A Closer Look Inside a Satellite

There are different types of satellites for different types of roles and functions. They vary in shape, size and the type of equipment they carry. What they do have in common is the materials used to build them. All satellites use metal or a composite frame that’s strong enough to withstand high pressure during launch. They also have a power source, which usually comes from solar rechargeable batteries or fuel cells. They also contain a computer to ensure that systems are controlled and monitored.

To maintain communication with ground control, satellites carry an antenna and radio system. They also have an altitude control system or ACS, which ensures that the satellite is always in the right position.

Some of the most popular satellites are:

Weather satellites
These satellites aid in predicting the weather and providing a view of the atmosphere from its orbit. To perform this function, weather satellites often carry cameras that take images of the Earth. These images are then transmitted back to a receiving station to be viewed and analyzed. Most satellites of this type are COSMOS, GOES and TIROS satellites.

Communications satellites
Communications satellites, such as those by Intelsat and Telstar, are used to relay telephone signals and data conversations from one station to the next. These satellites carry a transponder, a type of radio that receives and transmits voice conversations.

Broadcast satellites
These are used by television stations to transmit signals from one station to the next.

Scientific satellites
These satellites are designed to perform certain scientific missions. The Hubble Space Telescope, for example, is used for viewing a variety of things, from planets to gamma rays to sunspots.

Navigational satellites
Satellites such as the GPS NAVSTAR, are used to help navigate planes and ships.

Rescue satellites
These are tuned to a radio frequency that receives distress signals.

Earth observation satellites
An example of this satellite is the LANDSAT, which is used to view images of the planet and detect any changes in the environment and temperature.

Military satellites
Information about the real application of these satellites is classified, although with the level of sophistication their equipment comes with, it’s possible that they may also be used for intelligence gathering. Some of these activities may include nuclear monitoring, relay of encrypted communications, observing areas that may be of interest to the military, eavesdropping on radio links and radar imaging.

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