velocity for spacecraft launched from Earth, if their further acceleration (due to the propulsion system) carries them in the same direction as Earth travels in its orbit.

### Formulae for free orbits

Orbits are conic sectionConic section

In mathematics, a conic section is a curve obtained by intersecting a cone with a plane. In analytic geometry, a conic may be defined as a plane algebraic curve of degree 2...

s, so, naturally, the formulas for the distance of a body for a given angle corresponds to the formula for that curve in polar coordinates, which is:

where μ is called the gravitational parameter, G is the gravitational constant

Gravitational constant

The gravitational constant, denoted G, is an empirical physical constant involved in the calculation of the gravitational attraction between objects with mass. It appears in Newton's law of universal gravitation and in Einstein's theory of general relativity. It is also known as the universal...

, m

_{1}and m

_{2}are the masses of objects 1 and 2, and h is the angular momentum

Angular momentum

In physics, angular momentum, moment of momentum, or rotational momentum is a conserved vector quantity that can be used to describe the overall state of a physical system...

of object 2 with respect to object 1. The parameter

*θ*is known as the true anomaly

True anomaly

In celestial mechanics, the true anomaly is an angular parameter that defines the position of a body moving along a Keplerian orbit. It is the angle between the direction of periapsis and the current position of the body, as seen from the main focus of the ellipse .The true anomaly is usually...

,

*p*is the semi-latus rectum

Conic section

In mathematics, a conic section is a curve obtained by intersecting a cone with a plane. In analytic geometry, a conic may be defined as a plane algebraic curve of degree 2...

, while

*e*is the orbital eccentricity

Orbital eccentricity

The orbital eccentricity of an astronomical body is the amount by which its orbit deviates from a perfect circle, where 0 is perfectly circular, and 1.0 is a parabola, and no longer a closed orbit...

, all obtainable from the various forms of the six independent orbital elements

Orbital elements

Orbital elements are the parameters required to uniquely identify a specific orbit. In celestial mechanics these elements are generally considered in classical two-body systems, where a Kepler orbit is used...

.

### Circular orbits

All bounded orbits where the gravity of a central body dominates are elliptical in nature. A special case of this is the circular orbit, which is an ellipse of zero eccentricity. The formula for the velocity of a body in a circular orbit at distance*r*from the center of gravity of mass

*M*is

where is the gravitational constant

Gravitational constant

The gravitational constant, denoted G, is an empirical physical constant involved in the calculation of the gravitational attraction between objects with mass. It appears in Newton's law of universal gravitation and in Einstein's theory of general relativity. It is also known as the universal...

, equal to

- 6.672 598 × 10
^{−11}m^{3}/(kg·s^{2})

To properly use this formula, the units must be consistent; for example,

*M*must be in kilograms, and

*r*must be in meters. The answer will be in meters per second.

The quantity

*GM*is often termed the standard gravitational parameter

Standard gravitational parameter

In astrodynamics, the standard gravitational parameter μ of a celestial body is the product of the gravitational constant G and the mass M of the body.\mu=GM \ The SI units of the standard gravitational parameter are m3s−2....

, which has a different value for every planet or moon in the solar system

Solar System

The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

.

Once the circular orbital velocity is known, the escape velocity

Escape velocity

In physics, escape velocity is the speed at which the kinetic energy plus the gravitational potential energy of an object is zero gravitational potential energy is negative since gravity is an attractive force and the potential is defined to be zero at infinity...

is easily found by multiplying by the square root of 2:

### Elliptical Orbits

If 0The maximum value r is reached when θ = 180. This point is called the apoapsis, and its radial coordinate, denoted r

_{a}, is

Let 2a be the distance measured along the apse line from periapsis P to apoapsis A, as illustrated in the equation below:

Substituting the equations above, we get:

a is the semimajor axis of the ellipse. Solving for r we get:

#### Orbital period

Under standard assumptions the orbital periodOrbital period

The orbital period is the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object.When mentioned without further qualification in astronomy this refers to the sidereal period of an astronomical object, which is calculated with respect to the stars.There are several kinds of...

