low Earth orbit

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An orbit at an altitude of between 160 km and 1 500 km, usually used by spacecraft in polar or highly inclined orbits. (If the Earth was the size of a beachball, a LEO satellite would circle 1.3 cm above it.) LEO satellites complete an orbit of the Earth in between 90 minutes and 2 hours. The Hubble Space Telescope orbits at a LEO altitude of 600 km.

The low altitude reduces the time of communications with the Earth and makes LEO satellites accessible to television dishes, mobile phones, and palm computers. They are also used for remote sensing, meteorology, surveillance, and other missions. However, their closeness to the Earth's surface requires a speed of about 28 150 kph to avoid gravity's pull. This rapid orbit means more sophisticated Earth aerials are needed for tracking and communications.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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