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In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth's Moon. On 4 October 1957 the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. Since then, about 8,100 satellites from more than 40 countries have been launched. According to a 2018 estimate, some 4,900 remain in orbit, of those about 1,900 were operational; while the rest have lived out their useful lives and become space debris. Approximately 500 operational satellites are in low-Earth orbit, 50 are in medium-Earth orbit (at 20,000 km), and the rest are in geostationary orbit (at 36,000 km). A few large satellites have been launched in parts and assembled in orbit. Over a dozen space probes have been placed into orbit around other bodies and become artificial satellites to the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, a few asteroids, a comet and the Sun.
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In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth's Moon.
On 4 October 1957 the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. Since then, about 8,100 satellites from more than 40 countries have been launched. According to a 2018 estimate, some 4,900 remain in orbit, of those about 1,900 were operational; while the rest have lived out their useful lives and become space debris. Approximately 500 operational satellites are in low-Earth orbit, 50 are in medium-Earth orbit (at 20,000 km), and the rest are in geostationary orbit (at 36,000 km). A few large satellites have been launched in parts and assembled in orbit. Over a dozen space probes have been placed into orbit around other bodies and become artificial satellites to the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, a few asteroids, a comet and the Sun.
Satellites are used for many purposes. Among several other applications, they can be used to make star maps and maps of planetary surfaces, and also take pictures of planets they are launched into. Common types include military and civilian Earth observation satellites, communications satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and space telescopes. Space stations and human spacecraft in orbit are also satellites. Satellite orbits vary greatly, depending on the purpose of the satellite, and are classified in a number of ways. Well-known (overlapping) classes include low Earth orbit, polar orbit, and geostationary orbit.
A launch vehicle is a rocket that places a satellite into orbit. Usually, it lifts off from a launch pad on land. Some are launched at sea from a submarine or a mobile maritime platform, or aboard a plane (see air launch to orbit).
"Newton's cannonball", presented as a "thought experiment" in A Treatise of the System of the World, by Isaac Newton was the first published mathematical study of the possibility of an artificial satellite.
In 1903, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935) published Exploring Space Using Jet Propulsion Devices (in Russian: Исследование мировых пространств реактивными приборами), which is the first academic treatise on the use of rocketry to launch spacecraft. He calculated the orbital speed required for a minimal orbit, and that a multi-stage rocket fuelled by liquid propellants could achieve this.
In 1928, Herman Potočnik (1892–1929) published his sole book, The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor (German: Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums – der Raketen-Motor). He described the use of orbiting spacecraft for observation of the ground and described how the special conditions of space could be useful for scientific experiments.
In a 1945 Wireless World article, the English science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008) described in detail the possible use of communications satellites for mass communications. He suggested that three geostationary satellites would provide coverage over the entire planet.
The US military studied the idea of what was referred to as the "earth satellite vehicle" when Secretary of Defense James Forrestal made a public announcement on 29 December 1948, that his office was coordinating that project between the various services.
The first artificial satellite was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957, and initiating the Soviet Sputnik program, with Sergei Korolev as chief designer. This in turn triggered the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Sputnik 1 helped to identify the density of high atmospheric layers through measurement of its orbital change and provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1's success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the so-called Space Race within the Cold War.
In May, 1946, Project RAND had released the Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, which stated, "A satellite vehicle with appropriate instrumentation can be expected to be one of the most potent scientific tools of the Twentieth Century." The United States had been considering launching orbital satellites since 1945 under the Bureau of Aeronautics of the United States Navy. The United States Air Force's Project RAND eventually released the report, but considered the satellite to be a tool for science, politics, and propaganda, rather than a potential military weapon. In 1954, the Secretary of Defense stated, "I know of no American satellite program." In February 1954 Project RAND released "Scientific Uses for a Satellite Vehicle," written by R.R. Carhart. This expanded on potential scientific uses for satellite vehicles and was followed in June 1955 with "The Scientific Use of an Artificial Satellite," by H.K. Kallmann and W.W. Kellogg.
In the context of activities planned for the International Geophysical Year (1957–58), the White House announced on 29 July 1955 that the U.S. intended to launch satellites by the spring of 1958. This became known as Project Vanguard. On 31 July, the Soviets announced that they intended to launch a satellite by the fall of 1957.
