# Why is the LEO/MEO boundary at 2,000 km?

Differentiating Medium Earth Orbits from High Earth Orbits at the geosynchronous altitude makes intuitive sense. Is there some meaningful difference between orbits above vs. below 2,000 km, or is the LEO/MEO distinction purely arbitrary?

• A good question. These things are usually set as "near to some property", like Karman line, where achieving aerodynamic lift requires exceeding orbital speed. If I were to bet, I'd say MEO would be bound to orbital decay time ("not within lifetime of Earth"), but that's just my hunch.
– SF.
Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 4:10
• I was taught a long time ago that MEO was in part defined by the need for rad-harder electronics, as the Van Allen particle fluxes start to rise steeply at the top of the LEO range. I don’t have the data at hand to confirm that, but perhaps somebody does & can write an Answer. Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 4:31
• A circular orbit with a period of 2 hours has a height of 1700 km. For 2000 km height, the period is 2 hours, 7 minutes and 2 seconds.
– Uwe
Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 20:31
• The inner Van Allen belt is typically from 1000 km to 6000 km. The LEO/MEO boundary at 2000 km is well within the inner belt.
– Uwe
Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 20:37
• @uwe Not sure of the sign of your comment, sorry. Take a look at figure 25 of spacewx.com/Docs/AIAA_G-083-1999.pdf, which shows that the dose rate is rising exponentially (log plot) and remains high from 2000km (1.3Re) upward. (I can't find my earlier papers on this, but there are graphs from the late 60's that look a lot like that) It's true that LEO has varying dose characteristics, variation with latitude & solar conditions, etc, but MEO at 2k and up was a nasty place for early solid-state electronics. Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 4:19