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Satellites and Their Altitudes

Satellites are maintained at specific altitudes, depending on their purpose and function. That means that some are nearer to the Earth’s surface than others. Below is a sampling of some of these satellites, starting from the nearest:

Satellites with Asynchronous Orbits
Satellites on asynchronous orbits have an altitude ranging from 80 to 1,200 miles. Observation satellites maintain an altitude of about 300 miles to 600 miles, performing a variety of functions such as mapping, photography and environmental observations.

Search-and-rescue satellites also belong to this orbit. They are used to transmit emergency radio signals in case of an emergency.

Many science satellites can be found starting at 3,000 miles altitude. They transmit signals to ground stations through radio telemetry.

At a higher altitude starting at 6,000 miles, satellites used for Global Positioning System (GPS) can be found. These satellites aid in locating ships, airplanes, automobiles and spacecraft and may be used for electronic mapping. With the help of these satellites, finding a location anywhere is considerably more effective and accurate than using a conventional paper map.

Satellites at geostationary orbits
Weather satellites are usually located at a higher altitude of about 22,200 miles above the equator. They transmit information about the weather through computer software and radio receivers.

Communications satellites are used to bounce signals for data, telephone, image and television. Because of the distance from the ground, there is often a delay in telephone link-ups that use satellite. These delays can last as long as 650 milliseconds, which many users find inconvenient, prompting them to choose a satellite phone only when no other alternative is available.

Communication satellites work as relay stations for radio signals. These days, these satellites are capable of transmitting a variety of data and information, such as news feeds, business and finance information, global television transmissions and international radio broadcasts.

Learn About Satellites

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