Following pressure by the American Rocket Society, the National Science Foundation, and the International Geophysical Year, military interest picked up and in early 1955 the Army and Navy were working on Project Orbiter, two competing programs: the army's which involved using a Jupiter C rocket, and the civilian/Navy Vanguard Rocket, to launch a satellite. At first, they failed: initial preference was given to the Vanguard program, whose first attempt at orbiting a satellite resulted in the explosion of the launch vehicle on national television. But finally, three months after Sputnik 2, the project succeeded; Explorer 1 became the United States' first artificial satellite on 31 January 1958.
In June 1961, three-and-a-half years after the launch of Sputnik 1, the Air Force used resources of the United States Space Surveillance Network to catalog 115 Earth-orbiting satellites.
Early satellites were constructed as "one-off" designs. With growth in geosynchronous (GEO) satellite communication, multiple satellites began to be built on single model platforms called satellite buses. The first standardized satellite bus design was the HS-333 GEO commsat, launched in 1972.
Currently the largest artificial satellite ever is the International Space Station.
The United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN), a division of the United States Strategic Command, has been tracking objects in Earth's orbit since 1957 when the Soviet Union opened the Space Age with the launch of Sputnik I. Since then, the SSN has tracked more than 26,000 objects. The SSN currently tracks more than 8,000-man-made orbiting objects. The rest have re-entered Earth's atmosphere and disintegrated, or survived re-entry and impacted the Earth. The SSN tracks objects that are 10 centimeters in diameter or larger; those now orbiting Earth range from satellites weighing several tons to pieces of spent rocket bodies weighing only 10 pounds. About seven percent are operational satellites (i.e. ~560 satellites), the rest are space debris. The United States Strategic Command is primarily interested in the active satellites, but also tracks space debris which upon reentry might otherwise be mistaken for incoming missiles.
Fixed satellite services handle hundreds of billions of voice, data, and video transmission tasks across all countries and continents between certain points on the Earth's surface.
Mobile satellite systems help connect remote regions, vehicles, ships, people and aircraft to other parts of the world and/or other mobile or stationary communications units, in addition to serving as navigation systems.
Scientific research satellites provide meteorological information, land survey data (e.g. remote sensing), Amateur (HAM) Radio, and other different scientific research applications such as earth science, marine science, and atmospheric research.
The first satellite, Sputnik 1, was put into orbit around Earth and was therefore in geocentric orbit. By far this is the most common type of orbit with approximately 1,886 artificial satellites orbiting the Earth. Geocentric orbits may be further classified by their altitude, inclination and eccentricity.
The commonly used altitude classifications of geocentric orbit are Low Earth orbit (LEO), Medium Earth orbit (MEO) and High Earth orbit (HEO). Low Earth orbit is any orbit below 2,000 km. Medium Earth orbit is any orbit between 2,000 and 35,786 km. High Earth orbit is any orbit higher than 35,786 km.
The general structure of a satellite is that it is connected to the earth stations that are present on the ground and connected through terrestrial links.
The satellite's functional versatility is imbedded within its technical components and its operations characteristics. Looking at the "anatomy" of a typical satellite, one discovers two modules. Note that some novel architectural concepts such as Fractionated spacecraft somewhat upset this taxonomy.
The bus module consists of the following subsystems:
The structural subsystem provides the mechanical base structure with adequate stiffness to withstand stress and vibrations experienced during launch, maintain structural integrity and stability while on station in orbit, and shields the satellite from extreme temperature changes and micro-meteorite damage.
The telemetry subsystem (aka Command and Data Handling, C&DH) monitors the on-board equipment operations, transmits equipment operation data to the earth control station, and receives the earth control station's commands to perform equipment operation adjustments.
The power subsystem consists of solar panels to convert solar energy into electrical power, regulation and distribution functions, and batteries that store power and supply the satellite when it passes into the Earth's shadow. Nuclear power sources (Radioisotope thermoelectric generator) have also been used in several successful satellite programs including the Nimbus program (1964–1978).
The thermal control subsystem helps protect electronic equipment from extreme temperatures due to intense sunlight or the lack of sun exposure on different sides of the satellite's body (e.g. optical solar reflector)
The attitude and orbit control subsystem consists of sensors to measure vehicle orientation, control laws embedded in the flight software, and actuators (reaction wheels, thrusters). These apply the torques and forces needed to re-orient the vehicle to a desired attitude, keep the satellite in the correct orbital position, and keep antennas pointed in the right directions.
