Just what the title states.

Pretty much all movement on Earth is by pushing against the much greater mass of Earth. Given there are easily thousands of aircraft taking flight/landing, and a lesser number of rockets (Satellite launch etc). Understandably the effect of aircraft would be reduced because an aircraft (usually) comes to ground eventually but with a reduced mass by virtue of the reduced fuel mass ...

How much is Earth's orbit affected by such reaction if observed/calculated over an extended period - say, of the order of millenia or longer?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The simple answer is yes. By an incredibly small amount, especially as most of the mass returns to earth. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 28, 2012 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/56245/2451 and links therein. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Sep 25, 2013 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ The far greater risk is from all the "slingshot maneuvers", altering the orbits of the moon, and of other planets, by stealing their momentum. This can only disrupt the delicate equilibrium of our so-called "stable" solar system and eventually, inevitably, destroy the Earth. :P $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2016 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


As long as the flying object stays in orbit round the Earth you haven't changed the net mass or centre of mass of the Earth. We have succeeded in reducing the net mass of the Earth by the mass of the Voyager probes and the like, but this is insignificant compared to the mass of meteoric dust the earth accumulates every day (allegedly 100-300 tonnes per day!).

So launching satellites and planes taking off is not going to directly affect Earth's orbit. I suppose it slightly changes the (gravitational) shape of the Earth and might change forces from other objects, but this effect is likely to be immeasurably small.

  • $\begingroup$ The accumulation of dust didn't come to me mind ... $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    Sep 28, 2012 at 11:30

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