Orbit Pericenter Distance Calculator

This tutorial explores the calculation of the pericenter distance for gravitationally bound orbital motion. This concept falls within the field of astrophysics, specifically orbital mechanics, a branch of physics that deals with the motion of objects in space under the influence of gravitational fields. The tutorial will guide you through the calculations and formulas associated with the semi latus rectum and eccentricity, key parameters in determining the pericenter distance.

Pericenter Distance for a Gravitationally Bound Orbital Motion Calculator
Orbit Pericenter Distance Calculator Results
Pericenter Distance (rp) =

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Example Formula

The formula for calculating the pericenter distance (rp) of an orbit is given by:

rp = l / (1 + e)


  1. rp: Pericenter distance
  2. l: Semi latus rectum
  3. e: Eccentricity of the orbit

Who wrote/refined the formula

This formula comes from classical mechanics and celestial mechanics, which have been studied extensively since the time of Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler. Although not attributed to a specific individual, it is a consequence of Keplers laws of planetary motion, first published in the 17th century.

Real Life Application

Understanding the pericenter distance is essential in space mission design and celestial navigation. For instance, engineers and physicists use this parameter to design satellite orbits and to predict and control the path of spacecraft around celestial bodies.

Key individuals in the discipline

Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton are key figures in the field. Kepler, a 17th-century astronomer, formulated the laws of planetary motion. These laws became a foundation of celestial mechanics. Newton, in the late 17th century, developed the law of universal gravitation, which provides the basis for understanding orbits.

Interesting Facts

  1. Keplers laws of planetary motion and Newtons law of gravitation are still used today to plot the courses of spacecraft and predict the motion of celestial bodies.
  2. Understanding the pericenter distance and orbital dynamics has enabled humanity to send spacecraft beyond our solar system and to land rovers on Mars.
  3. Space exploration, propelled by our understanding of orbital mechanics, has revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our place in it.


Knowledge of the pericenter distance and its calculation plays a crucial role in orbital mechanics and the broader field of astrophysics. Its practical applications in space travel and exploration continue to push the boundaries of human knowledge and capabilities.

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