From the June 2010 issue

How difficult is it to launch an artificial satellite into a circular orbit versus an elliptical one? Is the final altitude of the orbit a key factor?

Grant Miller, Warrensburg, Missouri
By | Published: June 28, 2010 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
August 2010 launching a spacecraft
Launching a spacecraft into Earth orbit is a difficult job that involves multiple stages. This diagram illustrates the many steps needed to get NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite to its circular science orbit.
Astronomy: Roen Kelly after NASA

Astronautical engineers often say that the most difficult part of any space mission is getting into Earth orbit. It matters little if the orbit is circular or eccentric — both are difficult. The altitude is not a key factor.