Satellite

A satellite or artificial satellite is an object intentionally placed into orbit in outer space. Except for passive satellites, most satellites have an electricity generation system for equipment on board, such as solar panels or radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). Most satellites also have a method of communication to ground stations, called transponders. Many satellites use a standardized bus to save cost and work, the most popular of which is small CubeSats. Similar satellites can work together as a group, forming constellations. Because of the high launch cost to space, satellites are designed to be as lightweight and robust as possible.

Two CubeSats orbiting around Earth after being deployed from the ISS Kibō module's Small Satellite Orbital Deployer

Satellites are placed from the surface to orbit by launch vehicles, high enough to avoid orbital decay by the atmosphere. Satellites can then change or maintain the orbit by propulsion, usually by chemical or ion thrusters. In 2018, about 90% of satellites orbiting Earth are in low Earth orbit or geostationary orbit; geostationary means the satellites stay still at the sky. Some imaging satellites chose a Sun-synchronous orbit because they can scan the entire globe with similar lighting. As the number of satellites and space debris around Earth increases, the collision threat are becoming more severe. A small number of satellites orbit other bodies (such as the Moon, Mars, and the Sun) or many bodies at once (two for a halo orbit, three for a Lissajous orbit).

Earth observation satellites gather information for reconnaissance, mapping, monitoring the weather, ocean, forest, etc. Space telescopes take advantage of outer space's near perfect vacuum to observe objects with the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Because satellites can see a large portion of the Earth at once, communications satellites can relay information to remote places. The signal delay from satellites and their orbit's predictability are used in satellite navigation systems, such as GPS. Space probes are satellites designed for robotic space exploration outside of Earth, and space stations are in essence crewed satellites.

The first artificial satellite to be launched into the Earth's orbit was the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957.


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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Satellite, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.