() of a body traveling along an elliptic orbit can be computed as:

where:

- is standard gravitational parameterStandard gravitational parameterIn astrodynamics, the standard gravitational parameter μ of a celestial body is the product of the gravitational constant G and the mass M of the body.\mu=GM \ The SI units of the standard gravitational parameter are m3s−2....

, - is length of semi-major axisSemi-major axisThe major axis of an ellipse is its longest diameter, a line that runs through the centre and both foci, its ends being at the widest points of the shape...

.

Conclusions:

- The orbital period is equal to that for a circular orbitCircular orbitA circular orbit is the orbit at a fixed distance around any point by an object rotating around a fixed axis.Below we consider a circular orbit in astrodynamics or celestial mechanics under standard assumptions...

with the orbit radius equal to the semi-major axisSemi-major axisThe major axis of an ellipse is its longest diameter, a line that runs through the centre and both foci, its ends being at the widest points of the shape...

(), - For a given semi-major axis the orbital period does not depend on the eccentricity (See also: Kepler's third law).

#### Velocity

Under standard assumptions the orbital speedOrbital speed

The orbital speed of a body, generally a planet, a natural satellite, an artificial satellite, or a multiple star, is the speed at which it orbits around the barycenter of a system, usually around a more massive body...

() of a body traveling along

**elliptic orbit**can be computed from the Vis-viva equation

Vis-viva equation

In astrodynamics, the vis viva equation, also referred to as orbital energy conservation equation, is one of the fundamental and useful equations that govern the motion of orbiting bodies....

as:

where:

- is the standard gravitational parameterStandard gravitational parameterIn astrodynamics, the standard gravitational parameter μ of a celestial body is the product of the gravitational constant G and the mass M of the body.\mu=GM \ The SI units of the standard gravitational parameter are m3s−2....

, - is the distance between the orbiting bodies.
- is the length of the semi-major axisSemi-major axis

.

The velocity equation for a hyperbolic trajectory

Hyperbolic trajectory

In astrodynamics or celestial mechanics a hyperbolic trajectory is a Kepler orbit with the eccentricity greater than 1. Under standard assumptions a body traveling along this trajectory will coast to infinity, arriving there with hyperbolic excess velocity relative to the central body. Similarly to...

has either + , or it is the same with the convention that in that case

*a*is negative.

#### Energy

Under standard assumptions, specific orbital energySpecific orbital energy

In the gravitational two-body problem, the specific orbital energy \epsilon\,\! of two orbiting bodies is the constant sum of their mutual potential energy and their total kinetic energy , divided by the reduced mass...

() of elliptic orbit is negative and the orbital energy conservation equation (the Vis-viva equation

Vis-viva equation

In astrodynamics, the vis viva equation, also referred to as orbital energy conservation equation, is one of the fundamental and useful equations that govern the motion of orbiting bodies....

) for this orbit can take the form:

where:

- is orbital speedOrbital speedThe orbital speed of a body, generally a planet, a natural satellite, an artificial satellite, or a multiple star, is the speed at which it orbits around the barycenter of a system, usually around a more massive body...

of orbiting body, - is distance of orbiting body from central bodyCentral bodyIn astrodynamics a central body is a body that is being orbited by an secondary body, or satellite .The central body is properly referred to as the primary body.Under standard assumptions in astrodynamics:...

, - is length of semi-major axisSemi-major axis

, - is standard gravitational parameterStandard gravitational parameter

.

Conclusions:

- For a given semi-major axis the specific orbital energy is independent of the eccentricity.

