Satellites Serving People

Satellites Serving People

The word satellite is derived from the ancient Latin word satelles, meaning a servant or attendant. This is a particularly appropriate term, since most satellites have been placed in Earth orbit to serve humankind. Satellites support sustainable development by providing up-to-date and comprehensive geospatial information to support planning and decision-making. Geospatial information acquired from space complements measurements obtained on the ground in a powerful way. Satellites further support sustainable development by facilitating communications and sharing of information.

Communications Satellites are used to communicate from one point on the
Earth to another and to provide broadcast services to large areas on the
ground. When you make an international telephone call, surf the Internet,
watch a television news or sports programme or view a weather forecast, chances are you are making use of a communications satellite. Communications satellites can also be used to deliver tele-medicine and tele-education services to remote regions.

Earth Observation Satellites are used to study the Earth for a very wide variety of applications in areas as diverse as environmental monitoring, urban planning, mapping, disaster management and weather prediction. Every time you see a television or Internet weather forecast you are using data from an Earth observation satellite.

Navigation Satellites are used for precise determination of position in space and in time. The spatial information is used for navigation on land, sea and air and for tracking of hazardous shipments. The temporal information is used wherever precision time-keeping is required. Every time you make a cellphone call, use a bank ATM, or use a GPS receiver, you are using a navigation satellite. Navigation satellites can also be used to study the properties of the atmosphere.

Scientific Satellites are used to study near-Earth space and to explore the solar system and the distant universe. Satellites monitoring the Sun provide advance warning of approaching space weather events, called geomagnetic storms or sub-storms, which can damage other commercially important satellites and interfere with communications on Earth. These warnings allow the diversion of airline flights on polar routes for communications or navigational reasons and also to reduce passenger and crew exposure to increased radiation levels. Spacecraft built by humans have flown past seven other planets in our solar system, given us glimpses of over 60 moons and other solar system bodies, and landed on the Moon, Mars and Venus. These remarkable voyages of discovery are providing deep insights into the origin and evolution of our own Earth. Orbiting astronomical satellites have given us breathtaking views of distant regions of the universe not visible from the ground. When you marvel at a photograph of the surface of another planet, or view an image of the oldest and most distant galaxies in the universe, you are using the results of a scientific satellite.