In this activity, students use a scale model of the Earth and identify altitudes of various satellites. They then use a smaller object on a string to model gravity and satellite motion.

By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • describe how far above the surface of the Earth satellites orbit
  • demonstrate different types of orbit
  • explain that the attraction of gravity always pulls satellites towards the centre of the Earth and that this force causes circular motion
  • demonstrate how a satellite will move in a circular orbit only if it is travelling at the right speed.

Download the Word file for:

  • introduction/background notes
  • what you need
  • what to do
  • discussion points
  • extension ideas.

Download the Download the Excel spreadsheet for scale distances in space.

    Published 27 March 2013, Updated 13 August 2015