Using the virial theorem we find:

- the time-average of the specific potential energy is equal to 2ε
- the time-average of
*r*^{−1}is*a*^{−1}

- the time-average of
- the time-average of the specific kinetic energy is equal to -ε

### Parabolic Orbits

If the eccentricity equals 1, then the orbit equation becomes:where:

- is radial distance of orbiting body from central bodyCentral bodyIn astrodynamics a central body is a body that is being orbited by an secondary body, or satellite .The central body is properly referred to as the primary body.Under standard assumptions in astrodynamics:...

, - is specific angular momentum of the orbiting bodyOrbiting bodyIn astrodynamics, an orbiting body is a body that orbits a primary body .The orbiting body is properly referred to as the secondary body.It is less massive than the primary body ....

, - is a true anomalyTrue anomalyIn celestial mechanics, the true anomaly is an angular parameter that defines the position of a body moving along a Keplerian orbit. It is the angle between the direction of periapsis and the current position of the body, as seen from the main focus of the ellipse .The true anomaly is usually...

of the orbiting body, - is the standard gravitational parameterStandard gravitational parameter

.

As the true anomaly θ approaches 180°,the denominator approaches zero, so that

*r*tends towards infinity. Hence, the energy of the trajectory for which

*e*=1 is zero, and is given by:

where:

- is the orbital velocityOrbital velocityOrbital velocity can refer to the following:* The orbital speed of a body in a gravitational field.* The velocity of particles due to wave motion, in particular in wind waves....

of the orbiting body.

In other words, the speed anywhere on a parabolic path is:

### Hyperbolic Orbits

If*e*>1, the orbit formula,

describes the geometry of the hyperbolic orbit. The system consists of two symmetric curves. the orbiting body occupies one of them. The other one is its empty mathematical image. Clearly, the denominator of the equation above goes to zero when cos

*θ*= -1/

*e*. we denote this value of true anomaly

*θ*_{∞}= cos^{-1}(-1/*e*)

since the radial distance approaches infinity as the true anomaly approaches

*θ*

_{∞}.

*θ*

_{∞}is known as the

*true anomaly of the asymptote*. Observe that

*θ*

_{∞}lies between 90° and 180°. From the trig identity sin

^{2}

*θ*+cos

^{2}

*θ*=1 it follows that:

sin *θ*_{∞}= (e^{2}-1)^{1/2}/e

#### Energy

Under standard assumptions, specific orbital energySpecific orbital energy

In the gravitational two-body problem, the specific orbital energy \epsilon\,\! of two orbiting bodies is the constant sum of their mutual potential energy and their total kinetic energy , divided by the reduced mass...

() of a hyperbolic trajectory

Hyperbolic trajectory

In astrodynamics or celestial mechanics a hyperbolic trajectory is a Kepler orbit with the eccentricity greater than 1. Under standard assumptions a body traveling along this trajectory will coast to infinity, arriving there with hyperbolic excess velocity relative to the central body. Similarly to...

is greater than zero and the orbital energy conservation equation for this kind of trajectory takes form:

where:

- is orbital velocityOrbital velocityOrbital velocity can refer to the following:* The orbital speed of a body in a gravitational field.* The velocity of particles due to wave motion, in particular in wind waves....

of orbiting body, - is radial distance of orbiting body from central bodyCentral bodyIn astrodynamics a central body is a body that is being orbited by an secondary body, or satellite .The central body is properly referred to as the primary body.Under standard assumptions in astrodynamics:...

, - is the negative semi-major axisSemi-major axis

, - is standard gravitational parameterStandard gravitational parameter

.

#### Hyperbolic excess velocity

Under standard assumptions the body traveling along hyperbolic trajectory will attain in infinity an orbital velocityOrbital velocity

Orbital velocity can refer to the following:* The orbital speed of a body in a gravitational field.* The velocity of particles due to wave motion, in particular in wind waves....

called hyperbolic excess velocity () that can be computed as:

where:

- is standard gravitational parameterStandard gravitational parameter

, - is the negative semi-major axisSemi-major axis

of orbitOrbitIn physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

's hyperbolaHyperbolaIn mathematics a hyperbola is a curve, specifically a smooth curve that lies in a plane, which can be defined either by its geometric properties or by the kinds of equations for which it is the solution set. A hyperbola has two pieces, called connected components or branches, which are mirror...

