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Celestial Showdown: A Comparative Guide to LEO, MEO, and GEO Orbit Systems

2/2/24 | 4 minute read

In the boundless expanse of space, a symphony of satellites orbits our Earth, each following a path through the cosmos. These orbit systems, classified into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO), are the backbone of modern communication, navigation, and observation technologies.

Understanding the characteristics, advantages, and applications of each orbit system is essential for implementing robust satellite technology. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of these celestial pathways, highlighting how they contribute to our interconnected world.

The Vanguard of the Skies: Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Systems

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LEO systems comprise satellites that orbit at altitudes between 160 to 2,000 kilometres above Earth. These satellites complete their orbit in a relatively short period, ranging from 90 minutes to two hours, allowing them to cover every part of the planet over time. This orbit is home to some of the most ambitious satellite constellations, including OneWeb and Starlink, which aim to revolutionise global internet connectivity.


  • Reduced Latency: The proximity of LEO satellites to Earth's surface results in lower communication delay, making them ideal for real-time applications such as voice and video communications.

  • High Resolution: LEO satellites offer detailed imagery for Earth observation, ideal for environmental monitoring, mapping, and surveillance.

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Launching and maintaining LEO satellites is generally less expensive compared to their higher-altitude counterparts.


  • Telecommunications: LEO constellations like OneWeb and Starlink provide global broadband and mobile communication services, especially in remote areas.

  • Earth Observation: They support weather forecasting, disaster management, and climate research by capturing high-resolution images of the Earth's surface.

The Middle Ground: Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) Systems

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MEO systems host satellites orbiting at altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 35,786 kilometres. These satellites have longer orbital periods, typically taking two to 24 hours to complete a circuit around Earth, offering a balance between coverage, latency, and cost.


  • Extended Coverage: MEO satellites cover a larger area of the Earth's surface for longer periods, reducing the need for a large constellation.

  • Balanced Latency: The latency in MEO systems is less than in GEO, suitable for navigation and some communication services.


  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS): Navigation satellites, providing accurate location data worldwide, operate in MEO.

  • Communication: MEO satellites support broadband and mobile communications with moderate latency.

The Geostationary Titans: Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) Systems


GEO satellites orbit at exactly 35,786 kilometres above the equator, matching Earth's rotation. This unique position allows them to remain stationary relative to a point on the ground, providing constant coverage over a specific area.


  • Constant Coverage: GEO satellites offer uninterrupted service, making them ideal for broadcast and weather services.

  • Wide Reach: Each satellite can cover about a third of the Earth's surface, requiring only three for near-global coverage.


  • Broadcast Services: GEO satellites are the mainstay of satellite television and radio broadcasting.

  • Meteorological Observation: They provide vital data on atmospheric conditions for weather forecasting.

LEO connectivity services: OneWeb and Starlink Highlight


OneWeb and Starlink, both operating in LEO, are at the forefront of a new era in satellite internet services. By deploying large constellations of small satellites, these projects aim to provide high-speed internet access worldwide, including in previously underserved regions.

OneWeb's focus on bridging the digital divide, offering accessibility to those businesses who found it a challenge to connect before. Starlink's mission is to offer fast, reliable internet services globally. These initiatives underscore the transformative potential of LEO systems in the domain of global telecommunications.

Navigating the Celestial Lanes


Choosing the right orbit system for a satellite mission involves balancing factors such as coverage, latency, and cost. LEO systems are revolutionising global communication with their low-latency networks, MEO systems are indispensable for precise navigation, and GEO systems remain the cornerstone of broadcast and meteorological services.

In the celestial showdown of orbit systems, each player has its unique strengths and applications, collectively underpinning the vast array of satellite services we depend on daily. As technology advances and our ambitions reach further into the cosmos, understanding these orbit systems is more crucial than ever, ensuring we harness their potential to the fullest.

AST Networks invites you to explore the frontiers of space with us, leveraging the power of orbit systems to connect, observe, and navigate our world. The journey through the stars begins with knowledge, and together, we can unlock the mysteries of the cosmos, one orbit at a time.

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