Geostationary Orbit

A satellite in geostationary orbit appears to remain in the same spot in the sky all the time. Really, it is simply travelling at exactly the same speed as the Earth is rotating below it, but it looks like it is staying still regardless of the direction in which it travels, east or west. A satellite in geostationary orbit is very high up, at 35, 850 km above the Earth. Geostationary orbits, therefore, are also known as high orbits.

Geostatioary orbit

Geostationary satellites are always located directly above the equator with a zero angle of inclination. Geostationary orbit, therefore, is really just a special type of equatorial orbit.

When a satellite is in geostationary orbit, its instruments are looking at a certain part of the Earth. That part of the Earth is called a footprint. A footprint can be pretty big. For example, the footprint for most Canadian communications satellites is almost the whole of Canada.

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Last updated on: 8 August 1997.