LEO

Short for low earth orbit, a satellite system used in telecommunications. LEO satellites orbit the earth between 400 and 1,000 miles above the earth’s surface. LEOs are mostly used for data communication such as e-mail, paging and videoconferencing. Because LEOs are not fixed in space in relation to the rotation of the earth, they move at very high speeds and therefore data being transmitted via LEOs must be handed off from one satellite to the next as the satellites move in and out of range of the earth-bound transmitting stations that are sending the signals into space. Because of the low orbit, the transmitting stations do not have to be as powerful as those that transmit to satellites orbiting at greater distances from the earth’s surface. LEO telecommunication systems are a promising technology because they provide the ability for underdeveloped territories to acquire satellite telephone service in areas where it is either too costly or not geographically possible to lay land lines.

Also see MEO and GEO.

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