This article will answer many questions about Satellites. From the internet and making overseas calls to GPS navigation, satellites are a crucial part of our modern society. After this article defines what a satellite is, it will also answer what satellites are used for.
What Is a Satellite?
Satellites do not only refer to manmade space probes that orbit around Earth. It also refers to moons and other planets that circle in space. So technically, the Moon is the Earth’s satellite, as it circles it.
There are two primary kinds of satellites — manmade and natural. Natural ones do not serve any special purpose. For instance, the Moon only circles our planet; it does not collect any data. But on the flip side, manmade satellites serve a wide range of purposes, starting from taking pictures of space and collecting data about global precipitation levels. Let us see what these devices do.
What Do Satellites Do?
For GPS to work properly, 20 satellites are constantly circling our planet’s orbit. Thanks to them, anyone from any corner of the world can learn their location and find directions to their destination.
Also, satellites are used to spread TV signals all around the world. Before TV satellites, people were limited to only a few channels. As TV signals follow a linear path and can move long distances, they drift off into space. This happens due to the Earth’s curvature. But thanks to satellites, people can watch international channels from the convenience of their bedroom. This has led to a global cultural infusion.
Along with beaming TV signals, satellites are also responsible for distributing phone signals. Before, people relied on physical wires that went underground and underwater. This method was costly and very complex, but now people can talk with their loved ones no matter where they are.
The most important aspect of satellites is the POV they provide scientists. Researchers can figure out more about Earth when they can see Earth from above. Scientists can study how rain and wind influence global weather, and they can even predict natural calamities with greater precision.
Early Development of Satellite Technology
The first scientist that envisioned a satellite network for communication was British physicist Arthur C. Clarke. He published a book titled the Wireless World back in 1945, and his idea was to establish a satellite cluster that would follow a relay method to disperse global communication signals. He wanted to send out devices that took 24 hours to orbit our planet and that sat at the height of 36,000kms from the Earth’s surface. This way, devices would remain motionless in regard to the Earth’s surface.
Clarke had a great influence on the later developments in sat tech as future scientists considered 36,000kms as a standard for all communication satellites. Also, they named this portion of the Earth’s orbit the Clarke Belt.
How Many Satellites Are Orbiting the Earth?
Today, the Earth’s orbit is filled with manmade satellites. According to an estimate, currently, around 2,787 satellites are orbiting the Earth. Top countries with most satellites are the USA (1,1425), China (382), and Russia (172). Most of America’s devices serve commercial purposes (1,011). Other than that, there are 208 military satellites, 173 government ones, and 33 civil ones.
Currently, SpaceX is sending the greatest number of space probes into space. As part of its Starlink project, SpaceX is sending one satellite each month in 2020. Currently, they have more than 600 space probes in space, and they plan to send another 10,000+ devices.
Similarly, Amazon has introduced its program to send a cluster of 3,000+ devices into space. This program’s goal is to provide an internet connection to underdeveloped nations at a low price.
As scientists now have the technology to harness the Sun’s power and use it as fuel for spacecraft, only the future will tell how satellite technology will shape our civilization. It is estimated that, during the 21st century, an average of 1,000 small satellites will be sent into space every year. Imagine how much we will learn from all of the data those satellites can collect!