language-icon Old Web
Sign In


In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object that has been intentionally placed into orbit. These objects are 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 8,900 satellites from more than 40 countries have been launched. According to a 2018 estimate, some 5,000 remain in orbit. Of those about 1,900 were operational, while the rest have lived out their useful lives and become space debris. Approximately 63% of operational satellites are in low-Earth orbit, 6% are in medium-Earth orbit (at 20,000 km), 29% are in geostationary orbit (at 36,000 km) and the remaining 2% are in elliptic orbit.A few large space stations 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 of 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). 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. The first published mathematical study of the possibility of an artificial satellite was Newton's cannonball, a thought experiment in A Treatise of the System of the World by Isaac Newton. The first fictional depiction of a satellite being launched into orbit was a short story by Edward Everett Hale, The Brick Moon. 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, 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 fueled by liquid propellants could achieve this. In 1928, Herman Potočnik (1892–1929) published his sole book, The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket 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.

[ "Astronomy", "Remote sensing", "Aerospace engineering", "remote sensing satellite", "Sunglint", "Direct-broadcast satellite", "cloud liquid water", "satellite oceanography" ]
Parent Topic
Child Topic
    No Parent Topic