The Geostationary Orbit

The Geostationary orbit is 22,236 miles directly above the earth’s equator. At this altitude it takes a satellite 24hours to orbit around the earth. The same length of time as it takes the earth to spin on its axis. This means that from earth the satellite appears to be stationary. (The moon takes approximately 28 days to orbit the earth). The concept of a geostationary orbit was written about by Arthur C. Clarke in 1945 and hence is often referred to as the ‘Clarke Belt’.

As the satellites in a geostationary orbit are directly above the equator they have a latitude reading of 0 degrees. People often refer to a satellite by its longitude reading. For example the satellites that are used to broadcast Sky and Freesat from are often known as Astra 28.2; Astra refers to the company that operates the satellites and 28.2 degrees east is there longitude location in space.

With the large growth in recent years of the television and communications industries, the Clarke Belt has become a crowed piece of space, especially near America and Europe. When a satellite has completed its operational life it is then moved into a different orbit out of the way. This is commonly known as the ‘Graveyard or Disposal Orbit’.