Geostationary Satellites

  • GOES operations home page:
  • Geostationary satellites orbit in the earth's equatorial plane at a height of 35,800 km.  Note that the typical space shuttle orbit is only 225-250 km.  Here is a diagram to give you a better perspective.   
  • At this height, the satellite's orbital period matches the rotation of the Earth, so the satellite seems to stay stationary over the same point on the equator.  
  • Geostationary satellites always view the same geographical area, day or night.  For example, GOES East is always seeing the Eastern US.
  • This is ideal for making regular sequential observations of cloud patterns over a region with visible and infrared radiometers
  • High temporal resolution and constant viewing angles are the defining features of geostationary imagery.

WHY 35,800 km??