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  • Bree Volker

Code Savvy Presents: Satellite Technology

Updated: Aug 9

Satellites are devices designed to facilitate communication between space and Earth. This sophisticated technology involves transmitters that transmit and receive radio signals across long distances. Building satellites requires careful consideration of various factors, including their durability during launch and in space. Elements such as lifespan, materials, and launch costs are essential considerations. Thorough testing is conducted on each satellite to ensure its reliability and preparedness for launch. Upon passing these tests, satellites are launched into space via proprietary multistage rockets.

The Significance of Satellites

Satellites primarily serve the purpose of communication. Our daily activities, including telephone calls, internet usage, and television broadcasting, are all made possible by these orbiting devices. However, their capabilities extend far beyond communication, particularly in scientific endeavors. Scientists leverage satellites for research and educational purposes. Specific satellites offer insights into Earth monitoring, providing data on weather patterns, agricultural conditions, and climate shifts. Invaluable to disaster management, satellites can anticipate natural calamities and forewarn affected populations. Navigation systems heavily rely on satellites as well, allowing tracking of shipments, aircraft, and even endangered wildlife. The indispensable GPS technology itself hinges on satellite infrastructure.

Unveiling Satellite Anatomy

While each satellite exhibits unique features, they share a common underlying structure. All satellites require a power source, with solar energy being the predominant choice. Antennas hold critical significance, acting as communication signal conduits. Transponders complement antennas by facilitating the relay of received signals. The satellite's housing compartment is of paramount importance, safeguarding its technological components from the hostile space environment. Command and data handling modules monitor the satellite's status and execute commands. These satellites employ guidance software to maintain orbital position and, if displaced, engage thrusters for repositioning. Thermal controls are indispensable, preventing equipment damage from extreme temperatures. Every satellite component is meticulously tailored to its environment, ensuring prolonged functionality.

a info graphic that explains the parts of a satellite

Diverse Satellite Designs

Satellite design varies based on intended orbits: geosynchronous orbit (GEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Certain orbits, like those affected by radiation belts, pose challenges and are avoided. The requisite number of satellites varies for each orbit type. For complete coverage, a mere three GEO satellites suffice, while LEO necessitates at least twenty. While GEO satellites may appear robust, they exhibit signal transmission delays. LEO and MEO satellites, on the other hand, find extensive use in telephony services, with GEO satellites being the preferred choice for broader broadcasting coverage.

an info graphic of Geostationary Orbit (GEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Communication Services and Satellite Types

Satellites offer three main communication services: data communications, telecommunications, and broadcasting. Data communications facilitate information exchange between organizations. Telecommunications encompass fundamental communication modes such as voice calls and cellular data. Broadcasting services govern radio and television network transmissions.

A Sky Teeming with Satellites

Presently, the number of satellites in space nears eight thousand, and projections indicate a tripling of this count owing to heightened demand for swift internet and communication speeds. Scientists envisage satellites as the solution to bridging communication gaps in remote locales in the foreseeable future.

To learn even more, from an incredible woman whose job it is to launch satellites into orbit, don't miss the next MN Women in Tech meetup at the Rochester Public Library:


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