What is an Orbital Velocity?

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Sep 9, 2022

Orbital Velocity is defined as the minimum velocity at which an object requires to revolve around another object. The objects that revolve around the earth in a uniform circular motion are said to be in an orbit and the orbital velocity is essential to ensure that the object stays in its intended orbit. The inertia of a moving body tends to make it move in a straight line, however, in space, the gravitational force of the earth pulls the moving body down and the path that is traced is then elliptical.

The concept of orbital velocity is very essential in space exploration. It is primarily used by space agencies to understand how to launch space satellites and how to maintain orbit at a specific velocity.

If the satellite’s orbital velocity is higher than the optimal value, it faces the risk of flying out of orbit and into space, rendering the satellite out of bounds. Additionally, If the orbital velocity is kept too low, the satellite will be pulled back to earth due to gravity causing it to crash and burn. Hence, if the correct orbital velocity is maintained the gravity of the earth balances the inertia of the satellite, pulling it down to the earth’s surface just enough to enable the satellite to traverse in its intended orbit.

At higher altitudes, the speed required to keep a satellite in orbit changes. The speed of the satellite in an orbit is inversely proportional to the altitude from the earth’s surface.

The orbital velocity of any given satellite is calculated by the given formula:

where v = Orbital velocity, G = Gravitational constant, M = Mass of the body at center, and R = Radius of the orbit.