Mean motion

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In orbital mechanics, mean motion (represented by n\,\!) is a measure of how fast a satellite progresses around its elliptical orbit. The mean motion is the time-average angular velocity over an orbit. In particular for circular orbits, the angular velocity is constant, and so it equals the mean motion.

In databases of satellite orbital parameters the mean motion is typically measured in number of revolutions per day.


n =  \sqrt{\frac{ G( M \! + \!m ) }{a^3}}\,\!

For satellite orbital parameters:

n =  d\sqrt{\frac{ G( M \! + \!m ) }{4\pi^2 a^3}}\,\!


Related formulae[edit]

The mean motion has a unit of radian or degrees per unit time

n =  \frac{2\pi}{P}

The mean motion for satellite orbital parameters is a ratio and thus have no units

n =  \frac{d}{P}

where d is the amount of time in a day and P is the orbital period.


n =  \frac{M_1 - M_0}{t}

where M1 and M0 are the mean anomalies at particular points in time, and t is the time elapsed between the two. M0 is referred to as the mean anomaly at epoch, and t the time since epoch.

See also[edit]