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The Bruce Murray Space Image Library

Geostationary orbit

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Geostationary orbit To achieve a geostationary orbit, a geosynchronous orbit is chosen with an eccentricity of zero, and an inclination of either zero, right on the equator, or else low enough that the spacecraft can use propulsive means to constrain the spacecraft's apparent position so it hangs seemingly motionless above a point on Earth. (Any such maneuvering on orbit, or making other adjustments to maintain its orbit, is a process called station keeping.) The orbit can then be called geostationary.

NASA / JPL ("The Basics of Space Flight")

This orbit is ideal for certain kinds of communication satellites and meteorological satellites. The idea of a geosynchronous orbit for communications spacecraft was first popularized by science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke in 1945, so it is sometimes called the Clarke orbit.

Read more about orbits at The Basics of Space Flight.

Most NASA images are in the public domain. Reuse of this image is governed by NASA's image use policy.


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Iluv9mm: 06/25/2016 01:02 CDT

If I have a rocket at the equator that can only achieve a 100 mph liftoff speed, and zero horizontal velocity relative to the earth's spin, why couldn't it place itself in geostationary orbit, assuming it has enough fuel for w 22+ thousand mile trip?? It seems so wasteful to pack communication satellites in huge rockets that reach escape velocity, then do costly orbital maneuvers to make it circular. Seems like a hobby rocket could do it!

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