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Energies of a Satellite in a Circular Orbit 

When there is a satellite revolving in a stable circular orbit of radius r around the earth, its speed is given by the above equation. During its motion, the kinetic energy of the satellite can be given as

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET As the gravitational force on the satellite due to the earth is the only force it experiences during motion, it has gravitational interaction energy in the field of the earth, which is given as

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET Thus the total energy of a satellite in an orbit of radius r can be given as

Total energy E = Kinetic energy + K Potential Energy U

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET or Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET We can see that, Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

The above relation in the magnitude of total, kinetic and potential energies of a satellite is very useful in numerical problems so it is advised to keep this relation in mind while handling satellite problems related to energy.

Now to understand satellite and planetary motion in detail, we take a few examples.

Example 1: Estimate the mass of the sun, assuming the orbit of the earth round the sun to be a circle. The distance between the sun and earth is 1.49 × 1011 m and G = 6.66 × 10-11 Nm2/kg2

Solution:

Here the revolving speed of the earth can be given as

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET [Orbital speed]

Where M is the mass of the sun and r is the orbit radius of the earth.

We know time period of Earth around the sun is T = 365 days, thus we have

T = Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET 

or Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET or

M = Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET  =Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET = 1.972 × 1022 kg

Example 2: If the earth is one-half of its present distance from the sun, how many days will be in one year ? 

Solution: If the orbit of earth's radius is R, in the previous example we've discussed that time period is given as,

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

If the radius changes or r' = Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET, new time period becomes

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

From the above equations, we have

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET or Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET = Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Example 3: A satellite revolving in a circular equatorial orbit of radius r = 2.00 × 104 km from west to east appears over a certain point at the equator every t = 11.6 hours. Using this data, calculate the mass of the earth. The gravitational constant is supposed to be known. 

Solution: Here the absolute angular velocity of the satellite is given by

ω = ωs + ωE

Where wE is the angular velocity of the earth, which is from west to east.

or Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET [Where t = 11.6 hr. and T = 24 hr.]

From Kepler's III law, we have Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Thus we have Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

or Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEETEnergy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET = 6.0 × 1024 kg

Example 4: A satellite of mass m is moving in a circular orbit of radius r. Calculate its angular momentum with respect to the centre of the orbit in terms of the mass of the earth. 

Solution: The situation is shown in the figure

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

The angular momentum of the satellite with respect to the centre of orbit is given by

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

where Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET is the position vector of the satellite with respect to the centre of orbit and Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET is its velocity vector of the satellite.

In the case of a circular orbit, the angle between Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET and Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET is 90°. Hence

L = m v r sin 90° = m v r 

The direction is perpendicular to the plane of the orbit.

We know the orbital speed of the satellite is

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET 

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET ⇒ Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Now we will understand the concept of the double star system through an example.

Example 5: In a double star, two stars of masses m1 and m2. distance d apart revolves around their common centre of mass under the influence of their mutual gravitational attraction. Find an expression for the period T in terms of masses m1, m2 and d. Find the ratio of their angular momenta about the centre of mass and also the ratio of their kinetic energies.

Sol. The centre of mass of the double star from mass m1 is given by

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET The distance of the centre of mass from m2 is

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Both the stars rotate around the centre of mass in their circular orbits with the same angular speed ω.

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

the gravitational force acting on each star provides the necessary centripetal force. if we consider the rotation of mass m1, then

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET or Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

This gives w = Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET = Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

or Period of revolution

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

The ratio of Angular Momenta is

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

The ratio of kinetic energies is 

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Motion of a Satellite in Elliptical Path

Whenever a satellite is in a circular or elliptical path, these orbits are called bounded orbits as the satellite is moving in an orbit bounded to Earth. The bound nature of orbit means that the kinetic energy of the satellite is not enough at any point in the orbit to take the satellite to infinity. In equation shows the negative total energy of a revolving satellite shows its boundness to Earth. Even when a body is in an elliptical path around the earth, its total energy must be negative. Let's first discuss how a satellite or a body can be in an elliptical path.

Consider a body (satellite) of mass m in a circular path of radius r around the earth as shown in the figure. we've discussed that in a circular path, the net gravitational frame on the body is exactly balancing the centrifugal force on it in a radial direction relative to a rotating frame with the body.

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

If suddenly the velocity of the body decreases then the centrifugal force on it becomes less than the gravitational force acting on it and due to this it can not continue in the circular orbit and will come inward from the circular orbit due to unbalanced force. Mathematical analysis shows that this path-I along which the body is now moving is an ellipse. The analytical calculations of the laws for this path are beyond the scope of this book. But it should be kept in mind that if the velocity of a body at a distance r from the earth's centre tangential to the circular orbit is less than Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET then its path will be elliptical with earth's centre at one of the foci of the ellipse.

