As of the start of 2023, practically 15,000 satellites are orbiting our planet — extra, since SpaceX simply launched the primary rocket of the yr with 114 satellites in a single monumental occasion. With so many orbiting our bodies circling the Earth, it’s a miracle they don’t crash into one another, proper?
It would seem to be magic, however in actuality, it’s as a result of they aren’t all orbiting on the identical peak. Let’s take a better take a look at what LEO, MEO and GEO satellites are, and why extra corporations are investing in LEO and MEO satellites to help house exploration.
What’s the Distinction Between LEO, MEO, and GEO?
The distinction between them is that low Earth orbit (LEO) is closest to Earth and contains all the pieces as much as 2,000 km above the floor, geostationary orbit (GEO) is at 35,786 km above the equator the place satellites seem mounted within the sky, and medium Earth orbit (MEO) is all the pieces in between.
LEO — Low Earth Orbit
Satellites in low Earth orbit, or LEO, are the closest units to Earth. They’re solely as much as 2,000 km above the Earth’s floor, or about one third of the radius of the Earth, making them ideally suited for satellite tv for pc cellphone and GPS communication. The comparatively small distance means there’s a minimal delay between the info leaving the satellite tv for pc and it reaching its goal on Earth — often about 0.05 seconds.
It takes numerous LEO satellites to cowl the planet, which is why there are such a lot of of them up there. The Iridium Communications Community will consist of 66 satellites total, whereas the Starlink constellation will include nearly 12,000 satellites as soon as they’ve all launched, although they gained’t all be in LEO.
The Worldwide House Station can be in low Earth orbit.
MEO — Medium Earth Orbit
Medium Earth orbit, or MEO, satellites are a little bit of a center floor between LEO and GEO orbits, circling the planet at altitudes between 2,000 and 35,786 km. These satellites deal with high-speed phone indicators and will, sooner or later, discover a place within the navy sector as a device to offer low-latency high-bandwidth web to navy personnel across the globe.
Despite a barely greater sign lag of about 0.1 seconds, relying on the dimensions of the antenna, these MEO satellites can transmit knowledge as quickly as 1.6 gigabits per second. For comparability, the quickest available industrial web, not counting Google Fiber cities, is often round 100 MB/s — lower than a tenth of the velocity these MEO satellites can be able to offering.
As these units transfer additional out into the chilly of house, they want extra instruments to guard the delicate laptop gear that makes them work. Heat pipes have two purposes — they’ll transport warmth away from the electronics to stop them from overheating, they usually can redirect that warmth to totally different components of the satellite tv for pc to stop them from freezing.
GEO/GSO — Geosynchronous Equatorial and Geostationary Orbits
You’ll typically hear the phrases GEO and GSO used interchangeably, however they’re not always the same. Each forms of satellites sit at 35,786 km above Earth’s floor, however the best way they orbit is totally different. Each orbits synchronize with the orbit of the planet, so they seem in the identical place on daily basis.
The distinction between GEO and GSO is that GEO satellites orbit on an angle between the planet’s poles, whereas GSO satellites perform the identical high-altitude round orbit across the Earth’s equator.
Each GEO and GSO satellites carry satellite tv for pc tv indicators. GSOs also can forecast the climate and help different forms of international communication. It solely takes three GEO or GSO satellites to cowl your entire planet due to their altitude. When you’re accessing satellite tv for pc TV or radio, you don’t have to make use of the antenna to trace the satellite tv for pc as a result of it’s all the time going to be in the identical place.
Satellites and House Exploration
Satellites was a “final resort” for speaking with distant areas, however at this time they’re a significant device to help international info alternate. Ultimately, they could even enable us to speak rapidly and simply between bases and colonies on the Moon, Mars and past.
SpaceX, OneWeb and even Facebook are engaged on designing satellite tv for pc constellations that can present inexpensive shopper web to your entire planet. SpaceX bought the ball rolling with the launch of the primary 60 satellites of their Starlink constellation. Ultimately, these communication satellites will sit in all three orbits, offering quick and inexpensive web to anybody with a suitable gadget.
Wanting Towards the Future
The way forward for human communications, each at dwelling and in outer house, lies within the stars — or, somewhat, within the constellation of satellites orbiting our planet. We don’t have colonies on our closest celestial neighbors — but — however we’re effectively on our solution to turning into the interstellar species all of the science fiction readers and writers have been dreaming about for many years.