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what do satellites do?


Artificial satellites are used for many different things including scientific studies of the solar system, worldwide telecommunications, military intelligence, television and Earth monitoring for weather or climate studies.


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Depending on the job they have to do, we put satellites into different orbits. Some orbit the Sun, but most orbit the Earth. Three very useful types of orbit are a polar orbit, a geostationary orbit (GEO) and a low Earth orbit (LEO).

Image of the Earth with three satellites orbiting around it

Geostationary Orbit (GEO)

These satellites are in orbit above the Earth's equator. They stay above the same location on Earth. They are used for telecommunications, television transmission and for navigation.


Low Earth orbit (LEO)

A satellite has a Low Earth Orbit when it orbits somewhere between 300 and 800 km above the Earth's surface. These satellites only take about 90 minutes to go around the Earth. They are ideal for making observations of the Earth's resources.


Polar Orbits

A polar orbit is a special LEO in which a satellite travels north-south over the Earth's poles, rather than in the more usual east-west direction. Polar orbits can be used to map the complete Earth once a day. This is needed for weather forecasts.


Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites

This is a fleet of satellites which allows us to know exactly where on Earth we are.


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