Altitude of Geostationary Orbit (a special case of Geosynchronous Orbit)

Altitude of Geostationary Orbit (a special case of Geosynchronous Orbit)

Calculate the altitude of a satellite in geostationary orbit which is an orbit with the same 24 hour period as the Earth and always located directly over the same location on the equator. Geostationary orbit is a special case of geosynchronous orbit. A geosynchronous orbit simply has the same 24 hour period as the Earth, however, it is inclined relative to the equator and traces out an ellipse in the sky as seen from the Earth. (Sorry they are incorrectly identified as the same in the video.) Thank you to Dan Burns @kilroi22 and Christopher Becke @BeckePhysics for the correction!
Want Lecture Notes? This is an AP Physics 1 topic.

0:00 Intro
0:11 What is geosynchronous orbit?
0:47 Drawing the free body diagram and starting to solve the problem
3:02 Solving for the satellite’s angular velocity
4:05 Identifying the masses and radii
5:25 Defining “r” and solving for altitude
6:29 The physics works!

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Thank you to Christopher Becke and Aarti Sangwan for being my Quality Control Team for this video.

Thank you to Youssef Nasr for transcribing the English subtitles of this video.

Picture credits:
Syncom II –
bluemarble_north_pole –

Readers Comments (16)

  1. Nice… But the time for a geosynchronous satellite to make a 360 degree rotation is NOT the 24h solar day; it is the 23h 56m 4.0905s sidereal day – or the time between two consecutive meridian crossings of a star… If you wanna do a tutorial – do it right… – waw –

  2. That’s the good stuff right there

  3. *….Can someone please send me a Link to a Satellite Orbiting the Earth? I’ve been trying to find a Real Satellite for over 22 years, didn’t think it would be that hard…?*

  4. Thank you!

  5. Looks a lot like the first FRQ on the 2018 exam. Wish I had rewatched this vid 🙁

  6. санкет мхаске November 29, 2020 @ 8:33 pm

    Are you guys 4-tuples?!?

  7. Hello there…. It is a quite happier experience for me to be taught by you … A tremendous one present on this planet
    See your way of teaching is quite different and innovative… I literally enjoying all your stuff. Thanks for providing such an adorable material but could I ask you for a favor that may I get the notes of a few chapters for my exam … If you don’t mind

  8. Geosynchronous orbits and geostationary orbits are not the same thing. Technically speaking, geostationary orbits are a type of geosynchronous orbit, but not all geosynchronous orbits are geostationary.

  9. Priyantha Dissanayaka November 29, 2020 @ 8:37 pm

    This method is just brilliant and seems much easier than using kepler’s though it depends on the info in the question

  10. Hey Mr. Palmer,

    Wouldn’t solving for r using Tearth^2=Tsatellite^2, 86400^2=(4pi^2r^3)/(G(5.97×10^24) be a little easier? I just finished a problem similar to this on a worksheet and just wanted to share.

  11. haha thanks! Although I am not studying physics, I enjoy watching this video. I would recommend it to my remote sensing classmates.

  12. Hi, I was wondering about calculating the orbit height by myself and while searching for the correct numbers I stumbled upon this video. It was very helpful and thank you!
    However, when putting in the numbers I found a radius of 42164,24 km from the centre of gravity or 35786,24 km above the equatorial surface of the earth. I took a sedereal day of 86164,091 seconds as the orbit time.
    Just a little difference but where does it come from? You used 24 hours for a day but whatever I do, I can’t get to the 35900 km that you say NASA states.

  13. A stupid question: when you said the angular velocity (omega)= delta theta divided by delta t. Why didn’t you equate the delta theta to the circumference of the satellites orbit. (it should have been 2 x pi x r).
    I understand that the answer it correct but I’d like someone to explain this to me. (Took me an hour to figure out that it’d have been the same thing this way, but why?!)

  14. Christopher Wood November 29, 2020 @ 8:57 pm

    This channel is gold

  15. Hi there again, since you have taught AP Physics 1 I was wondering if you could answer a question on scheduling. My teacher said that we are behind currently in Physics as we have barely finished momentum. He said that we should be somewhere in rotation, but because of a new schedule it’s been hard to do. So I ask you again, is my physics class behind? Is it something that should concern me?

  16. Make Build Modify November 29, 2020 @ 9:02 pm

    Dude, the timing of your "students" dialog is amazing. I’m not sure if many of the viewers understand how difficult a task that is.

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