High Earth orbit

To-scale diagram of low, medium and high Earth orbits

A high Earth orbit is a geocentric orbit with an altitude entirely above that of a geosynchronous orbit (35,786 kilometres, 22,236 mi).[1] The orbital periods of such orbits are greater than 24 hours, therefore satellites in such orbits have an apparent retrograde motion – that is, even if they are in a prograde orbit (0° ≤ inclination < 90°), their orbital velocity is lower than Earth's rotational speed, causing their ground track to move westward on Earth's surface.[2]

Examples of satellites in high Earth orbit[]

Name NSSDC id. Launch date Perigee Apogee Period Inclination
Vela 1A[3][4] 1963-039A 1963-10-17 101,925 km 116,528 km 108 h 39 min 37.8°
IBEX 2008-051A 2008-10-19 61,941 km 290,906 km 216 h 3 min 16.9°
TESS[5][6] 2018-038A 2018-04-18 108,000 km 375,000 km 328 h 48 min 37.00°

See also[]


  1. ^ "Definitions of geocentric orbits from the Goddard Space Flight Center". User support guide: platforms. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Archived from the original on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  2. ^ "Types of orbits". www.esa.int. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  3. ^ Vela at Encyclopedia Astronautica
  4. ^ Trajectory Details for Vela 1A from the National Space Science Data Center
  5. ^ https://tess.mit.edu/
  6. ^ "NASA - TESS Science Support Center".