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Amy Cha
Laura Collins
Brad Robertson

Satellites Overview

How Satellites Work
Satellite Frequency Bands and Antennas
Orbit Distance, Pros & Cons, Applications
Types: Low-Earth-Orbit (LEOs)
Medium-Earth-Orbit (MEOs)
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Geostationary (GEOs)
Satellite Tracking System (J-Tracker, J-Pass)

History of Satellites

The First Satellites

The theory of satellites was simple enough - shoot something out into space
at the right speed and on the correct trajectory and it will stay up there,
orbiting Earth, for years - if not forever.
If the orbit is the right distance in space the satellite will keep pace with the
rotation of the Earth.

Pioneer Satellites (1957)

Early in October 1957 communications stations started picking up a regular
beeping noise coming from space.
The signals were coming from Russia's Sputnik 1, the world's first manmade satellite.
It was January 1958, before a Jupiter rocket successfully launched Explorer
1, the first American satellite.

History of Satellites

NASA's Syncom programme (1963) GEOs

In July 1963 the Hughes Aircraft Corporation launched the
experimental Syncom 2 for NASA, the world's first geosynchronous
communications satellite. Its earlier sister, Syncom 1, had been
blown up on launch earlier that year, but the second version was a
huge success.
It carried the first live two-way satellite call between heads of state
when President John F. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., telephoned
Nigerian Prime Minister Abubaker Balewa in Africa.
The third Syncom satellite transmitted live television coverage of the
1964 Olympic Games from Tokyo.

History of Satellites

Early Bird (1965)

The world's first commercial communications satellite was Early
Bird, built for the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT)
by Hughes.
The satellite was launched on April 6, 1965, and placed in
commercial service after moving into geosynchronous orbit 22,300
miles above the equator. That meant it was always on station to
provide line of sight communications between Europe and North
Early Bird didn't have a battery - and worked only when its solar
panels were exposed to the sun.

History of Satellites

Later communications satellites

The launch of the Intelsat 3 satellites in 1969 created a global TV
and speech communications network that spanned the Atlantic,
Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The introduction of multiple-beam antennas in the 1980s brought
new improvements in efficiency, as a satellite's power could now be
concentrated on small regions of the Earth, making possible
smaller-aperture (coverage area), lower-cost ground stations.
The Capacity (the number of simultaneous television and speech
channels carried) grew as well.

How Satellites Work


A Earth Station sends

message in GHz range.


Satellite Receive and

retransmit signals back.
Other Earth Stations
receive message in
useful strength area.


Satellite Frequency Bands and

Antennas (Dishes)

The size of Satellite Dishes (antennas) are

related to the transmission frequency.

There is a inverse relationship between

frequency and wavelength.

As wavelength increases (and frequency

decreases), larger antennas (satellite dishes)
are necessary to gather the signal.

Satellite Frequency Bands and

Antennas (Dishes)



Most commonly used bands: C-band (4 to 8 GHz) , Kuband (11 to 17 GHz) , and Ka-band (20 to 30 GHz ).

Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO)

Altitude (375-1000 miles)

Revolution time: 90 min - 3 hours.
Reduces transmission delay
Eliminates need for bulky
receiving equipment.
Smaller coverage area.
Shorter life span (5-8 yrs.)
than GEOs (10 yrs).
Subdivisions: Little, Big, and Mega
(Super) LEOs.

Little LEOs Applications

0.8 GHz range

Small, low-cost

Vehicle tracking,
environmental monitoring
and two-way data
communication. Used for
short, narrowband

Big LEOs Applications

2 GHz or above range

Can offer global services, which

can be subject to regulatory

Used for technology devices such

as high-speed, high-bandwidth
data communications, and video
conferencing. They carry voice
and high-speed data services.
The main uses are data
communications and real-time
voice delivery to hand-held

Mega (Super) LEOs Applications

20-30 GHz range

Mainly handles broadband

data. These systems are
optimized for packet-switched
data rather than voice. They
share the same advantages
and drawbacks of other LEOs
and are intended to operate
with inter-satellite links to
minimize transmission times
and avoid dropped signals.

Hubble Telescope

Classification: LEO
Orbit: 375 miles, 600 km.
Revolution time: 100 min.
Speed: 17,000 miles/hr
Concerns: Orbit decay from
gravity and solar output.
During solar maximum, the
densities at all altitudes are
enhanced, and the drag effects
on satellites are much larger
than during times of solar

Space Debris

According to the U.S.

Space Command
(USSC), there are more
than 8,000 objects larger
than a softball now
circling the globe.

Of these, over 2000 are

satellites (working and

Middle-Earth-Orbiting (MEO)
MEOs orbits between the altitudes
of 5,600 and 9,500 miles.
These orbits are primarily reserved
for communications satellites that
cover the North and South Pole.

