Besides the perturbations due to the gravitational field of the earth, the rotation of the earth's atmosphere produces a perturbing force on a satellite which affects the motion of its orbital plane. Theoretical formulae are derived for the rotation of the orbital plane about the earth's axis and the change in orbital inclination of a near-earth satellite of small eccentricity (< 0.2) due to the influence of the atmosphere. It is assumed that the atmosphere is spherically symmetrical and has a density which varies exponentially with altitude. Comparison of the theoretical changes in orbital inclination show reasonably good agreement with those estimated from kinetheodolite observations, although the need for a slightly steeper theoretical curve is indicated. Although the rotation of the orbital plane is small, allowance must be made for it when making estimates of the harmonics of the earth's gravitational field.