# ISS or satellites in space how do these remain in the same spot without drifting?

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• Anonymous

The ISS is in low Earth orbit, and is far from remaining in the same spot. It orbits Earth every 90 minutes. It is literally falling around Earth horizontally at 17,000 mph. Gravity is pulling the satellite (in this case, the ISS) down, but the satellite is traveling fast enough horizontally that it never comes down.

Satellites orbit at different speeds based on their altitudes. The farther you move from Earth, the slower a satellite needs to go to orbit. The moon makes one orbit in about a month. It's about 230,000 miles away. The ISS makes one orbit in about 90 minutes, at about 230 miles above Earth. At about 22,300 miles up, satellites can maintain a geostationary orbit over Earth's equator. At this altitude, a satellite's orbital velocity matches Earth's rotational speed.

• Anonymous

All objects in space are in an orbit around something, including most satellites and the ISS which orbit Earth.

An orbit is a path in space determined by momentum and gravity. The ISS orbit is nearly circular, but many orbits are more elliptical. The higher the altitude of the orbit, the slower the object moves along its orbital path.

However, satellites do indeed "drift" in the sense that their mathematically defined orbits don't take into account other effects. Astrodynamicists call those effects "perturbations."

Low orbiting objects are not fully outside the reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Even small wisps of gas slow down a spacecraft slightly. Low orbiting objects must periodically be "boosted" back up into a higher orbit. If that doesn't happen, the object falls back down to Earth, as happened to NASA's Skylab space station.

Other objects exert a gravitational effect. Satellites orbiting Earth from a distance, such as the DirecTV satellites in the geostationary belt, are affected by the Moon's gravity.

Even the shape of the Earth plays a part. The Earth is not a perfect sphere, it is flattened at the poles and bulges at the equator. That means as satellites in high inclination orbits pass across the equator, they experience slightly more gravitation toward Earth than in the polar parts of their orbits.

Some spacecraft generate magnetic fields as part of the operation of their electronics or scientific packages. Those fields interact with Earth's magnetic field to speed up or slow down the spacecraft. That's a two-edged sword though, because engineers can use that interaction to intentionally apply an impulse to the spacecraft by electromagnetic means.

Satellites in precision orbits must deal also with low-order effects such as light pressure from the sun and the solar wind.

Toward that end, most large satellites have a guidance and propulsion system that can be used for orbital stationkeeping.

Source(s): Aerospace engineer. Marcel Sidi, "Spacecraft Control"
• Will
Lv 7

Every satellite moves. There is no such thing as staying in the same spot.

But some satellites give the impression that they are in the same spot all of the time. A geosynchronous satellite moves at exactly the right speed to match the movement of the Earth beneath it. So, relative to the ground, it stays in the same spot. This is how things like DirecTV work. Sometimes the satellite will drift slightly, but it has thrusters which can easily push itself back into place.

The ISS orbits the Earth about every 95 minutes. It doesn't even come close to staying in the same spot.

They don't, they actually orbit the Earth at high speed. Only satellites in the geostationary orbit appear to remain in the same spot, because their orbital speed is the same as the Earth's rotational speed.

• 4 years ago

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No satellite stays in the same spot. That's why they have thrusters. So they can correct perturbations. The closest you can get to "staying in the same spot" is when an object is parked in a Lagrange Point http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrange_point .

• Anonymous

And in addition to what the above poster said, you can track it at such websites as: http://www.amsat.org/amsat-new/tools/predict/satlo...

Because they are in a geostationary orbit. They always stay in the same position.