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)
  • zachd-ter
    11/19/2015 - 09:20 a.m.

    Its so crazy that satellites are always falling. Its also crazy that the sun can pull the satellite to.

  • mollyp-ter
    11/19/2015 - 09:27 a.m.

    The author said "straight and narrow",because the satellites have to stay in line with earth for them to stay in space and if they are to close to earth they would get pulled into earth. Also I find this article very interesting though I've never really wondered how satellites stay in the air but i find it very interesting question.

  • emilyr1-ter
    11/19/2015 - 09:36 a.m.

    It depends on the speed that the satellites are going.

  • thanht-ter
    11/19/2015 - 10:20 a.m.

    Satellites work hard, I mean always trying to avoid asteroids and space junk!

  • maxp-ter
    11/19/2015 - 10:23 a.m.

    Hmmm... I kind of already knew most of that stuff... would've liked a little more info...

  • camiloc-ter
    11/19/2015 - 11:10 a.m.

    It depends on the speed of the satellite.And perfect geometry formulas.

  • shababk-ter
    11/19/2015 - 11:13 a.m.

    Its fascinating that satellites aren't just orbiting Earth.

  • justinc1-gon
    11/19/2015 - 11:37 a.m.

    It has to stay straight and narrow to make sure it wont fall back to earth.

  • galilenc-
    11/19/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    the author says that because the satellites need to stay in a direct line with the earth.

  • nevaehm-
    11/19/2015 - 01:01 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).

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