.

The hyperbolic excess velocity is related to the specific orbital energy

Specific orbital energy

or characteristic energy by

### Kepler's equation

One approach to calculating orbits (mainly used historically) is to use Kepler's equationKepler's equation

Kepler's equation is M = E -\epsilon \cdot \sin E ,where M is the mean anomaly, E is the eccentric anomaly, and \displaystyle \epsilon is the eccentricity....

:.

where

*M*is the mean anomaly

Mean anomaly

In celestial mechanics, the mean anomaly is a parameter relating position and time for a body moving in a Kepler orbit. It is based on the fact that equal areas are swept at the focus in equal intervals of time....

,

*E*is the eccentric anomaly

Eccentric anomaly

In celestial mechanics, the eccentric anomaly is an angular parameter that defines the position of a body that is moving along an elliptic Kepler orbit.For the point P orbiting around an ellipse, the eccentric anomaly is the angle E in the figure...

, and is the eccentricity

Eccentricity (mathematics)

In mathematics, the eccentricity, denoted e or \varepsilon, is a parameter associated with every conic section. It can be thought of as a measure of how much the conic section deviates from being circular.In particular,...

.

With Kepler's formula, finding the time-of-flight to reach an angle (true anomaly

True anomaly

In celestial mechanics, the true anomaly is an angular parameter that defines the position of a body moving along a Keplerian orbit. It is the angle between the direction of periapsis and the current position of the body, as seen from the main focus of the ellipse .The true anomaly is usually...

) of from periapsis is broken into two steps:

- Compute the eccentric anomaly from true anomaly
- Compute the time-of-flight from the eccentric anomaly

Finding the eccentric anomaly at a given time (the inverse problem) is more difficult. Kepler's equation is transcendental

Transcendental function

A transcendental function is a function that does not satisfy a polynomial equation whose coefficients are themselves polynomials, in contrast to an algebraic function, which does satisfy such an equation...

in , meaning it cannot be solved for algebraically

Algebraic function

In mathematics, an algebraic function is informally a function that satisfies a polynomial equation whose coefficients are themselves polynomials with rational coefficients. For example, an algebraic function in one variable x is a solution y for an equationwhere the coefficients ai are polynomial...

. Kepler's equation can be solved for analytically

Analytic function

In mathematics, an analytic function is a function that is locally given by a convergent power series. There exist both real analytic functions and complex analytic functions, categories that are similar in some ways, but different in others...

by inversion.

A solution of Kepler's equation, valid for all real values of is:

Evaluating this yields:

Alternatively, Kepler's Equation can be solved numerically. First one must guess a value of and solve for time-of-flight; then adjust as necessary to bring the computed time-of-flight closer to the desired value until the required precision is achieved. Usually, Newton's method

Newton's method

In numerical analysis, Newton's method , named after Isaac Newton and Joseph Raphson, is a method for finding successively better approximations to the roots of a real-valued function. The algorithm is first in the class of Householder's methods, succeeded by Halley's method...

is used to achieve relatively fast convergence.

The main difficulty with this approach is that it can take prohibitively long to converge for the extreme elliptical orbits. For near-parabolic orbits, eccentricity is nearly 1, and plugging into the formula for mean anomaly, , we find ourselves subtracting two nearly-equal values, and accuracy suffers. For near-circular orbits, it is hard to find the periapsis in the first place (and truly circular orbits have no periapsis at all). Furthermore, the equation was derived on the assumption of an elliptical orbit, and so it does not hold for parabolic or hyperbolic orbits. These difficulties are what led to the development of the universal variable formulation

Universal variable formulation

In orbital mechanics, the universal variable formulation is a method used to solve the two-body Kepler problem. It is a generalized form of Kepler's Equations, extending them to apply not only to elliptic orbits, but also parabolic and hyperbolic orbits...

