Orbital Focus - International Spaceflight Facts and Figures
carousel image
Orbital Focus

Tyneside, UK
2024 Jul 24
Wednesday, Day 206

Curated by:



Follow Orbital Focus on Twitter - @OrbitalFocus or see the latest Tweets here

Providing Space Information Since 1999

Orbital Focus is a hobbyist website managed from the South Tyneside area of the UK. Here you will find things that interest me..... current space events, various national space programmes, satellite tracking.

Space History

Orbital Focus covers areas of space history from the beginning of the space age up to, and including today. There are detailed histories of selected events and programmes as well as analyses of orbits and trends. Links in the right hand menu will take you there.

Latest Events

Twitter imageOrbital Focus has a Twitter feed that carries up to date headline events on what's happening and timely reminders of upcoming events such as launches and dockings.

It is not necessary for you to have your own Twitter account because the most recent posts are available on a web page.

What's In Orbit?

imageSee the Orbital Focus launch lists for a range of years. They show satellite descriptions, launch records, detailed orbits and histories of orbital manoeuvres. Information is derived from data provided by SpaceTrack and from independent tracking undertaken by amateur satellite observers.

The lists run from 2008 to the present. Some earlier years starting in 1957 are also available.

Special Orbits

There are also detailed lists of satellites in specialised orbits. In Geosynchronous orbit satellites are mainly communications satellites and Earth observation vehicles watching a whole hemisphere at a time. Sun-synchronous orbits follow a track across the Earth's surface at the same time each day. They are principally imaging satellites taking advantage of the constant lighting conditions from day to day.

What's Coming Down?

imageMost objects that find their way into orbit eventually find their way back into the Earth's atmosphere, the event is often referred to as "Decay".

Natural decay of an orbit driven by air drag brings it closer to the upper atmosphere, resulting in greater air drag. Eventually, the drag will prove too much and it will enter the atmosphere. Re-entries can produce spectacular fireballs. Larger objects coming back into the Earth's atmosphere do not always burn away completely so there is a possibility of fragments hitting the ground.

In some cases, usually where the satellite is in a highly eccentric orbit, gravitational influences can force perigee deep into the Earth's atmosphere where air drag does the rest and decay occurs.

Sometimes re-entries are brought about deliberately by retro-fire slowing the vehicle down. Occasionally the objective is to ensure that any surviving fragments land in remote areas of the Ocean but sometimes the objective is to make a landing.

Tables show recent re-entries as well as predictions of forthcoming events. Information comes from SpaceTrack and is updated as new data comes in.

2016 - A Notable Anniversary

imageIn the 1960s, a small group of teachers and schoolboys were using basic radio equipment to eavesdrop on Soviet/Russian satellites. They came to prominence in 1966 when they deduced that the Soviet Union had made its first space launch from a new cosmodrome. 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the event that catapulted the group into the international limelight.

Talks and Lectures

imageIf some of the material on the Orbital Focus website interests you enough, and you represent a local astronomy society, club or any other group in the UK or around the world then a talk or lecture can be probably be arranged either face-to-face or via Zoom.

Use the 'mail' icon towards the upper right of the page if you are interested.

Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
Reproduction of this web page or any of its content without permission from the website owner is prohibited