Unlike the circular orbit of the geostationary satellites,

MEOs are placed in an elliptical (oval-shaped) orbit.
Approximately a dozen medium Earth orbiting satellites
are necessary to provide continuous global coverage
24 hours a day.

GPS: What is it ?
A constellation of 24 satellites
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a
worldwide radio-navigation system formed
from a constellation of 24 satellites and their
ground stations.
They are constantly moving, making two
complete orbits in less than 24 hours.
These satellites are traveling at speeds of
roughly 7,000 miles an hour.

GPS Satellites
Manufacturer: Rockwell International
10,900 nautical miles
1900 lbs (in orbit)
17 ft with solar panels
Orbital Period: 12 hours
Orbital Plane: 55 degrees to
equatorial plane
Planned Lifespan:
7.5 years
Current constellation: 24 Block II production
The spacing of the satellites are arranged so
that a minimum of five satellites are in view
from every point on the globe.

GPS: How it works

Satellites are reference points for locations on Earth
The whole idea behind GPS is to use satellites
in space as reference points for locations here
on earth.


If a particular satellite is 11,000 miles above it.
Then we know that its radius is 11,000 miles!

GPS satellites use a "triangulate," system

where the GPS receiver measures distance
using the travel time of radio signals.
By using triangulation, we can accurately
measure our distance and find out position
from three satellites position anywhere on
Basic calculations measuring distance
Velocity * Time = Distance
Velocity = speed of light (186,000 miles per second. )
Time = a lot of analysis and calculations!

GPS: Problems in the System

Satellites are precise but are not perfect.

Even though the satellites

positions are constantly
monitored, they can't be watched
every second.

The atomic clocks they use are

very, very precise but they're not
perfect. Minute discrepancies can
occur, and these translate into
travel time measurement errors.

The signal may not actually get to

the ground station receivers first.
It may bounce off various objects
before it gets to the receivers.

GPS: Who Uses GPS ?

GPS has a variety of applications

Land: diverse uses; ex. surveying, recreational. Etc

Sea: navigation by recreational boaters, commercial fishermen, and

professional mariners

Air: navigation by general aviation and commercial aircraft

Geosynchronous-Earth-Orbit (GEO)

Orbit is sychroneous with

the earths rotation.
From the ground the
satellite appears fixed.
Altitude is about 23,000
Coverage to 40% of
planet per satellite.

Basics of GEOs

Geostationary satellites are commonly used for

communications and weather-observation.
The typical service life expectancy of a geostationary
satellite is 10-15 years.
Because geostationary satellites circle the earth at the
equator, they are not able to provide coverage at the
Northernmost and Southernmost latitudes.

GEOs and Weather

The altitude is chosen so

that it takes the satellite
24 hours to orbit the Earth
once, which is also the
rotation rate of the Earth.
This produces the cloud
animations you see on TV.
Can take images
approximately every

Facts about GEOs

Instruments on GEOs are designed to last 3-9 years.
Measurements that are taken are in the form of electrical
voltages that are digitized, and then transmitted to
receiving stations on the ground.
Instruments usually have:
Small telescope or antenna.
A scanning mechanism.
One or more detectors that detect either visible,
infrared, or microwave radiation.


Satellites are
positioned every 4-8
Aproximately 300 GEO
satellites are in orbit.

Pros and Cons of GEOs

Weather images can
be displayed.
Television broadcasts
are uninterrupted.
Used to track major
developments such as
hurricanes 24 hours a

It takes longer for the
signal to get to earth
and back to satellite.
Increased difficulty of
GEOs are not
positioned in the
farthest northern and
southern orbits.


Provides images of nearly

one-third of the Earth's
surface every 23 minutes
with 4 km resolution.
While the United States
maintains and operates its
GEOs, the European
community is served by its
European Space Agency
(ESA) Meteosat satellite,
and Japan with its GMS

Satellite Tracking System

NASA J-Tracker


How Satellites Work
Satellite Frequency Bands and Antennas
Orbit Distance, Pros & Cons, Applications
Types: Low-Earth-Orbit (LEOs)
Medium-Earth-Orbit (MEOs)
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Geostationary (GEOs)
Satellite Tracking System (J-Tracker, J-Pass)

Questions ???

How Do Satellites Work? By William
Cook, 1996
The Living Earth Earth View
Advanced Communications Technology
Satellite (ACTS)
Stevens Low Earth Orbiting LEO
CompassRose International Publication
s Introduction to Global Satellite
Systems Definitions - Sat
LEO Illustration
HST Project Science Office
Hubble Picture
Hubble Image
Space Debris

More Space Debris

What is Medium Earth Orbit?
About GPS
Global Positioning Overview
What is GPS?
Geo Satellites
Geostationary Operational Environment
al Satellites
GMS - Geostationary Meteorological Sa
GOES - Information on the GOES Dat
a Collection System
Feng Yun 2
NASA: J-Tracker