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Concept# Orbital speed

Summary

In gravitationally bound systems, the orbital speed of an astronomical body or object (e.g. planet, moon, artificial satellite, spacecraft, or star) is the speed at which it orbits around either the barycenter or, if one body is much more massive than the other bodies of the system combined, its speed relative to the center of mass of the most massive body.
The term can be used to refer to either the mean orbital speed (i.e. the average speed over an entire orbit) or its instantaneous speed at a particular point in its orbit. The maximum (instantaneous) orbital speed occurs at periapsis (perigee, perihelion, etc.), while the minimum speed for objects in closed orbits occurs at apoapsis (apogee, aphelion, etc.). In ideal two-body systems, objects in open orbits continue to slow down forever as their distance to the barycenter increases.
When a system approximates a two-body system, instantaneous orbital speed at a given point of the orbit can be computed from its distance to the central body and the object's specific orbital energy, sometimes called "total energy". Specific orbital energy is constant and independent of position.
In the following, it is thought that the system is a two-body system and the orbiting object has a negligible mass compared to the larger (central) object. In real-world orbital mechanics, it is the system's barycenter, not the larger object, which is at the focus.
Specific orbital energy, or total energy, is equal to Ek − Ep. (kinetic energy − potential energy). The sign of the result may be positive, zero, or negative and the sign tells us something about the type of orbit:
If the specific orbital energy is positive the orbit is unbound, or open, and will follow a hyperbola with the larger body the focus of the hyperbola. Objects in open orbits do not return; once past periapsis their distance from the focus increases without bound. See radial hyperbolic trajectory
If the total energy is zero, (Ek = Ep): the orbit is a parabola with focus at the other body. See radial parabolic trajectory.

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