, described below.

### Conic orbits

For simple procedures, such as computing the delta-vDelta-v

In astrodynamics a Δv or delta-v is a scalar which takes units of speed. It is a measure of the amount of "effort" that is needed to change from one trajectory to another by making an orbital maneuver....

for coplanar transfer ellipses, traditional approaches are fairly effective. Others, such as time-of-flight are far more complicated, especially for near-circular and hyperbolic orbits.

### The patched conic approximation

The Hohmann transfer orbit alone is a poor approximation for interplanetary trajectories because it neglects the planets' own gravity. Planetary gravity dominates the behaviour of the spacecraft in the vicinity of a planet and in most cases Hohmann severely overestimates delta-v, and produces highly inaccurate prescriptions for burn timings.A relatively simple way to get a first-order approximation

Orders of approximation

In science, engineering, and other quantitative disciplines, orders of approximation refer to formal or informal terms for how precise an approximation is, and to indicate progressively more refined approximations: in increasing order of precision, a zeroth order approximation, a first order...

of delta-v is based on the 'Patched Conic Approximation' technique. One must choose the one dominant gravitating body in each region of space through which the trajectory will pass, and to model only that body's effects in that region. For instance, on a trajectory from the Earth to Mars, one would begin by considering only the Earth's gravity until the trajectory reaches a distance where the Earth's gravity no longer dominates that of the Sun. The spacecraft would be given escape velocity

Escape velocity

In physics, escape velocity is the speed at which the kinetic energy plus the gravitational potential energy of an object is zero gravitational potential energy is negative since gravity is an attractive force and the potential is defined to be zero at infinity...

to send it on its way to interplanetary space. Next, one would consider only the Sun's gravity until the trajectory reaches the neighbourhood of Mars. During this stage, the transfer orbit model is appropriate. Finally, only Mars's gravity is considered during the final portion of the trajectory where Mars's gravity dominates the spacecraft's behaviour. The spacecraft would approach Mars on a hyperbolic orbit, and a final retrograde burn would slow the spacecraft enough to be captured by Mars.

The size of the "neighborhoods" (or spheres of influence

Sphere of influence (astrodynamics)

A sphere of influence in astrodynamics and astronomy is the spherical region around a celestial body where the primary gravitational influence on an orbiting object is that body...

) vary with radius :

where is the semimajor axis of the planet's orbit relative to the Sun

Sun

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

; and are the mass

Mass

Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

es of the planet and Sun, respectively.

This simplification is sufficient to compute rough estimates of fuel requirements, and rough time-of-flight estimates, but it is not generally accurate enough to guide a spacecraft to its destination. For that, numerical methods are required.

### The universal variable formulation

To address computational shortcomings of traditional approaches for solving the 2-body problem, the universal variable formulationUniversal variable formulation

In orbital mechanics, the universal variable formulation is a method used to solve the two-body Kepler problem. It is a generalized form of Kepler's Equations, extending them to apply not only to elliptic orbits, but also parabolic and hyperbolic orbits...

was developed. It works equally well for the circular, elliptical, parabolic, and hyperbolic cases, the differential equations converging well when integrated for any orbit. It also generalizes well to problems incorporating perturbation theory.

### Perturbations

The universal variable formulation works well with the variation of parameters technique, except now, instead of the six Keplerian orbital elements, we use a different set of orbital elements: namely, the satellite's initial position and velocity vectors and at a given epoch . In a two-body simulation, these elements are sufficient to compute the satellite's position and velocity at any time in the future, using the universal variable formulation. Conversely, at any moment in the satellite's orbit, we can measure its position and velocity, and then use the universal variable approach to determine what its initial position and velocity*would have been*at the epoch. In perfect two-body motion, these orbital elements would be invariant (just like the Keplerian elements would be).

