Why do satellites fall from orbit?

Objects in orbit are exposed to atmospheric drag, just as aircraft and automobiles are near the ground. In space, of course, the atmospheric drag is much less than that experienced closer to the ground but, over time, even a small amount of drag can result in a satellite’s reentry into the denser atmosphere.

Objects orbiting at low altitudes may be removed from orbit by atmospheric drag within weeks, months, or years depending on the object and its altitude. Objects at higher altitudes may remain in orbit for hundreds or thousands of years.

Of course, some satellites and launch hardware have propulsive capability that can be used to deorbit these objects more quickly.

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