What are the Different Types of Satellites?

With big players in multi-billion industries focusing their attention on space, it is no wonder that there is so much hype around what is happening outside our own orbit.

Considering the fact that you clicked to read this article, it is likely that you are also interested in our technology in space, so we wanted to break down the different types of satellites in greater detail.

Read on to learn about this impressive tech orbiting our Earth.

First Things First: How High?

Satellites have been orbiting Earth for a long time now. In fact, the first artificial satellite was launched into orbit way back in 1957.

That means that even many of the grandparents living today, have never lived in a time without our technology reaching up into space.

Artificial satellites are devices ranging from a few centimeters in size to the size of a rugby field, and we currently have over 1,000 active satellites in orbit today.

The variety of tasks and functions that these satellites perform depends partially on the altitude of their orbits because this drastically changes how quickly they orbit the Earth.

Low Earth orbit or LEO satellites are anywhere between 200 and 2,000 km above the earth and can orbit the Earth in roughly 90 minutes.

Medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites are at an altitude of about 20,000km and they orbit the Earth in 12 hours

And finally, Geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites are 36,000km above the Earth and take 24 hours to orbit. This replicates the rotation of the Earth and so they stay in the same position at all times in relation to us.

Types of Satellites

Different satellites are used for different tasks. Today, we rely on them for weather forecasting, the internet, making calls, and more.

The importance of satellites can’t be overstated because they impact much of our daily life.


GPS or the global positioning system is functional because of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth at MEO.

By receiving a signal from four of these satellites and then calculating the time it took to receive a signal, GPS can determine the location of a device.


Communication satellites are often at GEO. This is due to the fact that they are used to deliver television signals, phone communications, and the internet.

By having these satellites hover at relatively the same location, regional television signals are able to be received 24 hours a day.


When it comes to forecasting weather, satellites have really helped us to improve accuracy.

With both LEO and GEO satellites in place, we can image clouds, measure rainfall and temperatures, and much, much more.

Some more niche satellites such as earth observation, astronomical and the ISS itself or the International Space station are also in orbit performing specialized satellite functions.

For example, the ISS is a habitable space laboratory to conduct special missions in space.

And people here on the ground are pushing this technology in exciting new ways. For example, the OneWeb CEO, Neil Masterson is currently on the last leg of fundraising for future space missions.

The Space Age Is Now

These few types of satellites are just one part of the exciting developments in human space exploration.

We hope you found this article insightful and that it sparked your passion for space travel.

For more of the latest and greatest articles and news on business and tech, check out some of our other posts.

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