Join Donate

The Bruce Murray Space Image Library

Geostationary orbit

Geostationary orbit

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

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.

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.

Explore related images: infographic, Earth, animation

Comments & Sharing
More Images
Bill Nye and people
Let's Change the World

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Today

Bruce Murray and Carl Sagan
Pretty Pictures

Support the Bruce Murray Space Image Library and help us share the wonders of other worlds.


"We're changing the world. Are you in?"
- CEO Bill Nye

I'm In!