Satellite Motion and Free Fall

Students explore how GPS satellites determine the location of a receiver on Earth and investigate how a GPS satellite is able to remain in orbit. Problem sets allow the students to calculate the energy associated with the GPS satellites, and simple yet powerful activities illustrate the connection to Einstein‰۪s theories of special and general relativity.

Includes:

  • Lesson plans: Satellite Motion and Free Fall
  • Videos: The Global Positioning System and Relativity (approx. 8:31 min)
  • Activities: Free Fall and Zero Gravity; Acceleration and Artificial Gravity; Energy in Satellites; Thought Experiment: Applying the Equivalence Principle (worksheets and solutions)
  • Supplementary Materials: Special Relativity and the GPS, General Relativity and the GPS, and more

(Note: all lesson plans and worksheets provided as PDFs and modifiable MS Word documents)