Satellites have been the guiding force of human space exploration for a long as space exploration has existed. The following material that is being presented is overview of satellite history and I hope all readers of this material find that it is informative and interesting.
A satellite is any object that orbits a larger object. This being so makes the most famous satellite, our moon. (picture of moon from Apollo 11) Since early times humans have been fascinated with our moon, and from this we must credit the first hypothesis on satellite technology. Author C. Clarke originally produced the idea of bouncing radio waves of a orbiting surface, he wrote this idea in Wireless World in 1945. Clarke had most likely got these ideas from a story entitled The Brick Moon, which depicted a space station relaying Morse code messages. Shortly after World War II began bringing about the age of space exploration. After the war, the technology had been developed to send objects into space. Quickly, two nations acted to create a device that could relay radio waves from orbit. The U.S. made the first step.
In 1954, the U.S. relayed a voice message off of the moon. Three years later, in the October of 1957, the Russians sent Sputnik 1 in orbit. Sputnik 1 sent radio beeps from space making the Russians the first to put an artificial satellite into orbit. The U.S. felt the increasing pressure of the need for space technology, and on July 29, 1958 the U.S. government signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, creating NASA. That October, a theory by a man named Tsiolkovsky created in 1895, was put into effect. The theory of Geosynchronous orbit was proposed to make a communications satellite program possible. The first step in this process was to get proof that it was possible to relay a message from one part of the earth to another. It was done in 1959, when a satellite communication link was established between Washington DC and Hawaii, using the moon’s surface. Soon after, the Hughes corporation released a commercial satellite proposal bringing about the beginning of our modern communication system. Satellites were soon launched that could send delayed messages on a large scale. AT;T soon applied to the FCC rights to experiment with using this technology for practical purposes. In October of 1960, an agreement between AT;T and NASA allowed for further development of communication technology. In 1961, AT;T got approval to experiment with satellite technology and things were soon in full tilt. NASA’s budget increase led the way for more advanced satellite systems and soon ground-air-ground communications were established. This increase in technology has fluxed for thirty five years and will probably continue into the next century.
A satellite has many functions. It can be a communication satellite, a observation satellite that takes pictures and other readings, or a scientific satellite. An observation satellite can send pictures of the earth that help us forecast weather, locate various areas, and tell us more about the environment. (picture from orbiting body) Scientific satellites are for special purposes, such as reading the amount of a certain element in the earth’s atmosphere. The way a satellite works is basically the same as a mirror. It receives data from earth, then does a assigned task such as take readings or just reflect the original data back to another spot on earth. The way a satellite stays in orbit is also quite simple. A satellite orbits the earth by actually falling around the earth but going forward so fast that it falls around the earth’s curved surface. But satellites do not stay in obit forever. Satellites gradually slow down, in a process called decay. They slow down due to the air resistance created when they go near the atmosphere. Satellites are not aerodynamic so they cannot withstand the final part of the decaying process when they fall to earth and usually burn up before they hit the surface.
In the earlier pages I mentioned a thing called Geosynchronous Orbit. That type of orbit is when a satellite is at an altitude of 35,784 km above the earth’s surface. At this altitude, it takes exactly one day to make a full orbit around the earth. A low earth orbit which for the most part is not widely used due to the fact that the range that it can be reached is limited. Although the original satellites used for communication were low earth orbit (the first of these named echo, which was a large metal sphere) and had problems due to the lack of time they were able to orbit the earth without feeling the effects of decay.
The use of the satellite system is quite convenient in the sense that it would be of far greater difficulty and cost to send information any other way. In conclusion, satellites are a part of our past, present, and future of communication. We owe much to the people who helped bring artificial satellite technology to life and we must also realize that continued work must be distributed in the field of satellite technology.