An orbital maneuver is a carefully planned and executed adjustment made to a satellite’s orbit in space. This manoeuvre is typically achieved by using various propulsion systems, such as onboard thrusters or engines, or by taking advantage of gravitational assists from other celestial bodies. The primary objective of an orbital manoeuvre is to modify specific orbital parameters of the satellite, such as its altitude, inclination, eccentricity, or orbital period, to achieve certain mission objectives or operational requirements.
Satellites are precisely placed into specific orbits during their launch to fulfil their intended missions, whether it’s for communication, Earth observation, scientific research, or navigation. However, factors such as atmospheric drag, solar radiation pressure, and perturbations caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun can gradually alter a satellite’s orbit over time. As a result, periodic orbital manoeuvres are necessary to maintain the satellite’s desired trajectory and ensure it remains in its intended position in space.
One common type of orbital manoeuvre is a station-keeping manoeuvre. In geostationary orbit, for instance, satellites need to maintain a fixed position relative to a specific point on the Earth’s surface. To counteract the gravitational forces and maintain their positions, geostationary satellites regularly perform small station-keeping manoeuvres using their onboard thrusters.