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Geostationary Satellites and Geosynchronous Satellites - JEE Important Topic

Last updated date: 20th Jul 2024
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What is a Geosynchronous Satellite?

A satellite that stays in geosynchronous orbit, or one whose orbital period is the same as that of Earth, is referred to as a geosynchronous satellite. To put it another way, a geosynchronous satellite orbits the globe at the same rate as it rotates on its axis. This explains why, when viewed from a specific location on Earth, this type of satellite appears to be in the same area of the sky (at a specific time of day). A geosynchronous satellite seems to remain stationary over a single longitude because its orbital period is a sidereal day, or 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds.

seo images

Geosynchronous Satellite

What is a Geostationary Satellite?

Geostationary satellites circle the earth in the same direction as the planet and are located at an altitude of roughly 35,800 kilometers 22,300 miles over the equator (west to east). One orbit takes place at this altitude in 24 hours, which is how long it takes the earth to complete one rotation of its axis. A single geostationary satellite can see around 40 % of the planet's surface in a straight line. With the exception of tiny circular zones centered at the north and south geographic poles, three of these satellites, each 120 degrees apart, may cover the whole planet.

Geostationary Satellite

Geostationary Satellite

Uses and Examples 

A. Geosynchronous Satellites

1. Uses

  • Voice and data communication

  • Internet

  • Broadcasting cable TV and radio signals.

2. Examples

  • Raduga 29 of Russia

  • Astra 1C of India

  • MEASAT 2 of Malaysia

B. Geostationary Satellites

1. Uses

  • Weather reports about a particular region.

  • Weather forecasting.

  • Terrestrial reports of a geographical area.

  • Spy networks.

2. Examples

  • Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GEOS) of the USA.

  • INSAT of India.

  • Himawari of Japan.

  • Fengyun of China.

  • Meteosat of Europe.

Geosynchronous and Geostationary Orbits

Geosynchronous orbit refers to the orbit in which a geosynchronous satellite is located (GSO). It has an orbital period of the sidereal day, or 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds, and a height of 35,800 kilometers. Geostationary orbit refers to the orbit in which a geostationary satellite is located (GEO). It is located 35,800 kilometers above the equator of the planet, and its orbital period is one sidereal day.

Difference Between Geostationary and Geosynchronous Orbit

Geostationary Orbit

Geosynchronous Orbit

Although geostationary orbits provide a more reliable position, they do not completely circumnavigate the world since they do not orbit the equator.

More movement is provided by geosynchronous orbits than by geostationary orbits, but this movement is slower and more susceptible to interruption from weather and other external factors, such as solar winds or sunspot activity, which prevents satellite signals from reaching their target.

The period of orbit is the same as that of Earth's rotation.

One sidereal day is equal to the orbit period.

This orbit is round.

These orbits might be circular or non-circular.

In relation to the Earth's equator, it is not inclined at all.

The geosynchronous satellite is inclined with regard to the equator of the planet.

Why did Geostationary Satellite have its name as Geostationary Satellite?

The term "geostationary orbit" (also known as "geostationary Earth orbit," "geosynchronous equatorial orbit," or "GEO") refers to a circular orbit that is 35,786 kilometers 22,300 miles above the surface of the Earth and has a zero inclination to the equatorial plane. The term "geostationary satellite" refers to a spacecraft in this orbit, which has an orbital period of one sidereal day (23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds), or the same amount of time as one rotation of the Earth's axis. When viewed from a certain location on the ground, a geostationary satellite appears to hover at a single point in the sky because it has the same orbital period as Earth and moves from west to east (the direction in which Earth rotates on its axis). Because it seems "stationary" from a certain geographic place, the term "geostationary" was coined.


A communication satellite with a geosynchronous orbit has an orbital period equal to the earth's rotational period. As a result, as seen from the earth, it appears to be permanently in the same part of the sky at a specific moment every day. Geostationary satellites are circular geosynchronous satellites that are positioned at an angle of 00 to the equatorial plane. A ground observer would see it as being motionless all day long in the same area of the sky. A geostationary orbit is a circular satellite orbit in the equatorial plane of the planet with an orbital period that synchronizes with the rotation of the planet. A prograde, low-inclination orbit with a period of 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds is known as a geosynchronous orbit (GEO). The geostationary orbit, which maintains the satellite at a constant height above the planet, is the ideal orbit for satellite communications. Because satellite coverage is available everywhere and line of sight visibility between the transmitter and receiver is not necessary, the geostationary orbit has advantages.

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FAQs on Geostationary Satellites and Geosynchronous Satellites - JEE Important Topic

1. State two limitations of Geostationary Satellites.

There are two primary drawbacks for geostationary satellites. First, the number of satellites that can be kept in geostationary orbits without interfering with one another is constrained since the orbital zone is a very tight ring in the plane of the equator. Second, a geostationary satellite's electromagnetic (EM) signal must travel a minimum of 71,600 kilometers 44,600 mile to and from it. A round-trip EM transmission from the ground to the satellite at a speed of 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles per second) introduces a latency of at least 240 milliseconds.

2. Why is it called “A geostationary satellite is a ‘type’ of geosynchronous satellite”. Explain briefly.

A satellite in geosynchronous orbit has the same orbital period as a satellite in geostationary orbit, which is one sidereal day. The main distinction between the two is that a geostationary satellite must follow a non-inclined orbit, whereas a geosynchronous satellite may or may not be following an inclined orbit (with respect to the equatorial plane). To put it another way, a geostationary satellite always orbits directly above the equator of the planet. Because of this, "any" geostationary satellite is also a geosynchronous satellite, but the reverse isn't always true; a geosynchronous satellite may or may not be geostationary. Alternatively, you could say that geosynchronous satellites are a subset of geostationary satellites.