Round and round it goes

…where it stops, nobody knows (well, sort of)!


Round and round goes the satellite, orbiting the Earth and monitoring the environment on its circular path.

This is what I do most days – not the flying (no, I’m not an astronaut), but designing satellites and their orbits – looping the loop.

The above animation is an output of my design spreadsheet, which is as much an experiment in stretching Excel as it is in juggling astrodynamic formulas.

The Earth (and the day-night shadow) is not a static background picture, but also designed to spin as a dynamic calculation generated from a list of numbers in this Excel graph. This way I can understand what the satellite sees as it circles the Earth and how much charge the solar panels are getting from the sun to keep things running smoothly.

Now, typically satellites would not do all the loops and swings that the little animation shows, but that’s just a rocket scientist having some weekend fun with the laws of gravity and 3D vector geometry!


  1. This seems rather impressive, considering it be the animation of a calculation, not a drawing. I guess…..
    good work!
    greets Tom

    1. Indeed, it runs one spreadsheet with formulas, and displays the result, including the map. Here I kept the globe fixed, which allowed a smaller overall file size, but I could equally have the Earth rotating, and the satellite moving differently.
      And it tells me all the design information I need. The display is only an extra output so that I can check that I am using the correct rules, tracking the right points on Earth, etc.

  2. Hi Max,
    Impressive. As this is a subject at our school, do you have a simpler version to use at our school, or know about a program we can use?
    gr, Bart

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