Satellites, Centripetal Force and Tangential Motion

A GCSE-level quiz relating to the Satellites section in the OCR Gateway Physics P5 module. It asks about the different types of orbit an artificial satellite can have around Earth, the orbital path of each type of satellite and how each satellite's distance from Earth affects its orbit.

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1. Gravity provides something, without which objects such as planets would not orbit their stars and instead move away at a tangent. What is it that gravity provides that prevents this from happening?

  • Centripetal force
  • Friction
  • Tangential motion
  • Momentum
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2. The particular height of the orbit of a geostationary satellite ensures that:

  • the satellite's orbital period is 24 hours long, so it appears stationary when observing from the Earth's surface
  • the satellite can orbit the Earth much faster than the rate that it is turning
  • the satellite remains stationary
  • the satellite is able to pass over the entire surface of the Earth, as the Earth continues to turn whilst the satellite orbits

3. Satellites in low polar orbit are closer to the Earth's surface. This means that a higher gravitational force of attraction is present between the satellite and the Earth. Does this affect the tangential speed required to keep a satellite in orbit?

  • Yes, because the small distance between the Earth and the satellite produces a high centripetal acceleration. A high tangential speed is required.
  • No, because the distance between the Earth and the satellite will not affect the centripetal acceleration of the satellite. Any tangential speed can be applied and it will not affect the satellite's trajectory.
  • Yes, because the small distance between the Earth and the satellite produces a high centripetal acceleration. A low tangential speed is required.
  • Yes, because the small distance between the Earth and the satellite produces a low centripetal acceleration. The tangential speed must be high.

4. How does the tangential motion of a satellite orbiting Earth affect its trajectory?

  • It doesn't.
  • The tangential motion of a satellite affects its speed, not its trajectory.
  • If the tangential motion of the satellite is too slow, it will fall to the Earth's surface. If the tangential motion of the satellite is too fast, it will travel away from Earth and into space.
  • If the tangential motion of the satellite is too slow, it will travel away from the Earth and into space. If the tangential motion of the satellite is too fast, it will fall to the Earth's surface.

5. Due to the gravitational force of attraction between an artificial satellite and the Earth, the Earth's artificial satellites are:

  • constantly drifting away from the Earth
  • occasionally accelerating towards the Earth
  • constantly accelerating towards the Earth
  • constantly decelerating

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