Low Earth orbit

Orbit size comparison of GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou-2, and Iridium constellations, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and geostationary orbit (and its graveyard orbit), with the Van Allen radiation belts and the Earth to scale.[a]
The Moon's orbit is around 9 times as large as geostationary orbit.[b] (In the SVG file, hover over an orbit or its label to highlight it; click to load its article.)

A low Earth orbit (LEO) is an orbit around Earth with a period of 128 minutes or less (making at least 11.25 orbits per day) and an eccentricity less than 0.25.[1] Most of the artificial objects in outer space are in LEO, with an altitude never more than about one-third of the radius of Earth.[2]

The term LEO region is also used for the area of space below an altitude of 2,000 km (1,200 mi) (about one-third of Earth's radius).[3] Objects in orbits that pass through this zone, even if they have an apogee further out or are sub-orbital, are carefully tracked since they present a collision risk to the many LEO satellites.

All crewed space stations to date have been within LEO. From 1968 to 1972, the Apollo program's lunar missions sent humans beyond LEO. Since the end of the Apollo program, no human spaceflights have been beyond LEO.


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  1. ^ "Current Catalog Files". Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2018. LEO: Mean Motion > 11.25 & Eccentricity < 0.25
  2. ^ Sampaio, Jarbas; Wnuk, Edwin; Vilhena de Moraes, Rodolpho; Fernandes, Sandro (1 January 2014). "Resonant Orbital Dynamics in LEO Region: Space Debris in Focus". Mathematical Problems in Engineering. 2014: Figure 1: Histogram of the mean motion of the cataloged objects. doi:10.1155/2014/929810. Archived from the original on 1 October 2021. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  3. ^ "IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines" (PDF). INTER-AGENCY SPACE DEBRIS COORDINATION COMMITTEE: Issued by Steering Group and Working Group 4. September 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 July 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018. Region A, Low Earth Orbit (or LEO) Region – spherical region that extends from the Earth's surface up to an altitude (Z) of 2,000 km

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