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Lageos orbit decay due to infrared radiation from earthInfrared radiation from the earth may be the principal reason for the decay of Lageos' orbit. The radiation heats up the laser retroreflectors embedded in Lageos' aluminum surface. This creates a north-south temperature gradient on the satellite. The gradient in turn causes a force to be exerted on Lageos because of recoil from photons leaving its surface. The delayed heating of the retroreflectors due to their thermal inertia gives the force a net along-track component which always acts like drag. A simple thermal model for the retroreflectors indicates that this thermal drag accounts for about half the observed average along-track acceleration of -3.3 x 10 to the -10th power m/sec squared. The contribution from the aluminum surface to this effect is negligible. The infrared effect cannot explain the large observed fluctuations in drag which occur mainly when the orbit intersects the earth's shadow.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Rubincam, David Parry (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 13, 2013
Publication Date
February 10, 1987
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 92
ISSN: 0148-0227
Subject Category
Distribution Limits