We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Medium Earth Orbit Satellite?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Feb 02, 2024
Our promise to you
AllTheScience is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllTheScience, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A medium earth orbit satellite (MEO) is a satellite that orbits the earth in between Low Earth Orbit Satellites (LEO), which orbit the earth at a distance from the earth of about 200-930 miles (321.87-1496.69 km) and those satellites which orbit the earth at geostationary orbit, about 22,300 miles (35,888.71 km) above earth. Each type of satellite can provide a different type of coverage for communications and wireless devices. Like LEOs, these satellites don’t maintain a stationary distance from the earth. This is in contrast to the geostationary orbit, where satellites are always approximately 22,300 miles from the earth.

Any satellite that orbits the earth between about 1000-22,000 miles (1609.34- 35,405.57 km) above earth is an MEO. Typically the orbit of a medium earth orbit satellite is about 10,000 miles (16,093.44 km) above earth. In various patterns, these satellites make the trip around earth in anywhere from 2-12 hours, which provides better coverage to wider areas than that provided by LEOs.

In 1962, the first communications satellite, Telstar, was launched. It was a medium earth orbit satellite designed to help facilitate high-speed telephone signals, but scientists soon learned what some of the problematic aspects were of a single MEO in space. It only provided transatlantic telephone signals for 20 minutes of each approximately 2.5 hours orbit. It was apparent that multiple MEOs needed to be used in order to provide continuous coverage.

Since then numerous companies have launched both LEOs and MEOs. You need about two dozen LEOs to provide continuous coverage and fewer MEOs. However, LEOs typically orbit in a circular pattern around the equator. A medium earth orbit satellite may have a variety of different orbits, including elliptical ones and may provide better overall coverage of satellite communications, if enough of them are in place and the orbit is swift. The coverage of earth is called a footprint, and MEOs typically are able to create a larger footprint because of their different orbital patterns, and because they are higher than LEOs.

Today the medium earth orbit satellite is most commonly used in navigation systems around the world. These include Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Russian Glonass. A proposed MEO navigation system for the European Union called Galileo is expected to begin operations in 2013.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllTheScience contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By bythewell — On May 26, 2013

@browncoat - That might be true for now, but I wonder how long it will stay that way. We've only been creating satellites for a short period and we're only just starting to see their potential. I hope there doesn't come the day when children will look at the night sky and see far more satellites than stars in it.

I think if they manage to create very multi-functional satellite designs and regulate their use we can prevent this kind of thing, because a few thousand satellites will be able to do all the things that we need from that kind of placement.

But space debris is already becoming a problem and since nothing decays in space, I can see our descendants one day needing to start clearing up all the junk we've left up there, satellites and all.

By browncoat — On May 26, 2013

@anon335436 - I know 3000 satellites sounds like a lot, but it is extremely tiny, as you can see for yourself by looking at a clear sky at night. You might be able to spot maybe a half dozen satellites if you stay out there long enough. We don't really ever think about how enormous the Earth actually is, because we can fly from one end to the other in 24 hours or less now.

But it is enormous and the satellites aren't very big. 3000 is only a drop in the ocean that is the sky.

By MrsPramm — On May 25, 2013

@anon335436 - I very much doubt that satellites have anything to do with the weather. If you look at the picture attached to this article, you can see how very far away it is, well out of the Earth's atmosphere which is where weather is generated and influenced.

Extreme weather is something that happens naturally anyway, and it is also something that was predicted to increase decades ago by climate scientists who were studying climate change. Global warming is a bit of a misnomer, because most of the world isn't going to be concerned with the heat so much as with the extreme weather, and, if anything, the fact that we have satellites that can't be affected by that weather makes us safer.

By anon335436 — On May 20, 2013

Is extreme weather caused by interaction between earth's gravity and the 3,000 satellites in the above atmosphere.

By anon24351 — On Jan 11, 2009

Calculate the speed at which an object (200 miles above the equator) in geosynchronous orbit around the earth would be traveling.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllTheScience contributor, Tricia...
Read more
AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.