Similarly, if the speed of the body exceeds Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET then it must move out of the circular path due to unbalancing of forces again but this time Fe > Fg. Due to this if the speed of the body is not increased by such a value that its kinetic energy can take the particle to infinity then it will follow in a bigger elliptical orbit as shown in figure in path-II, with earth's at one of the foci of the orbit.

In the above case when the speed of the body was decreased and its value is lesser than Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET and the speed is decreased to such a value that the elliptical orbit will intersect the earth's surface as shown in the figure, then the body will follow an arc of the ellipse and will fall back to earth.

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Satellite Motion and Angular Momentum Conservation

We've discussed that when a body is in bounded orbit around a planet it can be in a circular or elliptical path depending on its kinetic energy at the time of launching. Let's consider a case when a satellite is launched in an orbit around the earth.

A satellite S is first fired away from the earth's source in the vertical direction to penetrate the earth's atmosphere. When it reaches point A, it is imparted a velocity in the tangential direction to start its revolution around the earth in its orbit.

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

This velocity is termed insertion velocity, if the velocity imparted to the satellite is Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET then it starts following the circular path shown in the figure. If the velocity imparted is v1 > v0 then it will trace the elliptical path shown. During this motion, the only force acting on the satellite is the gravitational force due to Earth which is acting along the line joining the satellite and the centre of earth.

As the force on the satellite always passes through the centre of the earth during motion, we can say that on a satellite there is no torque acting about the centre of the earth thus total angular momentum of the satellite during orbital motion remains constant about the earth's centre.

As no external force is involved for the earth-satellite system, no external work is being done here so we can also state that the total mechanical energy of the system also remains conserved.

In the elliptical path of the satellite shown in the figure if r1 and r2 are the shortest distance (perigee) and farthest distance (apogee) of the satellite from Earth and at the points, velocities of the satellite are v1 and v2 then we have according to the conservation of angular momentum, the angular momentum of the satellite at a general point is given as

L = mv1r1 = mv2r2 = mvr sinθ

During motion, the total mechanical energy of a satellite (kinetic potential) also remains conserved. Thus the total energy of the satellite can be given as

Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET

Using the above relations in the equation written above we can find velocities v1 and v2 of satellites at nearest and farthest locations in terms of r1 and r2.

The document Energy of a Satellite | Physics Class 11 - NEET is a part of the NEET Course Physics Class 11.
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FAQs on Energy of a Satellite - Physics Class 11 - NEET

1. What is the energy of a satellite?
Ans. The energy of a satellite refers to the total amount of energy it possesses due to its motion and position in space. It includes both kinetic energy, which is associated with its motion, and potential energy, which is related to its position in the gravitational field.
2. How is the energy of a satellite calculated?
Ans. The energy of a satellite can be calculated using the formula: E = KE + PE, where E represents the total energy, KE represents the kinetic energy, and PE represents the potential energy. The kinetic energy can be calculated using the formula KE = (1/2)mv^2, where m is the mass of the satellite and v is its velocity. The potential energy can be calculated using the formula PE = -GMm/r, where G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass of the celestial body (e.g., Earth), m is the mass of the satellite, and r is the distance between the satellite and the celestial body.
3. How does the energy of a satellite affect its orbit?
Ans. The energy of a satellite plays a crucial role in determining its orbit. If the energy is positive, the satellite is in an unbound orbit and will escape the gravitational pull of the celestial body. If the energy is negative, the satellite is in a bound orbit and will continue to orbit the celestial body. The magnitude of the energy also affects the shape of the orbit, with higher energy resulting in more elongated elliptical orbits and lower energy leading to more circular orbits.
4. Can the energy of a satellite be changed?
Ans. Yes, the energy of a satellite can be changed through various mechanisms. For example, by firing its thrusters, a satellite can increase or decrease its velocity, thereby altering its kinetic energy. Additionally, by changing its altitude or distance from the celestial body, a satellite can change its potential energy. These changes in energy can lead to changes in the orbit of the satellite.
5. How does the energy of a satellite relate to its stability?
Ans. The energy of a satellite is directly related to its stability. A satellite in a higher energy state, such as a highly elliptical orbit, is less stable compared to a satellite in a lower energy state, such as a circular orbit. This is because a higher energy state implies that the satellite is closer to escaping the gravitational pull of the celestial body, making its orbit more susceptible to perturbations. On the other hand, a lower energy state provides a more stable orbit with less susceptibility to external influences.
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