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Author Topic: Why is the International Space Station not in a geostationary orbit?  (Read 964 times)

Offline chris

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Why is the ISS (International Space Station) flown at an altitude of 250 miles up, necessitating a 90 minute orbit and considerable jetlag for the occupants, when "parked" in a geostationary orbit at about 20,000 miles out, it would provide a more natural existence for astronauts (at least from a temporal perspective)?


 

Offline RayG

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Cost, access and logistics I suspect.
 

Offline evan_au

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Why is the ISS (International Space Station) flown at an altitude of 250 miles up?
It takes a huge amount of fuel to lift astronauts, cargo, and the components of the ISS out of Earth's atmosphere.
It takes far more to lift them to geostationary orbit, so a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) makes it much cheaper to operate.

There are also some intense radiation belts around the Earth; a LEO is below the inner belt, so it is much safer for the astronauts, being shielded by Earth's magnetic field. To reach geostationary orbit they would need to pass through these belts; the outer belt extends to geosynchronous orbit.

Some of the experiments on the ISS are for Earth observation, which is much cheaper from LEO.
And other experiments like Chris Hadfield doing a cover of a famous song work a lot better if "Planet Earth is blue" is sung with Earth passing by in the background.

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considerable jetlag for the occupants
Astronauts follow the timezone in their control center, and lighting etc is designed to follow that timezone.
They basically ignore the 45 minute day/night cycle happening outside.

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when "parked" in a geostationary orbit at about 20,000 miles out, it would provide a more natural existence for astronauts (at least from a temporal perspective)?
Astronauts could also follow the timezone of the control center in geosynchronous orbit, and lighting etc could also be designed to follow that timezone.
They would basically have to ignore the 6 months of day followed by 10 minutes of night which is happening outside.
I lived for a year in a more northerly latitude than usual, and I found extremely long days to be as disconcerting as extremely long nights.

So to avoid jet-lag, astronauts must be somewhat isolated from the outside lighting (apart from taking photos or playing the guitar in the cupola), and are governed by regular human-imposed time, reinforced via internal lighting.

PS: Where would you "park" an international space station? Above the longitude of Houston, or Kazakhstan? Germany or Japan? In LEO, it passes above most populated areas of the planet, and is easily seen from the ground.
 
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