The geostationary orbit: a critical legal geography of space’s most valuable real estate

Article


Collis, Christy. 2009. "The geostationary orbit: a critical legal geography of space’s most valuable real estate." The Sociological Review. 57 (1), pp. 47-65. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2009.01816.x
Article Title

The geostationary orbit: a critical legal geography of space’s most valuable real estate

ERA Journal ID10931
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorCollis, Christy
Journal TitleThe Sociological Review
Journal Citation57 (1), pp. 47-65
Number of Pages19
Year2009
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN0038-0261
1467-954X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2009.01816.x
Web Address (URL)https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2009.01816.x
Abstract

This chapter begins 35,786 km above the Earth's equator, where a satellite drifts eastward at 11,100 km per hour. The satellite receives information from Earth and bounces it back. The satellite is an average one: about 3.8 meters high, and, with its solar panel ‘wings’ extended, about 26 meters wide. It weighs 1,727 kilograms, including its fuel, which it will use to maintain its precise orbital position over the course of its operational lifespan of about 15 years (Boeing, 2001). Two aspects of this satellite make it particularly important, neither of which has to do with the satellite itself. Its importance rests instead on its location, its geography. At this precise height over the equator, the satellite moves at exactly the same speed as the Earth beneath it: it forever stays in the sky above a single fixed point on the Earth. Second, because it is above the equator, the satellite can ‘see’ 42 per cent of the Earth's surface at once, from 81 degrees north to 81 degrees south (Kelso, 1998: 76). What is called its terrestrial footprint is larger than that which could be achieved by a satellite in any other orbit around the Earth. As such, it's a particularly powerful communications tool: the receiving stations on Earth below it do not need to be adjusted or calibrated because the satellite never moves from its position above them, and its data can be broadcast to 40 per cent of the Earth's surface at once. What makes this satellite so powerful, and so valuable, is that it is located in the geostationary orbit (GEO):1 the single orbital belt, 35,786 km above the equator and a relatively miniscule 30 km wide, in which satellites orbit at the same speed as the ground below them. Because of its special properties, the GEO is Space's2 most valuable position. With a satellite in GEO, a communications provider does not have to pay the massive costs associated with maintaining several satellites to provide full-time coverage, or construct multiple Earth stations or moving receivers. With only three satellites in GEO, a communications provider can cover almost the entire Earth. For satellites, which currently carry much of the world's communication data, as well as its navigation and meteorological information, the GEO is the place to be. But, as the above citations of the GEO's size indicate, the GEO is not infinite: satellites have to be positioned apart from each other so that they don't interfere with each others' transmissions; they are strung along the GEO's thin belt ‘like pearls on a string’ (Wiessner, 1983: 225). Only so many pearls can fit on a string, particularly when they have to be spaced at prescribed intervals. This chapter addresses two key questions about the valuable GEO: who, if anyone, owns it; and what kind of a cultural space is it?

KeywordsOuter Space; spae law; cultural geography
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020440601. Cultural geography
Public Notes

Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.

Byline AffiliationsQueensland University of Technology
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Permalink -

https://research.usq.edu.au/item/q759y/the-geostationary-orbit-a-critical-legal-geography-of-space-s-most-valuable-real-estate

  • 37
    total views
  • 2
    total downloads
  • 1
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

The Brisbane Media Map: Connecting Students, Industry, and University through Authentic Learning
Collis, Christy. 2006. "The Brisbane Media Map: Connecting Students, Industry, and University through Authentic Learning." 7th International Conference on Information Technology Based Higher Education and Training (ITHET 2006). Sydney, Australia 10 - 13 Jul 2006 New Jersey, United States. https://doi.org/10.1109/ITHET.2006.339773
Assault on the unknown: the historical and political geographies of the International Geophysical Year (1957–8)
Collis, Christy and Dodds, Klaus. 2008. "Assault on the unknown: the historical and political geographies of the International Geophysical Year (1957–8)." Journal of Historical Geography. 34 (4), pp. 555-573. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2008.05.016
Walking and sitting in the Australian Antarctic territory: Mobility and imperial space
Collis, Christy. 2010. "Walking and sitting in the Australian Antarctic territory: Mobility and imperial space." Vannini, Phillip (ed.) The Cultures of Alternative Mobilities: Routes Less Travelled. London, United Kingdom. Ashgate Publishing Limited. pp. 39-54
Mawson and Mirnyy Stations: the spatiality of the Australian Antarctic Territory, 1954-61
Collis, Christy. 2007. "Mawson and Mirnyy Stations: the spatiality of the Australian Antarctic Territory, 1954-61." Australian Geographer. 38 (2), pp. 215-231. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049180701422407
Cold colonies: Antarctic spatialities at Mawson and McMurdo stations
Collis, Christy and Stevens, Quentin. 2007. "Cold colonies: Antarctic spatialities at Mawson and McMurdo stations." Cultural Geographies. 14 (2), pp. 234-254. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474474007075356
The Proclamation Island Moment: Making Antarctica Australian
Collis, Christy. 2005. "The Proclamation Island Moment: Making Antarctica Australian." Carter, David and Crotty, Martin (ed.) Australian Studies Centre 25th Anniversary Collection. Saint Lucia, Australia. University of Queensland. pp. 184-197
Sites of benevolence
Collis, Christy and Nolan, Maggie. 2005. "Sites of benevolence." Journal of Australian Studies. 29 (85), pp. 5-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/14443050509388011
Media mapping: Reflections on Australian and Swedish experiences with a new educational technology in media and communication studies
Spurgeon, Christina, Foth, Marcus, Severson, Pernilla and Collis, Christy. 2006. "Media mapping: Reflections on Australian and Swedish experiences with a new educational technology in media and communication studies." Electronic Journal of Communication. 61 (1-2), pp. 1-20.
Web-based Industry Partner Portals to University Workplace Learning Programs: Implementation and Design Issues
Collis, Christy and Seeto, Deidre. 2008. "Web-based Industry Partner Portals to University Workplace Learning Programs: Implementation and Design Issues." Montgomerie, C. (ed.) ED-MEDIA 2008: World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2008. Vienna, Austria 30 Jun - 04 Jul 2008 Charlottesville, United States.
Australia's Antarctic Turf
Collis, Christy. 2004. "Australia's Antarctic Turf." M/C Journal. 7 (2), pp. 1-4. https://doi.org/10.5204/mcj.2330
Territories beyond possession? Antarctica and Outer Space
Collis, Christy. 2017. "Territories beyond possession? Antarctica and Outer Space." The Polar Journal. 7 (2), pp. 287-302. https://doi.org/10.1080/2154896X.2017.1373912
Learning From the Pandemic: The Impacts of Moving Student-Staff Partnerships Online
Judd, Madelaine-Marie, Spinelli, Franciele, Szucs, Brooke, Crisp, Naima, Groening, Julia, Collis, Christy, Batorowicz, Beata, Willox, Dino, Richards, Anna, Judd M.M., Spinelli F., Szucs B., Crisp N., Groening J., Collis C., Batorowicz B., Willox D. and Richards A.. 2021. "Learning From the Pandemic: The Impacts of Moving Student-Staff Partnerships Online." Student Success. 12 (3), pp. 73-83. https://doi.org/10.5204/ssj.1774
Introduction — Popular Cultures and the Law
Collis, Christy and Bainbridge, Jason. 2005. "Introduction — Popular Cultures and the Law." Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies. 19 (2), pp. 159-164. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304310500084335