RE: Graveyard Orbit

From: Barker, Jefferson (JBARKER) (
Date: Mon Jun 04 2001 - 13:35:21 PDT

  • Next message: Vitek, Antonin: "Re: Graveyard Orbit"

    Generally, the only orbit that is controlled because location is key is the
    geostationary orbit at about 22,300 miles above the equator.  A "graveyard
    orbit" for geostationary orbit would be about 150 miles higher.
    At this altitude there is virtually no atmospheric resistance, so a
    satellite's orbit decays very slowly.  Adding another 150 miles to the
    altitude means that decay will take even longer, up to a few hundred years
    longer.  The graveyard orbit doesn't permanently remove an old satellite
    from the geostationary belt; it just makes it somebody else's problem many
    generations from now.  Due to perturbations, an old satellite will gradually
    get a little eccentricity and inclination in its orbit.
    Jeff Barker 
    -----Original Message-----
    From: Jonathan T Wojack []
    Sent: Monday, June 04, 2001 2:06 PM
    Subject: Graveyard Orbit
    From   :
    >Once the useful life of a satellite has come to an end, which is usually
    due to running out of station-keeping or attitude 
    >control propellant or due to degraded components, the satellite can
    become a hazard to other operational satellites. 
    >This hazard can be minimized by moving the satellite to a seldom-used
    orbit, referred to as a "graveyard" orbit, or re-
    >entered and burned up in the atmosphere if it is in a low orbit, as was
    done with Mir, the aging Russian space station 
    >that re-entered the atmosphere in March. Orbital safety can minimize the
    potential hazards of a satellite at the end of its 
    >life by venting any pressurized tanks, to make safe any remaining
    pyrotechnic devices and to turn off transmitters. 
    Does anyone know precisely what a "graveyard orbit" is like?  i.e., what
    are the orbit parameters?
    Jonathan T. Wojack       
    39.706d N   75.683d W            
    4 hours behind UT (-4)
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