Orbital Mechanics and Military Satellites

  • Paolo Farinella
  • Bruno Bertotti
Part of the Studies in Disarmament and Conflicts book series (SDC)


Since the beginning of the space age in 1957, both superpowers have launched into earth orbit a great number and variety of military satellites. In order to understand better their functioning, capabilities and the constraints to which they are subjected, it is useful to have some knowledge of orbital mechanics, that is of the laws of motion in space and of their applications to various types of artificial satellites designed to carry out some specific mission of military interest. Motion in space occurs according to rules that are strikingly different with respect to those we are used to on the earth’s surface, and the purpose of this chapter is thus to acquaint the reader with these rules in a simple and non-technical way.


Orbital Plane Artificial Satellite Ground Track Geosynchronous Orbit Vernal Equinox 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, N. L. Johnson, ‘The Cosmos Calculator’, Spaceflight, vol. xxv, no. 11 (November 1983) 413–15.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    General textbooks on celestial mechanics and dynamical astronomy containing brief but informative chapters on artificial satellites are, for example, A. E. Roy, Orbital Motion (Bristol, 1978);Google Scholar
  3. and V. M. Blanco and S. W. McCuskey, Basic Physics of the Solar System (London, 1970).Google Scholar
  4. A more technical but thorough book is W. H. Kaula, Theory of Satellite Geodesy (Waltham, Massachusetts, 1966).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts, Tenth Course 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Farinella
  • Bruno Bertotti

There are no affiliations available

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