Atmospheric Drag and Lost Objects in Orbit

Image Credit: Image courtesy of Air Force Space Command.
NORAD has the responsibility for keeping track of objects that are in orbit around the Earth down to a certain critical size. Following major magnetic storm activity, the atmosphere heats and expands, exerting an increased drag on satellites in orbit around the Earth. These satellites slow down and as a result change their orbits. NORAD has to re-identify hundreds of objects and record their new orbits after a large magnetic storm event. During this storm event, for example, the SMM (Solar Maximum Mission) spacecraft was reported to have "dropped as if it hit a brick wall" due to the increased atmospheric drag.

Last modified prior to September, 2000 by the Windows Team

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