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I saw a sentence written as:

Recently an ISRO satellite failed to place into specified orbit.

I was wondering if this usage is correct and a medio passive voice. Would it better if we write something like:

Recently an ISRO satellite failed to be/get placed into specified orbit.

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  • The original sentence is incorrect, because it's using place actively. That would mean that that the satellite was placing something else into orbit. I suspect that what the writer meant was either "be placed" or something like "arrive".
    – stangdon
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 11:15
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    What's the source? The author seemed to have constructed this sentence incorrectly.
    – Varun Nair
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 11:17
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    We do have such a verb, to place into {a rank or tier of some kind}, although I've never heard it used of satellites and orbits. He placed into Advanced Calculus. The normal colloquial word in this context is reach. The satellite failed to reach orbit. google.com/…
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 11:51
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    Sounds like this usage of "place" might be jargon specific to rocket scientists. Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 7:38
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    Place is used intransitively in sentences like "He placed second in the 100 meters race". It means to finish in a certain place. This is an extension of that meaning. It's not a passive, because the meaning is active.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 15:10

2 Answers 2

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When talking about space science and about placing a satellite in a specific orbit, this is common.

The orbit of a satellite determines how fast it will rotate around the Earth and what things it will be able to see on the Earth while it's orbiting. A satellite with a circular geosynchronous orbit rotates around the Earth in a circle with a 42,164 km radius. If it's a kilometer up or down then it won't be in proper orbit.

Space scientists will often talk about spacecraft placing into specific orbits, where they reach the correct orbit to do whatever it is the spacecraft is supposed to do.

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    Can you provide a couple of attestations where the satellite is subject of the verb, not the object?
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 11:13
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spacecraft are placed into orbit.

See the tons of google hits for this:

spacecraft was placed into orbit

Just two examples from those hits:

Nov 8, 2015 — Ever since the Cassini spacecraft was placed into orbit around Saturn in 2004, it has been mapping the surface of Titan and basically ...

Apr 30, 2015 — Launched in August 2004, the Messenger spacecraft was placed into orbit in March 2011 has followed a path through the inner solar system.

They are placed into orbit by whatever propulsion or rocket system is being guided to do so by scientists or technicians on Earth.

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