At the end of their operational life, satellites on geostationary orbit and higher are put in a graveyard orbit that is higher than their operational orbit. Satellites in LEO are slowed down so that atmospheric drag deorbit them. Basically, at the end of their operational life:

  • satellites in high orbit are put in a higher orbit
  • satellites in low orbit are put in a lower orbit

That way, risk of collision between retired satellites and operational ones is lowered.

What about satellites in MEO?

For example, some navigation satellites are now retired (e.g. most of the GLONASS first gerenation). Where are they now? Are they in an orbit with a periapsis such that atmospheric drag is no longer negligible (such as satellites in LEO at the end of their operational life)? In a higher graveyard orbit (such as satellites in geosynchronous orbit)? Elsewhere? What about other satellites in MEO?


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This is an active area of research. As you noted, the main satellites that are in MEO are navigation satellites. The short is they have their own disposal orbits, a bit further beyond the current constellations. It seems that GPS satellites are disposed by raising their apogee by about 1800 km (The perigee seems to remain the same)


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