The second major module is the communication payload, which is made up of transponders. A transponder is capable of :
When satellites reach the end of their mission (this normally occurs within 3 or 4 years after launch), satellite operators have the option of de-orbiting the satellite, leaving the satellite in its current orbit or moving the satellite to a graveyard orbit. Historically, due to budgetary constraints at the beginning of satellite missions, satellites were rarely designed to be de-orbited. One example of this practice is the satellite Vanguard 1. Launched in 1958, Vanguard 1, the 4th manmade satellite put in Geocentric orbit, was still in orbit as of March 2015[update], as well as the upper stage of its launch rocket.
Instead of being de-orbited, most satellites are either left in their current orbit or moved to a graveyard orbit. As of 2002, the FCC requires all geostationary satellites to commit to moving to a graveyard orbit at the end of their operational life prior to launch. In cases of uncontrolled de-orbiting, the major variable is the solar flux, and the minor variables the components and form factors of the satellite itself, and the gravitational perturbations generated by the Sun and the Moon (as well as those exercised by large mountain ranges, whether above or below sea level). The nominal breakup altitude due to aerodynamic forces and temperatures is 78 km, with a range between 72 and 84 km. Solar panels, however, are destroyed before any other component at altitudes between 90 and 95 km.
This list includes countries with an independent capability to place satellites in orbit, including production of the necessary launch vehicle. Note: many more countries have the capability to design and build satellites but are unable to launch them, instead relying on foreign launch services. This list does not consider those numerous countries, but only lists those capable of launching satellites indigenously, and the date this capability was first demonstrated. The list does not include the European Space Agency, a multi-national state organization, nor private consortiums.
|Order||Country||Date of first launch||Rocket||Satellite(s)|
|1||Soviet Union||4 October 1957||Sputnik-PS||Sputnik 1|
|2||United States||1 February 1958||Juno I||Explorer 1|
|3||France||26 November 1965||Diamant-A||Astérix|
|4||Japan||11 February 1970||Lambda-4S||Ohsumi|
|5||China||24 April 1970||Long March 1||Dong Fang Hong I|
|6||United Kingdom||28 October 1971||Black Arrow||Prospero|
|7||India||18 July 1980||SLV||Rohini D1|
|8||Israel||19 September 1988||Shavit||Ofeq 1|
|– ||Russia||21 January 1992||Soyuz-U||Kosmos 2175|
|– ||Ukraine||13 July 1992||Tsyklon-3||Strela|
|9||Iran||2 February 2009||Safir-1||Omid|
|10||North Korea||12 December 2012||Unha-3||Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2|
|11||South Korea||30 January 2013||Naro-1||STSAT-2C|
|12||New Zealand||12 November 2018||Electron||CubeSat|
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2012)
|Country||Year of first launch||First satellite||Operational payloads in orbit as of July 2018|
|Soviet Union |
|Sputnik 1 |
|United States||1958||Explorer 1||1619|
|United Kingdom||1962||Ariel 1||0043|
|Italy||1964||San Marco 1||0027|
|China||1970||Dong Fang Hong I||0312|
|Bulgaria||1981||Intercosmos Bulgaria 1300||0001|
|Hong Kong||1990||AsiaSat 1||0009|
|South Korea||1992||Kitsat A||24|
|Czech Republic||1995||Magion 4||3|
|United Arab Emirates||2000||Thuraya 1||9|
|Tonga||2002||Esiafi 1 (former Comstar D4)||0|
|Greece||2003||Hellas Sat 2||4|
|Cyprus||2003||Hellas Sat 2||0|
|Isle of Man||2011||ViaSat-1||0001|
|North Korea||2012||Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2||2|
|Bermuda||2013||Bermudasat 1 (former EchoStar VI)||0|
|Jersey||2013||O3b-1, −2, −3, −4||0|
|Lithuania||2014||LituanicaSAT-1 and LitSat-1||1|
|Bangladesh||2017||BRAC Onnesha and Bangabandhu-1||2|
|New Zealand||2018||Humanity Star||1|
|Costa Rica||2018||Proyecto Irazú||1|
While Canada was the third country to build a satellite which was launched into space, it was launched aboard an American rocket from an American spaceport. The same goes for Australia, who launched first satellite involved a donated U.S. Redstone rocket and American support staff as well as a joint launch facility with the United Kingdom. The first Italian satellite San Marco 1 launched on 15 December 1964 on a U.S. Scout rocket from Wallops Island (Virginia, United States) with an Italian launch team trained by NASA. By similar occasions, almost all further first national satellites was launched by foreign rockets.
