What do you mean by Graveyard Orbit?

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Sep 8, 2022

A graveyard orbit is an orbit at an altitude of 36,050 km above the earth’s surface (higher than most common operational orbits) where decommissioned satellites are moved to reduce the probability of them crashing into other functional satellites and generating space debris.

Decommissioned satellites are those satellites that operate at high altitudes and cannot be brought back to the earth’s surface where they can be disposed of safely. Such satellites are then pushed above to an altitude of 36,050 km above the earth’s surface in two stages of thrust (Burn 1 & 2) as observed in the image above, where the satellite than can maintain itself in the graveyard orbit while keeping a safe distance from all the other functional satellites.

For Satellites operating in geostationary or geosynchronous orbits, the graveyard orbit is a few hundred km above the operational orbits. De-orbiting a geostationary satellite and bringing it back to earth consumes a lot of fuel whereas re-orbiting the mentioned satellite to the graveyard orbit is very efficient and consumes less fuel.