Analysis of Orbital Systems

  • Krafft A. Ehricke


The paper presents an analysis of orbital systems, consisting of the orbital establishment, its supply vehicles and their technique of operation. Satellite orbits are classified as permanent (stationary for more than 10 years) and as temporary. The lower altitude limit for permanent satellite orbits appears to be 450 to 500 miles. These orbits are occupied by observational satellites. An altitude range between 500 and 700 miles is found to be relatively most desirable for observational satellites. Three types of temporary orbits are defined, namely auxiliary orbits (120 to 150 miles altitude; duration of occupation a few hours at the most; purpose is payload transfer), orbits of departure of astronautical expeditions, particularly into the translunar space (350 to 400 miles altitude; duration of occupation about one year or less; purpose is assembly of inter-orbital vehicles), and orbits of arrival of astronautical expeditions (30,000 to 40,000 miles altitude for Venus or Mars expeditions; duration of occupation for a few days by returning expedition until being picked up by orbital vehicle from the earth). It is shown that the optimum satellite orbit of departure is as close to the earth as feasible and that the optimum orbit of return as well as the optimum satellite orbit at the target planet vary with the target planet. Therefore, with the exception of the orbit of arrival, all satellite orbits preferably lie below 700 miles altitude, that is, within the physical atmosphere of the earth.

Orbital supply systems are discussed, distinguishing between passenger-carrying and load-carrying orbital vehicles. The latter type is fully automatic. A large supply vehicle will be needed for periods of establishing orbital installations. For their maintenance a small version is anticipated. Desirable features and configurations for observational satellites and for orbital vehicles are discussed.



lift coefficient




apparent centrifugal force


orbital inclination with respect to the ecliptic


precession constant


distance from the sun


distance from the earth


distance of optimum satellite orbit of departure with respect to a given interplanetary transfer ellipse


lifting area


period of regression of the orbital nodes due to polar-precession


period of regression with respect to the half of the globe being exposed to the sun


sidereal period of revolution in an orbit




vehicle weight




angle of attack


or γ parameter of the terrestrial gravity field (6.254 · 104 n · mi3/sec2 = 3.98 · 105 km3/sec2)


parameter of the solar gravity field (2.067 · 1010 n mi3/sec2 = = 1.36 · 1011km3/sec3)


orbital inclination with respect to the equator


displacement thickness of the boundary layer


trajectory angle


mean free molecular path


air density


ϱ y /ϱ 00


angular velocity of satellite in orbit


rate of regression


angular velocity Subscripts


apogee or aphelion




perigee or perihelion




referring to altitude y


surface value


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Krafft A. Ehricke, The Foundations of Interplanetary Flight, Part 1 (in German). Research Series of the Nordwest-Deutsche Gesellschaft für Weltraumforschung e. V., No. 1 (1950).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A. V. Cleaver, A Programme for Achieving Interplanetary Flight. J. Brit. Interplan. Soc. 13, 1 (1954).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Krafft A. Ehricke, A Method of Using Small Orbital Carriers for the Establishment of Large Satellites. Amer. Rocket Soc, Paper 69/52.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Krafft A. Ehricke, A New Supply System for Satellite Orbits. Part 1. Jet Propulsion 24, 302 (1954); Part 2. Jet Propulsion 24, 369 (1954).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Krafft A. Ehricke, A Comparison of Propellants and Working Fluids for Rocket Propulsion. J. Amer. Rocket Soc. 23, 287 (1953).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Irene Sänger-Bredt, On the Thermodynamics of Working Fluids for Atomic Rockets (in German). Z. Naturforsch. 8 a, 796 (1953).ADSGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    K. R. Stehling, Earth Scanning Techniques for a Small Orbital Rocket Vehicle. Amer. Rocket Soc, Paper 97/53.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    L. Spitzer, Jr., Perturbations of a Satellite Orbit. J. Brit. Interplan. Soc. 9, 131 (1950).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    D. Brouwer, The Motion of a Particle with Negligible Mass under the Gravitational Attraction of a Spheroid. Astronom. J. 51, 223 (1946).ADSCrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Krafft A. Ehricke, The Establishment of Large Satellites by Means of Small Orbital Carriers. Paper presented at the Third International Astronautical Congress at Stuttgart, Germany, Sept. 1952, Probleme aus der Astronautischen Grundlagenforschung. Stuttgart: Gesellschaft für Weltraumforschung, 1952.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    K. W. Gatland, A. M. Kunesch, and A. E. Dixon, Fabrication of the Orbital Vehicle. J. Brit. Interplan. Soc. 12, 274 (1953).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    W. von Braun, The Mars Project. Urbana, Illinois: The University of Illinois Press, 1953.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    H. Noordung, The Problem of Space Flight (in German), First Ed. Berlin: R. C. Schmidt & Co., 1929.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    H. S. Tsien, Superaerodynamics, Mechanics of Rarified Gases. J. Aeronaut. Sci. 13, 653 (1946).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    G. Grimminger, Analysis of Temperature, Pressure and Density of the Atmosphere Extending to Extreme Altitudes. Santa Monica, Calif.: The RAND Corporation, Nov. 1948.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    E. Sänger, The Gaskinetics of Very High Flight Speed. N.A.C.A. Techn. Mem. 1270, May 1950.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    J. R. Stalder and V. J. Zuriçk, Theoretical Aerodynamic Characteristics of Bodies in a Free Molecule Flow Field. N.A.C.A. Techn. Note 2423, July 1951.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    J. R. Stalder, G. Goodwin, and M. O. Creager, A Comparison of Theory and Experiment for High Speed Free Molecule Flow. N.A.C.A. Techn. Note 2244, Dec. 1950.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    R. M. Drake Jr., and G. J. Maslach, Heat Transfer from Right Circular Cones to a Rarified Gas in Supersonic Flow. University of California, Berkeley, Report HE—150—91, 1952.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    J. R. Stalder and D. Jukoff, Heat Transfer to Bodies Traveling at High Speed in the Upper Atmosphere. N.A.C.A. Techn. Note 1682, August 1948Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    J. R. Stalder, G. Goodwin, and M. O. Creager, Heat Transfer to Bodies in High Speed Rarified Gas Stream. N.A.C.A. Techn. Note 2438, August 1951.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    F. M. Sauer, Convective Heat Transfer from Spheres in a Free Molecule Flow. J. Aeronaut. Sci. 18, 353 (1951).CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    A. K. Oppenheim, Generalized Theory of Convective Heat Transfer in Free-Molecule Flow. J. Aeronaut. Sci. 20, 49 (1953).CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    L. Lees, On the Boundary Layer Equations in Hypersonic Flow and their Approximate Solutions. J. Aeronaut. Sci. 20, No 2 (1953).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    E. Sänger and Irene Bredt, A Rocket Drive for Long Range Bombers. Dtsch. Luftfahrt-Forschung UM 3538, August 1944, Transl. by M. Hamermesh, Radio Research Laboratory, Reproduced by R. Cornog, 990 Cheltenham Road, Santa Barbara, California.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    G. B. W. Young and E. Janssen, The Compressible Boundary Layer. J. Aeronaut. Sci. 19, 229 (1952).CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1955

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krafft A. Ehricke
    • 1
  1. 1.Preliminary Design DepartmentBell Aircraft CorporationBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations