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NASA's Earth-observing fleet as of June 2012.
A full-size model of the Earth observation satellite ERS 2 ERS 2.jpg
A full-size model of the Earth observation satellite ERS 2

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.

Spaceflight essentially an extreme form of ballistic flight,use of space technology to achieve the flight of spacecraft into and through outer space, used in space exploration, and also in commercial activities like space tourism and satellite telecommunications

Spaceflight is ballistic flight into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft with or without humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the U.S. Apollo Moon landing and Space Shuttle programs and the Russian Soyuz program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station. Examples of unmanned spaceflight include space probes that leave Earth orbit, as well as satellites in orbit around Earth, such as communications satellites. These operate either by telerobotic control or are fully autonomous.

Orbit gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in outer space; circular or elliptical path of one object around another object

In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet. Normally, orbit refers to a regularly repeating trajectory, although it may also refer to a non-repeating trajectory. To a close approximation, planets and satellites follow elliptic orbits, with the central mass being orbited at a focal point of the ellipse, as described by Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

Natural satellite astronomical body that orbits a planet

A natural satellite or moon is, in the most common usage, an astronomical body that orbits a planet or minor planet.


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. [1] 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). [2] 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, [3] a comet and the Sun.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.

Sputnik 1 first artificial Earth satellite

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957, orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died, then silently for two more months before falling back into the atmosphere. It was a 58 cm (23 in) diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses. Its radio signal was easily detectable even by radio amateurs, and the 65° inclination and duration of its orbit made its flight path cover virtually the entire inhabited Earth. This surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the Cold War. The launch was the beginning of a new era of political, military, technological, and scientific developments.

Space debris collection of defunct objects in orbit

Initially, the term space debris referred to the natural debris found in the solar system: asteroids, comets, and meteoroids. However, with the 1979 beginning of the NASA Orbital Debris Program, the term also refers to the debris from the mass of defunct, artificially created objects in space, especially Earth orbit. These include old satellites and spent rocket stages, as well as the fragments from their disintegration and collisions.

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.

Planetary surface where the solid (or liquid) material of the outer crust on certain types of astronomical objects contacts the atmosphere or outer space

A planetary surface is where the solid material of the outer crust on certain types of astronomical objects contacts the atmosphere or outer space. Planetary surfaces are found on solid objects of planetary mass, including terrestrial planets, dwarf planets, natural satellites, planetesimals and many other small Solar System bodies (SSSBs). The study of planetary surfaces is a field of planetary geology known as surface geology, but also a focus of a number of fields including planetary cartography, topography, geomorphology, atmospheric sciences, and astronomy. Land is the term given to non-liquid planetary surfaces. The term landing is used to describe the collision of an object with a planetary surface and is usually at a velocity in which the object can remain intact and remain attached.

Earth observation satellite non-military satellite specifically designed to observe Earth from orbit

An Earth observation satellite or Earth remote sensing satellite is satellite specifically designed for Earth observation from orbit, similar to spy satellites but intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, map making etc. The first occurrence of satellite remote sensing can be dated to the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. Sputnik 1 sent back radio signals, which scientists used to study the ionosphere. NASA launched the first American satellite, Explorer 1, in January 31, 1958. The information sent back from its radiation detector led to the discovery of the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts. The TIROS-1 spacecraft, launched on April 1, 1960 as part of NASA's TIROS Program, sent back the first television footage of weather patterns to be taken from space. As of 2008, more than 150 Earth observation satellites were in orbit, recording data with both passive and active sensors and acquiring more than 10 terabits of data daily.

Communications satellite artificial satellite designed for telecommunications

A communications satellite is an artificial satellite that relays and amplifies radio telecommunications signals via a transponder; it creates a communication channel between a source transmitter and a receiver at different locations on Earth. Communications satellites are used for television, telephone, radio, internet, and military applications. There are 2,134 communications satellites in Earth’s orbit, used by both private and government organizations. Many are in geostationary orbit 22,200 miles (35,700 km) above the equator, so that the satellite appears stationary at the same point in the sky, so the satellite dish antennas of ground stations can be aimed permanently at that spot and do not have to move to track it.

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).

Launch vehicle rocket used to carry payload into outer space

A launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket used to carry a payload from Earth's surface through outer space, either to another surface point, or into space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, launch pad, vehicle assembly and fuelling systems, range safety, and other related infrastructure.

Rocket missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle that obtains thrust from a rocket engine

A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle that obtains thrust from a rocket engine. Rocket engine exhaust is formed entirely from propellant carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction and push rockets forward simply by expelling their exhaust in the opposite direction at high speed, and can therefore work in the vacuum of space.

Launch pad facility from which rockets are launched

A launch pad is an above-ground facility from which a rocket-powered missile or space vehicle is vertically launched. A spaceport is a facility which includes, and provides required support for, one or more launch pads; the term launch pad may sometimes be used to describe just the central launch platform. A launch pad typically includes a launch mount or launch platform—to support the vehicle and its service structure with umbilicals to provide propellants, cryogenic fluids, electrical power, communications and telemetry prior to launch—plus storage facilities for propellants and gases, equipment, access roads, drainage and all the requisite infrastructure to support rocket vehicle launches.

Satellites are usually semi-independent computer-controlled systems. Satellite subsystems attend many tasks, such as power generation, thermal control, telemetry, attitude control and orbit control.

Spacecraft thermal control process of keeping all parts of a spacecraft within acceptable temperature ranges

In spacecraft design, the function of the thermal control system (TCS) is to keep all the spacecraft's component systems within acceptable temperature ranges during all mission phases. It must cope with the external environment, which can vary in a wide range as the spacecraft is exposed to deep space or to solar or planetary flux, and with ejecting to space the internal heat generated by the operation of the spacecraft itself.

Attitude control is controlling the orientation of an object with respect to an inertial frame of reference or another entity like the celestial sphere, certain fields, and nearby objects, etc.


Early conceptions

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky 1986 CPA 5712.jpg
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
A 1949 issue of Popular Science depicts the idea of an "artificial moon" Popular Science May 1949.jpg
A 1949 issue of Popular Science depicts the idea of an "artificial moon"
Animation depicting the orbits of GPS satellites in medium Earth orbit. ConstellationGPS.gif
Animation depicting the orbits of GPS satellites in medium Earth 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.

Newtons cannonball thought experiment

Newton's cannonball was a thought experiment Isaac Newton used to hypothesize that the force of gravity was universal, and it was the key force for planetary motion. It appeared in his book A Treatise of the System of the World.

Isaac Newton Influential British physicist and mathematician

Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.

The first fictional depiction of a satellite being launched into orbit was a short story by Edward Everett Hale, The Brick Moon . [4] [5] The idea surfaced again in Jules Verne's The Begum's Fortune (1879).

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. [6] 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. [7]

Artificial satellites

Sputnik 1: The first artificial satellite to orbit Earth. Sputnik asm.jpg
Sputnik 1: The first artificial satellite to orbit Earth.

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.

Sputnik 2 was launched on 3 November 1957 and carried the first living passenger into orbit, a dog named Laika. [8]

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." [9] 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." [10] In February 1954 Project RAND released "Scientific Uses for a Satellite Vehicle," written by R.R. Carhart. [11] 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. [12]

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. [13]

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. [14]

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.

1U CubeSat ESTCube-1, developed mainly by the students from the University of Tartu, carries out a tether deployment experiment in low Earth orbit. ESTCube-1 illustration.jpg
1U CubeSat ESTCube-1, developed mainly by the students from the University of Tartu, carries out a tether deployment experiment in low Earth orbit.

Space Surveillance Network

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. [15] 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.

Non-military satellite services

There are three basic categories of non-military satellite services: [16]

Fixed satellite services

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

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 (commercial and noncommercial)

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.


International Space Station International Space Station after undocking of STS-132.jpg
International Space Station

Orbit types

Various earth orbits to scale; cyan represents low earth orbit, yellow represents medium earth orbit, the black dashed line represents geosynchronous orbit, the green dash-dot line the orbit of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, and the red dotted line the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS). Orbits around earth scale diagram.svg
Various earth orbits to scale; cyan represents low earth orbit, yellow represents medium earth orbit, the black dashed line represents geosynchronous orbit, the green dash-dot line the orbit of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, and the red dotted line the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS).

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 [19] 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.

Centric classifications

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.

Altitude classifications

Orbital Altitudes of several significant satellites of earth. Orbitalaltitudes.jpg
Orbital Altitudes of several significant satellites of earth.

Inclination classifications

Eccentricity classifications

Synchronous classifications

Special classifications

Pseudo-orbit classifications

Satellite subsystems

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. [16] Note that some novel architectural concepts such as Fractionated spacecraft somewhat upset this taxonomy.

Spacecraft bus or service module

The bus module consists of the following subsystems:

Structural subsystem

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.

Telemetry subsystem

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.

Power subsystem

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). [21]

Thermal control subsystem

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)

Attitude and orbit control subsystem

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.

Communication payload

The second major module is the communication payload, which is made up of transponders. A transponder is capable of :

End of life

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, as well as the upper stage of its launch rocket. [22] [23]

Instead of being de-orbited, most satellites are either left in their current orbit or moved to a graveyard orbit. [24] 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. [25] 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. [26]

Launch-capable countries

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.

First launch by country
OrderCountryDate of first launchRocketSatellite(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
[1] Russia 21 January 1992 Soyuz-U Kosmos 2175
[1] 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

Attempted first launches

Other notes

Launch capable private entities

A few other private companies are capable of sub-orbital launches.

First satellites of countries

First satellites of countries including those launched indigenously or with the help of others [32]
CountryYear of first launchFirst satelliteOperational payloads in orbit as of July 2018
Soviet Union
Sputnik 1
(Kosmos 2175)
United States 1958 Explorer 1 1619
United Kingdom 1962 Ariel 1 43
Canada 1962 Alouette 1 48
Italy 1964 San Marco 1 27
France 1965 Astérix 68
Australia 1967 WRESAT 21
Germany 1969 Azur 54
Japan 1970 Ohsumi 173
China 1970 Dong Fang Hong I 312
Netherlands 1974 ANS 6
Spain 1974 Intasat 24
India 1975 Aryabhata 88
Indonesia 1976 Palapa A1 16
Czechoslovakia 1978 Magion 1 2
Bulgaria 1981 Intercosmos Bulgaria 1300 1
Saudi Arabia 1985 Arabsat-1A 13
Brazil 1985 Brasilsat-A1 17
Mexico 1985 Morelos 1 12
Sweden 1986 Viking 12
Israel 1988 Ofeq 1 17
Luxembourg 1988 Astra 1A 4
Argentina 1990 Lusat [33] 19
Hong Kong 1990 AsiaSat 1 9
Pakistan 1990 Badr-1 6
South Korea 1992 Kitsat A 24
Portugal 1993 PoSAT-1 2
Thailand 1993 Thaicom 1 9
Turkey 1994 Turksat 1B 15
Czech Republic 1995 Magion 4 3
Ukraine 1995 Sich-1 6
Malaysia 1996 MEASAT 7
Norway 1997 Thor 2 9
Philippines 1997 Mabuhay 1 2
Egypt 1998 Nilesat 101 5
Chile 1998 FASat-Bravo 3
Singapore 1998 ST-1 [34] [35] 10
Taiwan 1999 ROCSAT-1 10
Denmark 1999 Ørsted 9
South Africa 1999 SUNSAT 6
United Arab Emirates 2000 Thuraya 1 9
Morocco 2001 Maroc-Tubsat 1
Belgium 2001 PROBA-10
Tonga [36] 2002 Esiafi 1 (former Comstar D4) 0
Algeria 2002 Alsat 1 6
Greece 2003 Hellas Sat 2 4
Cyprus 2003 Hellas Sat 2 0
Nigeria 2003 Nigeriasat 1 6
Iran 2005 Sina-1 1
Kazakhstan 2006 KazSat 1 6
Colombia 2007 Libertad 1 0
Mauritius 2007 Rascom-QAF 1 0
Vietnam 2008 Vinasat-1 3
Venezuela 2008 Venesat-1 3
Switzerland 2009 SwissCube-1 [37] 0
Isle of Man 2011 ViaSat-1 1
Poland [38] 2012 PW-Sat 4
Hungary 2012 MaSat-1 0
Sri Lanka 2012 SupremeSAT-11
Romania 2012 Goliat [39] 0
Belarus 2012 BKA (BelKA-2) [40] 2
North Korea 2012 Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 2
Azerbaijan 2013 Azerspace [41] 1
Austria 2013 TUGSAT-1/UniBRITE [42] [43] 0
Bermuda [44] 2013 Bermudasat 1 (former EchoStar VI) 0
Ecuador 2013 NEE-01 Pegaso 2
Estonia 2013 ESTCube-1 1
Jersey 2013 O3b-1, −2, −3, −4 0
Qatar 2013 Es'hailSat1 0
Peru 2013 PUCPSAT-1 [45] 2
Bolivia 2013 TKSat-1 1
Lithuania 2014 LituanicaSAT-1 and LitSat-1 1
Uruguay 2014 Antelsat 1
Iraq 2014 Tigrisat [46] 0
Turkmenistan 2015 TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT 1
Laos 2015 Laosat-1 1
Finland 2017 Aalto-2 1
Bangladesh 2017 BRAC Onnesha and Bangabandhu-1 2
Ghana 2017 GhanaSat-1 [47] 1
Mongolia 2017 Mazaalai 1
Latvia 2017 Venta-1 1
Slovakia 2017 skCUBE 1
Asgardia 2017 Asgardia-1 1
Angola 2017 AngoSat 1 1
New Zealand 2018 Humanity Star 1
Costa Rica 2018 Proyecto Irazú 1
Kenya 2018 1KUNS-PF 1
Bhutan 2018CubeSat Bhutan-1 [48] 1
Jordan 2018 JY1-SAT 1
orbital launch and satellite operation
satellite operation, launched by foreign supplier
satellite in development
orbital launch project at advanced stage or indigenous ballistic missiles deployed Space capabilities - launch and satellite.png
   orbital launch and satellite operation
  satellite operation, launched by foreign supplier
  satellite in development
   orbital launch project at advanced stage or indigenous ballistic missiles deployed

While Canada was the third country to build a satellite which was launched into space, [49] 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. [50] 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. [51] By similar occasions, almost all further first national satellites was launched by foreign rockets.

Attempted first satellites

†-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.

Planned first satellites

Attacks on satellites

In recent times[ timeframe? ], satellites have been hacked by militant organizations to broadcast propaganda and to pilfer classified information from military communication networks. [88] [89]

For testing purposes, satellites in low earth orbit have been destroyed by ballistic missiles launched from earth. Russia, the United States and China have demonstrated the ability to eliminate satellites. [90] In 2007 the Chinese military shot down an aging weather satellite, [90] followed by the US Navy shooting down a defunct spy satellite in February 2008. [91]


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, [92] [93] but satellite phone and television signals have also been subjected to jamming. [94] [95]

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. [ citation needed ]

Earth observation using satellites

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. [96]

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) [97] 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. [98]


The NASA introduced an Earth Observing System (EOS) [99] 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). [100] 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). [101]


The European Space Agency [102] 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. [103] 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. [104] 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. [103] ESA also launched the PhiLab, referring to the future-focused team that works to harness the potentials of AI and other disruptive innovations. [105] 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. [106] 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. [107]


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. [108] However, the second supposed launched was delayed again because of poor weather conditions and set for another date which is not yet definite. [109] 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. [109]

Amazon and Lockheed

Amazon Web Services (AWS) [110] and Lockheed Martin [111] 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. [112]

Satellite services

See also

Related Research Articles

Geosynchronous orbit satellite orbit keeping the satellite at a fixed longitude above the equator

A geosynchronous orbit is an orbit around Earth of a satellite with an orbital period that matches Earth's rotation on its axis, which takes one sidereal day. The synchronization of rotation and orbital period means that, for an observer on Earth's surface, an object in geosynchronous orbit returns to exactly the same position in the sky after a period of one sidereal day. Over the course of a day, the object's position in the sky traces out a path, typically in a figure-8 form, whose precise characteristics depend on the orbit's inclination and eccentricity. Satellites are typically launched in an eastward direction. A geosynchronous orbit is 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above the Earth's surface. Those closer to Earth orbit faster than Earth rotates, so from Earth, they appear to move eastward while those that orbit beyond geosynchronous distances appear to move westward.

Geostationary orbit circular orbit above the Earths equator and following the direction of the Earths rotation

A geostationary orbit, often referred to as a geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO), is a circular geosynchronous orbit 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above Earth's equator and following the direction of Earth's rotation. An object in such an orbit appears motionless, at a fixed position in the sky, to ground observers. Communications satellites and weather satellites are often placed in geostationary orbits, so that the satellite antennae that communicate with them do not have to rotate to track them, but can be pointed permanently at the position in the sky where the satellites are located. Using this characteristic, ocean-color monitoring satellites with visible and near-infrared light sensors can also be operated in geostationary orbit in order to monitor sensitive changes of ocean environments.

