The Rotational Motion of a Satellite and Atmospheric Density Determination

  • V. V. Beletskii
  • V. M. Grigorevsky
  • S. Ya. Kolesnik
Part of the COSPAR-IAU-IUTAM book series (IUTAM)


The effect on a rotating satellite of aerodynamic moments resulting from collision with air molecules is considered. Both the diffuse reflection and mirror reflection of molecules from the satellite surface are taken into account. The fact that the atmosphere density may be dissimilar in different altitudes even within the satellite’s length, is also taken into consideration.

Under these conditions a general expression is derived for the moment of aerodynamic forces. It is shown to be the sum of three moments associated with the orbital motion of the satellite, its rotation and the existence of the atmospheric density gradient. Let us call them the moments of aerodynamic pressure, aerodynamic friction and “aerogradient”.

The analysis of these for a satellite having geometric and dynamic axes of symmetry and a plane of symmetry perpendicular to the axis of symmetry has shown that the moment of aerodynamic pressure can produce an autorotation — a peculiar twisting of the satellite that causes an acceleration of the satellite’s spin. The spin can be also accelerated by the moment of aerogradient. The integration of the equation of satellite motion allowing for the moment of aerodynamic friction has enabled us to derive a formula determining the atmosphere density from the satellite drag.

Comparative estimations of the effect of each of the above moments have been carried out, and values of atmosphere density have been computed taking account of aerodynamic mass center (and the influence of other moments) are extensively considered in (1).


Dynamic Symmetry Angular Moment Atmosphere Density Aerodynamic Pressure Aerodynamic Moment 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag, Berlin/Heidelberg 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. V. Beletskii
    • 1
  • V. M. Grigorevsky
    • 1
  • S. Ya. Kolesnik
    • 1
  1. 1.MoscowRussia

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