Altitudes & Uses


The Altitudes and Uses of Orbits

In the majestic expanse of space, orbits serve as invisible highways for an array of spacecraft, whether they are satellites, research vessels, or commercial liners venturing into the cosmos. The advent of commercial space travel has catalyzed a newfound interest in these celestial pathways. This article unveils the anatomy of different orbits, their myriad applications, and the altitudes they operate within, narrating the tale of how they are playing pivotal roles in commercializing the cosmos.

Low Earth Orbit (LEO): The Gateway to Space

Altitude Range: 160 to 2,000 kilometers (100 to 1,200 miles)

The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is the closest orbit to Earth’s surface, making it a prime location for various space endeavors. LEO is a beehive of activity, hosting the International Space Station (ISS), numerous satellites, and serving as the maiden voyage for commercial space travel companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.


  • Satellite Deployment: Ideal for Earth observation satellites and communication satellites, providing real-time data and connectivity.
  • Scientific Research: The International Space Station orbits within LEO, acting as a lab for myriad scientific experiments.
  • Commercial Space Travel: Companies are leveraging LEO for short suborbital flights, igniting the commercial space travel industry.

Medium Earth Orbit (MEO): The Navigational Nexus

Altitude Range: 2,000 to 35,786 kilometers (1,200 to 22,236 miles)

MEO orbits are a hub for global navigation satellite systems like the U.S.’s Global Positioning System (GPS), Europe’s Galileo, and China’s BeiDou.


  • Navigation: Fundamental for global navigation systems providing pinpoint accuracy for terrestrial navigation.
  • Communication: Some communication satellites are stationed here, ensuring robust global communication networks.

Geostationary Orbit (GEO): The Silent Sentry

Altitude Range: 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles)

Perched high above the Earth, the Geostationary Orbit (GEO) is where satellites maintain a fixed position relative to the Earth’s surface, making it a critical orbit for communication and weather forecasting systems.


  • Communication: GEO hosts communication satellites providing consistent and widespread signal coverage.
  • Weather Forecasting: Essential for weather and environmental monitoring, offering a bird’s-eye view of atmospheric conditions.

High Earth Orbit (HEO): The Cosmic Commuter Lane

Altitude Range: Above 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles)

Beyond the GEO, the High Earth Orbit (HEO) is a realm where spacecraft can venture further into the cosmos, serving as a bridge between Earth and the boundless beyond.


  • Deep Space Exploration: HEO acts as a springboard for missions venturing into outer planets and interstellar space.
  • Scientific Research: Pioneering the frontier of space science by housing observatories and research satellites.

Each orbit, with its unique altitude and characteristics, paves the way for an array of applications essential for advancing not just science, but also commercial interests. As commercial space travel burgeons, understanding these orbits and their potential uses is fundamental for entrepreneurs, scientists, and space enthusiasts alike.