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getting into orbit


If we can get a satellite into orbit it will stay there, but what are the problems of getting it there?

Checklist 1 - Get your satellite above the atmosphere Checklist 2 - Get the satellite moving sideways fast enough to keep it up there!

First, we must get our satellite above the atmosphere. Air resistance from even the very thin atmosphere found at a height of 100 km would quickly slow a satellite down and make it fall back down to Earth. Even a height of 300 km (the lowest possible for a satellite) is on the boundary of the atmosphere and satellites at that height often need the occasional extra kick to keep their speed sufficiently high to continue orbiting.

Secondly, by the time the satellite reaches orbital height, it must have a sideways speed high enough to keep it in orbit. Otherwise it will just fall back down again!


Image of a satellite orbiting the Earth


Apart from using a multi-stage rocket, are there any other ways of getting a satellite into orbit? Would these be sensible ways to launch a satellite? If not, can you explain why?


Use a high-flying aircraft to take the satellite into space?

Use a very large gun to fire the satellite into space?

Stand on a very high ladder?

A very large balloon?

Can you suggest any other possible ways of launching a satellite, even though they might only work in your imagination?


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