What keeps satellites from falling out of the sky? The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit above Earth. (Thinkstock)
What keeps satellites from falling out of the sky?
Lexile

You asked us, "What keeps satellites from falling out of the sky?"
 
Over the last half-century, more than 2,500 satellites have followed the first one into space. What keeps them all afloat?  It is a delicate balance between a satellite's speed and the pull of gravity.
 
Satellites are basically constantly falling. Crazy, right?
 
They fall at the same rate that the curve of the Earth falls away from them if they're moving at the right speed.  Which means instead of racing farther out into space or spiraling down to Earth, they hang out in orbit around the planet.
 
Corrections are often needed to keep a satellite on the straight and narrow.
 
Earth's gravity is stronger in some places than others.  Satellites can get pulled around by the sun, the moon and even the planet Jupiter.
 
You would think gravity was enough to deal with. But, satellites in low earth orbit such as the Hubble Space Telescope can also get pulled out of their orbit by drag from the atmosphere.
 
Not to mention the ongoing game of Frogger that satellites have to play.  That's so they can avoid space junk and other high flyers.
 
Heads up!

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did the author say satellites need to stay on the “straight and narrow” when satellites actually need to follow the curve of the Earth?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (156)
  • aidano-1-bar
    11/18/2015 - 04:11 p.m.

    The author said "straight and narrow" because the satellites must stay in a direct line with earth. I find s article interesting because its cool how they are timed precisely to follow the speed of earth.

  • kevinb-1-bar
    11/18/2015 - 05:49 p.m.

    The author said that because the satellites need to stay in a specific line around the earth and so they don't fly away, or crash land on earth. They also said how satellites keep falling and that's how they stay up. What I though about this article is that it didn't interest me that much, and I have read better articles.

  • josiec-1-bar
    11/18/2015 - 06:07 p.m.

    The author said "straight and narrow" because other things in space such as the gravitational force from another object. IT could also be another the atmosphere thats affects the satellites Then the other planets could pull the satellites from it's natural orbit around earth to another place in space (the video). My opinion is that this would be a very hard job to do beceasue you would have to be constantly checking the orbit of the satellite to see if it's orbit around earth is staing consistent so it doesn't go off track.

  • william1108-yyca
    11/18/2015 - 07:42 p.m.

    WOW! I never knew about that. I also never thought of why satellites float. But now that I read this article I now know. Maybe I can learn more about it if I go online and search up stuff about satellites.

  • carlosp-6-bar
    11/18/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    The author said the satellites need to stay on the "straight and narrow" because it says in paragraph five "Corrections are often needed to keep a satellite on the straight and narrow." they need to make corrections every now and then because the satellite isn't always exactly in the right path orbiting the Earth so they need to keep it on the "straight and narrow meaning they need to put it on the right path and fix the orbit slightly.
    I think that this is a very interesting article because I have always wondered how the satellites don't just float away in space or crash into Earth and this article helped me understand why and how. I am still trying to understand how people can change the course of the satellites without actually going out into space.

  • carsonb-2-bar
    11/18/2015 - 10:23 p.m.

    The author was referring to the actual course the satellite travels, not its relationship to the earth that is curved.

  • williamb-6-bar
    11/18/2015 - 11:46 p.m.

    Satellites need to be straight and narrow because they must stay in a direct line from earth. I think it is crazy how satellites have to move around asteroids so they won't get destroyed. It is interesting that satellites have to move at the same speed earth does. I never knew that satellites could be moved from other planets.

  • ayeayemu-eri
    11/19/2015 - 02:20 a.m.

    Because satellites in low earth can get pulled out of their orbit by dragging from the atmosphere.

  • autianae-ste
    11/19/2015 - 08:44 a.m.

    I think this article is pretty interesting. With so much to think about to keep the satellites in orbit and for them to work is unbelievable. So much we can find out with these creators and equipment that today's generation has come up with.

  • alicev-ter
    11/19/2015 - 09:18 a.m.

    This still doesn't tell how do they not get destroyed or lost in space still. Also I know that the orbit keeps the satellites in reach but when it gets lost do you jut replace it or try to find it because it cannot stay in orbit perfectly and can get lost in space still even with the orbit.

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