Technology

What Are the Uses of Satellites? Is Earth Observation the Only Purpose?

Satellites affect our lives in all the ways imaginable. They are right on top of our heads, orbiting the Earth and relaying information to their ground stations. Apart from a typical satellite used for telecommunication, national security, entertainment broadcast, and satellite uses in the military, many other modern applications exist. So, what are the uses of satellites? Let’s find out. 

How does broadcasting happen?

The first application of satellites is in the broadcasting industry. Many of us get cable, but cables are all powered by satellites. There is always a central station from where TV shows are first broadcasted. The transmission is first received by smaller stations in different regions, which is then sent to local stations. Then, local stations disseminate these data using TV cables. 

Similar to recorded shows, spacecraft are also used for telecasting live programs. You might have seen a live football game. Did you notice any major lags in video playback? Chances are, you were watching the same moment in a game as your friend from another country. This is possible thanks to satellites. The broadcast is first relayed to spacecraft orbiting the Earth. Signals are then relayed to ground stations. This entire process takes only a few seconds to complete. 

What are other uses of satellites? 

Along with entertainment broadcasting, satellites are also used to relay telephone signals. In a disaster-ridden area, spacecraft is the only way of communication. Also, in rural areas of underdeveloped countries, satellites are the only means of telecommunication where there are no physical wires. 

Back in 1998, a major failure of spacecraft operation failed. This resulted in a pager communication blackout. This only shows the significance of every single satellite used for communication. 

Satellites are used to approve many business transactions. Suppose you have an American Express Credit Card. Even if you travel to a rural area of some Asian country, you will be able to use that card to buy groceries or pay for your hotel room. This is possible because the transaction is authorized over satellites. 

Inventory management is another area where satellites play a vital role. Grocery stores can quickly place a replenishment order as soon as their inventory runs out of a certain product. 

And then comes weather forecasting satellites. This data is used by meteorologists to forecast weather in a region. Thanks to this data accuracy, we can save thousands of lives from adverse natural calamities. Plus, satellite use in agriculture is revolutionizing the food industry.

Satellite Used for GPS

We all are aware of the word GPS (Global Positioning System). GPS is primarily made out of small spacecraft that have a medium-range orbit and relay radio signals to each other. Both the USA and Russia have their system of global navigation using satellites. USA’s GPS and Russia’s GLONASS are publicly available for anyone to use. 

GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) is dependent on both GPS and GLONASS. Together, they have received recognition from the International Civil Aviation Organization. No matter where you are, you can rely on GPS to give you accurate navigation data. This data comes with only a 7-8 meters deviation and is 96% accurate. 

Whenever a receiver requests your location, all satellites in the constellation start relaying data, and after computing the time difference in the regions, the receiver is presented with reliable data. Also, GPS satellites have atomic clocks on board. This way, they are able to provide accurate time no matter where you are. 

Satellite Used for Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is not a new concept. It has been around since 1962. It is the practice of emitting radio waves in a non-intrusive manner to detect the position of an object on Earth without having to be anywhere near this object.

Since its inception, remote sensing has undergone a huge transformation. Now we can do remote sensing using both optical and radio waves. Remote sensing involves data collection, in-orbit processing, storage, transmission, calibration, and many more. 

Satellites used for remote sensing can orbit the Earth or focus on a particular area on our planet. Remote sensing satellites feature sensors that help spacecraft capture images of selected regions on Earth. Furthermore, to give accurate remote sensing data, most of these satellites use the SARS system. 

Now, we have our smartphones to use remote sensing data. Before that, scientists had to combine images captured by multiple satellites and stitch them together. Plus, most of these images were black and white. 

All in all, space is closer than most of us think because plenty of daily activities rely on satellite data. Soon enough, space tech will become even more vital as our technology advances further. 

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