However, perturbations cause the orbital elements to change over time. Hence, we write the position element as and the velocity element as , indicating that they vary with time. The technique to compute the effect of perturbations becomes one of finding expressions, either exact or approximate, for the functions and .

### Non-ideal orbits

The following are some effects which make real orbits differ from the simple models based on a spherical earth. Most of them can be handled on short timescales (perhaps less than a few thousand orbits) by perturbation theory because they are small relative to the corresponding two-body effects.- Equatorial bulges cause precessionPrecessionPrecession is a change in the orientation of the rotation axis of a rotating body. It can be defined as a change in direction of the rotation axis in which the second Euler angle is constant...

of the node and the perigee - Tesseral harmonics of the gravity field introduce additional perturbations
- Lunar and solar gravity perturbations alter the orbits
- Atmospheric drag reduces the semi-major axis unless make-up thrust is used

Over very long timescales (perhaps millions of orbits), even small perturbations can dominate, and the behaviour can become chaotic

Chaos theory

Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the...

. On the other hand, the various perturbations can be orchestrated by clever astrodynamicists to assist with orbit maintenance tasks, such as station-keeping, ground track

Ground track

A ground track or ground trace is the path on the surface of the Earth 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 satellite ground track may be thought of as a path along the Earth's surface...

maintenance or adjustment, or phasing of perigee to cover selected targets at low altitude.

## See also

- Kepler orbitKepler orbitIn celestial mechanics, a Kepler orbit describes the motion of an orbiting body as an ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola, which forms a two-dimensional orbital plane in three-dimensional space...
- Spacecraft propulsionSpacecraft propulsionSpacecraft propulsion is any method used to accelerate spacecraft and artificial satellites. There are many different methods. Each method has drawbacks and advantages, and spacecraft propulsion is an active area of research. However, most spacecraft today are propelled by forcing a gas from the...
- Tsiolkovsky rocket equationTsiolkovsky rocket equationThe Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, or ideal rocket equation is an equation that is useful for considering vehicles that follow the basic principle of a rocket: where a device that can apply acceleration to itself by expelling part of its mass with high speed and moving due to the conservation of...
- AerodynamicsAerodynamicsAerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...
- AstrophysicsAstrophysicsAstrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behavior...
- Celestial mechanicsCelestial mechanics
- Universal variable formulationUniversal variable formulationIn orbital mechanics, the universal variable formulation is a method used to solve the two-body Kepler problem. It is a generalized form of Kepler's Equations, extending them to apply not only to elliptic orbits, but also parabolic and hyperbolic orbits...
- Chaos theoryChaos theoryChaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the...
- Lagrangian pointLagrangian pointThe Lagrangian points are the five positions in an orbital configuration where a small object affected only by gravity can theoretically be stationary relative to two larger objects...
- N-body problemN-body problemThe n-body problem is the problem of predicting the motion of a group of celestial objects that interact with each other gravitationally. Solving this problem has been motivated by the need to understand the motion of the Sun, planets and the visible stars...
- OrbitOrbitIn physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...
- Roche limitRoche limitThe Roche limit , sometimes referred to as the Roche radius, is the distance within which a celestial body, held together only by its own gravity, will disintegrate due to a second celestial body's tidal forces exceeding the first body's gravitational self-attraction...
- Canonical unitsCanonical unitsIn astrodynamics, A canonical unit is a unit of measurement defined in terms of an object's reference orbit. In this system, a reference mass, for example the sun, is assumed to be 1 "mass unit" and the mean distance from the orbiting object to the reference object is considered the "distance...
- Aerospace EngineeringAerospace engineeringAerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction and science of aircraft and spacecraft. It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering...
- Mechanical EngineeringMechanical engineeringMechanical engineering is a discipline of engineering that applies the principles of physics and materials science for analysis, design, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems. It is the branch of engineering that involves the production and usage of heat and mechanical power for the...

## External links

- ORBITAL MECHANICS (Rocket and Space Technology)
- Java Astrodynamics Toolkit