Types of Satellite Orbits

There are 4 types of orbits, they are:

1.    GEO (Geo-stationary earth orbit)

2.    MEO (medium earth orbit)

3.    LEO (Low earth orbit) and

4.    HEO (Highly elliptical orbit)

Types of Satellite Orbits

Geo-Stationary Earth Orbit

These satellites have almost a distance of 36,000 km to the earth.

E.g. All radio and TV, whether satellite etc, are launched in this orbit.

Advantages of Geo-Stationary Earth Orbit

1.    It is possible to cover almost all parts of the earth with just 3 geo satellites.

2.    Antennas need not be adjusted every now and then but can be fixed permanently.

3.    The life-time of a GEO satellite is quite high usually around 15 years.

Disadvantages of Geo-Stationary Earth Orbit

1.    Larger antennas are required for northern/southern regions of the earth.

2.    High buildings in a city limit the transmission quality.

3.    High transmission power is required.

4.    These satellites cannot be used for small mobile phones.

5.    Fixing a satellite at Geo stationary orbit is very expensive.

Medium Earth Orbit

Satellite at different orbits operates at different heights. The MEO satellite operates at about 5000 to 12000 km away from the earth's surface.

These orbits have moderate number of satellites.

 Advantages of Medium Earth Orbit

1.    Compared to LEO system, MEO requires only a dozen satellites.

2.    Simple in design.

3.    Requires very few handovers.

Disadvantages of Medium Earth Orbit

1.    Satellites require higher transmission power.

2.    Special antennas are required.


Low Earth Orbit

LEO satellites operate at a distance of about 500-1500 km.

Advantages of Low Earth Orbit

1.    The antennas can have low transmission power of about 1 watt.

2.    The delay of packets is relatively low.

3.    Useful for smaller foot prints.

Disadvantages of Low Earth Orbit

1.    If global coverage is required, it requires at least 50-200 satellites in this orbit.

2.    Special handover mechanisms are required.

3.    These satellites involve complex design.

4.    Very short life: Time of 5-8 years. Assuming 48 satellites with a life-time of 8 years each, a new satellite is needed every 2 months.

5.    Data packets should be routed from satellite to satellite.

Highly Elliptical Orbit

This orbit is made for satellites that do not revolve in circular orbits, only a very few satellite are operating in this orbit.

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