Specific orbital energy

In the gravitational two-body problem, the specific orbital energy (or vis-viva energy) of two orbiting bodies is the constant sum of their mutual potential energy () and their total kinetic energy (), divided by the reduced mass.[1] According to the orbital energy conservation equation (also referred to as vis-viva equation), it does not vary with time:

where

It is expressed in MJ/kg or . For an elliptic orbit the specific orbital energy is the negative of the additional energy required to accelerate a mass of one kilogram to escape velocity (parabolic orbit). For a hyperbolic orbit, it is equal to the excess energy compared to that of a parabolic orbit. In this case the specific orbital energy is also referred to as characteristic energy.


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