Robotic spacecraft uncrewed spacecraft, usually under telerobotic control

A robotic spacecraft is an unmanned spacecraft, usually under telerobotic control. A robotic spacecraft designed to make scientific research measurements is often called a space probe. Many space missions are more suited to telerobotic rather than manned operation, due to lower cost and lower risk factors. In addition, some planetary destinations such as Venus or the vicinity of Jupiter are too hostile for human survival, given current technology. Outer planets such as Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are too distant to reach with current manned spaceflight technology, so telerobotic probes are the only way to explore them.

Mars 2MV-4 No.1 also known as Sputnik 22 in the West, was a Soviet spacecraft, which was launched in 1962 as part of the Mars programme, and was intended to make a flyby of Mars, and transmit images of the planet back to Earth. Due to a problem with the rocket which launched it, it was destroyed in low Earth orbit. It was the first of two Mars 2MV-4 spacecraft to be launched, the other being the Mars 1 spacecraft which was launched eight days later.

Geostationary transfer orbit Hohmann transfer orbit used to reach geosynchronous or geostationary orbit

A geosynchronous transfer orbit or geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) is a Hohmann transfer orbit—an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits of different radii in the same plane—used to reach geosynchronous or geostationary orbit using high-thrust chemical engines.

Guiana Space Centre French and European spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana

The Guiana Space Centre is a French and European spaceport to the northwest of Kourou in French Guiana, South America, a territory of France. Operational since 1968, it is particularly suitable as a location for a spaceport. It fulfills the two major geographical requirements of such a site:

A geocentric orbit or Earth orbit involves any object orbiting Planet Earth, such as the Moon or artificial satellites. In 1997 NASA estimated there were approximately 2,465 artificial satellite payloads orbiting the Earth and 6,216 pieces of space debris as tracked by the Goddard Space Flight Center. Over 16,291 previously launched objects have decayed into the Earth's atmosphere.

JAXA Japans national aero-space agency

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is the Japanese national aerospace and space agency. Through the merger of three previously independent organizations, JAXA was formed on 1 October 2003. JAXA is responsible for research, technology development and launch of satellites into orbit, and is involved in many more advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible manned exploration of the Moon. Its motto is One JAXA and its corporate slogan is Explore to Realize.

A supersynchronous orbit is either an orbit with a period greater than that of a synchronous orbit, or just an orbit whose apoapsis is higher than that of a synchronous orbit. A synchronous orbit has a period equal to the rotational period of the body which contains the barycenter of the orbit.

Medium Earth orbit Earth-centered orbit above low Earth orbit and below geostationary orbit

Medium Earth orbit (MEO), sometimes called intermediate circular orbit (ICO), is the region of space around Earth above low Earth orbit and below geosynchronous orbit.

History of spaceflight aspect of history

Spaceflight began in the 20th century following theoretical and practical breakthroughs by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Robert H. Goddard. The Soviet Union took the lead in the post-war Space Race, launching the first satellite, the first man and the first woman into orbit. The United States caught up with, and then passed, their Soviet rivals during the mid-1960s, landing the first man on the Moon in 1969. In the same period, France, the United Kingdom, Japan and China were concurrently developing more limited launch capabilities.

Outline of space exploration

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to space exploration:

Geosynchronous satellite satellite in geosynchronous orbit

A geosynchronous satellite is a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, with an orbital period the same as the Earth's rotation period. Such a satellite returns to the same position in the sky after each sidereal day, and over the course of a day traces out a path in the sky that is typically some form of analemma. A special case of geosynchronous satellite is the geostationary satellite, which has a geostationary orbit – a circular geosynchronous orbit directly above the Earth's equator. Another type of geosynchronous orbit used by satellites is the Tundra elliptical orbit.


CryoSat-2 is a European Space Agency environmental research satellite which was launched in April 2010. It provides scientists with data about the polar ice caps and tracks changes in the thickness of the ice with a resolution of about 1.3 centimetres.

Inmarsat-4A F4

Inmarsat-4A F4, also known as Alphasat and Inmarsat-XL, is a large geostationary communications I-4 satellite operated by UK based Inmarsat in partnership with the European Space Agency. Launched in 2013, it is used to provide mobile communications to Africa and parts of Europe and Asia.


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