Brandon Rhodes' retweet says

I’ve recently followed @TSKelso as a fun way to keep up with the surprising volume of rocket launches these days, and the new http://celestrak.com viewer shown here is great for showing friends the volume of objects we now have in Earth orbit.

and links to @TSKelso's tweet:

There’s a lot going on in Earth orbit of late. You can see this by clicking the globe next to the Last 30 Day’s Launches at the top of the page at https://celestrak.com/NORAD/elements/. Green orbits are the satellites and red are the rocket bodies that put them in orbit.

These are probably second stage (as opposed to third) rocket bodies and in three cases in this particular image their orbits are only slightly (seen from this distance) offset from their payload satellite's orbit.

But it's not really "slightly" it's more like hundreds of kilometers. Since these were recent launches when the image was generated, there hasn't been much time for them to drift apart just from the small meter-per-second delta-v that a mechanical spring would provide during a payload deploy.

Question: Are spacecraft put into Earth orbit frequently equipped with small thrusters to separate their orbits from their co-orbiting rocket bodies? Or is it more common to use a small booster or kick-stage to do this maneuver?

@TSKelso's tweet https://twitter.com/TSKelso/status/1207823291747991553

  • $\begingroup$ What’s the distinction between “co orbiting rocket body” and “small booster or kick stage”? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 30 '20 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ co-orbiting rocket bodies are "probably second stage (as opposed to third) rocket bodies" ; these are generally quite large and (practically speaking) absolutely essential to reach Earth orbit. Whereas in the context of Earth orbits "small booster or kick stages” are way smaller and only sometimes used, and (I'm guessing here) generally not necessary to achieve orbit. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 30 '20 at 4:39

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