I did a lab for my physics class and now I need help with the worksheet. I have attached the worksheet questions.Name
Lab 17: Satellite Motion
Satellite Motion
To investigate the conditions for launching a satellite and maintaining stable
orbital motion
Try looking into the night sky in an open field away from city lights. If you look
closely enough, you might eventually see what looks like a star moving quickly
across the sky. But what you see is not a star. It is one of many satellites that
have been launched into orbit around Earth. These satellites move around
Earth in much the same way as the moon does. Satellites are carefully put into
orbit and their orbit is maintained with just the force of gravity, but other
orbiting spacecraft require booster rockets to maintain or change their orbits.
The gravitational laws that govern orbiting satellites are simple, but require
precise conditions to exactly reach the anticipated elliptical orbits.
Skills Focus
Predicting, controlling variables, drawing conclusions, observing cause and
1. Start Virtual Physics and select Satellite Motion from the list of assignments.
The lab will open in the Mechanics laboratory.
2. The laboratory will be set up with a ball on the screen. The ball’s mass is
100 kg. Attached to the ball is a plunger that you will use to launch the ball
into motion. A radial gravitational field, which is the same as Earth’s, has
also been set up. You will hit the ball with the plunger and observe its
motion as it is pulled by gravity towards Earth’s surface. The goal is to hit
the ball with the amount of force that will put it into a stable orbit around
the gravity center.
3. The ball is set 100 km away from the center of the radial gravity source.
Predicting What will happen if you let the ball go without applying any
force from the plunger?
ISBN 1-269-73240-4
4. Try your prediction by clicking the Start button. The plunger is not hitting
the ball at all. Observe the motion of the ball. The experiment will stop
automatically when the ball reaches the source.
5. Click the Reset button to bring the ball back to the starting position. This
time you will use the plunger to hit the ball. Use the Forces tab under the
Parameters Palette to choose a plunger force. Remember that you want to put
the ball into an orbit around the gravitational source. Start the ball by
clicking the Force button. The experiment will stop automatically if the ball
runs into the origin. Observe whether or not the ball goes into orbit.
Satellite Motion
Virtual Physics Lab Workbook, by Brian F. Woodfield, Steven Haderlie, Heather J. McKnight, and Bradley D. Moser. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions.
Copyright © 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.
Satellite Motion
6. Reset the experiment and adjust the force if necessary using the Force section
of the Parameters Palette. Record in the table below the force used, the
reaction of the ball to that force, and what you think needs to be adjusted to
reach a stable orbit.
7. Repeat Step 6 until you have found a force that makes the ball travel in an
orbit around the source. Remember to Reset the ball after every attempt.
Data Table
Force on
Initial Distance
from Source
Reaction of
8. What other variables would affect the orbit of a satellite? Hint: Think about
the variables the lab had already set, those that you didn’t get to choose.
9. Controlling Variables Reset the experiment and change one of the
variables you just identified in Step 8, either by clicking on the ball and
plunger or adjusting variables in the Parameters Palette. Using the same force
you used earlier to achieve a successful orbit, launch the ball into orbit.
What did you observe? Why?
Satellite Motion
Virtual Physics Lab Workbook, by Brian F. Woodfield, Steven Haderlie, Heather J. McKnight, and Bradley D. Moser. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions.
Copyright © 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.
ISBN 1-269-73240-4
Analyze and Conclude
Satellite Motion
1. Drawing Conclusions Now you have learned about a few of the variables
that NASA engineers think about when they put a satellite into orbit. The
mass of the satellite, the orbit’s distance from Earth, and the amount of force
in the direction of the orbit (thrust) are important variables for orbital
motion. You will now adjust satellite motion with a rocket thruster force.
Click on the plunger and drag it to the spotlight on the transfer table at the
top of the screen. Click the green Zoom Out button, then click inside the
Stockroom window to enter. Double click on the plunger to return it to the
shelf, then double click the rocket to select it. Click the green Return to Lab
arrow and click on the on-screen table or TV screen to return to the
Experiment View.
2. Pull the rocket down and place it on the ball. Click the Force button to fire
the rocket. It will only fire for 1 second. Adjust the ignition time, force, and
angle until you can make a stable circular orbit. Report the conditions you
3. Observing Cause and Effect You can also fire the rocket multiple times
while the rocket is moving. Set up an orbit, then fire the rocket at different
points of the orbit and record how the ability to add force at different times
during the orbit affects the orbit.
ISBN 1-269-73240-4
4. Set up an elliptical orbit and then fire the rocket when needed to transform
the orbit into a circular orbit. Report on the positions in the orbit where it
was best to fire the rocket in order to adjust the orbit.
Satellite Motion
Virtual Physics Lab Workbook, by Brian F. Woodfield, Steven Haderlie, Heather J. McKnight, and Bradley D. Moser. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions.
Copyright © 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.

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