†-note: Both Chile and Belarus used Russian companies as principal contractors to build their satellites, they used Russian-Ukrainian manufactured rockets and launched either from Russia or Kazakhstan.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2015)
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2015)
In recent times[timeframe?], satellites have been hacked by militant organizations to broadcast propaganda and to pilfer classified information from military communication networks.
For testing purposes, satellites in low earth orbit have been destroyed by ballistic missiles launched from earth. Russia, the United States, China and India have demonstrated the ability to eliminate satellites. In 2007 the Chinese military shot down an aging weather satellite, followed by the US Navy shooting down a defunct spy satellite in February 2008. On 27th March, 2019 the India shot down a live test satellite at 300 km altitude in 3 minutes. India became the fourth country to having capability to destroy live satellite.
Due to the low received signal strength of satellite transmissions, they are prone to jamming by land-based transmitters. Such jamming is limited to the geographical area within the transmitter's range. GPS satellites are potential targets for jamming, but satellite phone and television signals have also been subjected to jamming.
Also, it is very easy to transmit a carrier radio signal to a geostationary satellite and thus interfere with the legitimate uses of the satellite's transponder. It is common for Earth stations to transmit at the wrong time or on the wrong frequency in commercial satellite space, and dual-illuminate the transponder, rendering the frequency unusable. Satellite operators now have sophisticated monitoring that enables them to pinpoint the source of any carrier and manage the transponder space effectively. 
During the last five decades, space agencies have sent thousands of space crafts, space capsules, or satellites to the universe. In fact, weathermen make forecasts on the weather and natural calamities based on observations from these satellites.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) requested the National Academies to publish a report entitled, Earth Observations from Space; The First 50 Years of Scientific Achievements in 2008. It described how the capability to view the whole globe simultaneously from satellite observations revolutionized studies about the planet Earth. This development brought about a new age of combined Earth sciences. The National Academies report concluded that continuing Earth observations from the galaxy are necessary to resolve scientific and social challenges in the future.
The NASA introduced an Earth Observing System (EOS) composed of several satellites, science component, and data system described as the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). It disseminates numerous science data products as well as services designed for interdisciplinary education. EOSDIS data can be accessed online and accessed through File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). Scientists and researchers perform EOSDIS science operations within a distributed platform of multiple interconnected nodes or Science Investigator-led Processing Systems (SIPS) and discipline-specific Distributed Active Archive Centers (DACCs).
The European Space Agency has plans to launch a satellite for Earth observation. This will be equipped with an artificial intelligence (AI) processor that will allow the spacecraft to make decisions on images to capture and data to transmit to the Earth. BrainSat will use the Intel Myriad X vision processing unit (VPU). The launching will be scheduled in 2019. ESA director for Earth Observation Programs Josef Aschbaher made the announcement during the PhiWeek in November 2018. This is the five-day meet that focused on the future of Earth observation. The conference was held at the ESA Center for Earth Observation in Frascati, Italy. ESA also launched the PhiLab, referring to the future-focused team that works to harness the potentials of AI and other disruptive innovations. Meanwhile, the ESA also announced that it expects to commence the qualification flight of the Space Rider space plane in 2021. This will come after several demonstration missions. Space Rider is the sequel of the Agency's Intermediate Experimental vehicle (IXV) which was launched in 2015. It has the capacity payload of 800 kilograms for orbital missions that will last a maximum of two months.
SpaceX was scheduled to launch a multiple satellite mission on November 28, 2018 from the United States Vandenberg Air Force Base after an initial November 19 schedule. The launch is expected to be visible once the rocket heads toward the south into an Earth observation trajectory traveling over the opposites. However, the second supposed launched was delayed again because of poor weather conditions and set for another date which is not yet definite. The mission is known as the SSO-A Smallsat Express is another landmark for Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX which had 19 rocket launches in 2018 alone. The estimated cost of this Falcon 9 rocket is approximately $62 million. The rocket has 64 satellites with each one going separate ways.
Amazon and Lockheed
Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Lockheed Martin entered into a strategic partnership for the purpose of integrating the AWS ground station service with Lockheed's verge antenna network. These two corporations aim to merge these highly-capable systems that will provide clients with robust satellite uplinks and downlinks. Through these systems, users can incorporate satellite data with various AWS services which include computing, storage, analytics, and machine-learning.
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