Past, Present & Future
GBA 576 Project
Satellite Technology Outline
How the technology works
The history of the technology
Problems and challenges
How Satellite Technology Works
Works using VHF (very high frequency) waves, much
like microwave transmission does.
Unlike microwave transmission, satellite technology
doesn’t have to be line of sight.
Works using a combination of satellites in space and
3 main types of satellites:
Geosynchronous – 22,300 miles (3 can cover earth)
Inclined orbit – slight angle over equator – more room.
Low orbit – 400 to 1000 miles high, used for data comm
Satellites use transponders to send and receive the
uplink and the downlink. Separate frequencies are
used to avoid confusion.
High cost savings over land based communication
when expansion needed to other areas needed.
History of Satellite Technology
1945 - conceived by Arthur C. Clarke’s article
about extra terrestrial relays. First true vision.
1957 - his dream became reality with launch of
the first satellite, Sputnik 1 into space by Russia.
1958 - USA’s launched their first – called SCORE.
1960 - Tiros 1, first weather satellite launched.
1962 - Telstar 1 launched, first one capable of
transmitting TV programs live (Elvis concert).
1965 - First truly global satellite launched, called
Intelsat 1. Intelsat also formed to help develop
and spread satellite usage and technology.
History of Satellite Technology
1969 – first global network set of satellites
completed, just days before moon landing.
1972 – First truly domestic satellite launched –
Anik 1 by Canada. USA leased parts of it first.
1976 – 120 transponders on satellites had now
become available over the USA.
1980’s – Adoption of technology by businesses.
1990’s – Smaller mobile earth station technology
launched. Global Positioning satellites launched.
2000 onward – Future applications like satellite
radio, satellite phones and satellite internet begin
Current Uses of Satellites
Satellite TV – one of the most prominent uses of
satellite technologies - began in 1962. Allowed
for live transmission of pictures across the world.
Now evolved into the DIRECTV system, who are
the current industry leaders.
GPS systems – very useful – set of satellites are
used to pinpoint your exact location anywhere in
the world. Many uses, from business logistics to
911 emergency or roadside assistance.
Weather forecasting/satellite imagery – changed
peoples perceptions of the world forever. Allowed
for greater accuracy of weather forecasting and
earth monitoring (rainforest disappearance etc).
Future Uses of Satellites
Satellite phones – slowly beginning to catch on,
allows users on remote places to communicate.
Particularly useful in marine situations. Very
expensive to use still. GlobalStar major player.
Satellite radio – becoming very popular, allows
users to listen to any type of radio they want,
anywhere in continental USA. Usually commercial
free. Requires additional receivers. Sirius and XM
Radio seem to be very successful so far.
Satellite Internet – similar to satellite phones, it
allows users to access the internet from areas
that traditional dial up or broadband methods
don’t allow, like at sea. Slower than broadband
speeds, but slightly faster than dial up.
Problems & Failures
The recent case of Teledesic perfectly illustrates the
problems that satellite technology faces. A multi
billion project, backed by Motorola and Bill Gates,
they planned to build a broadband network of 840
satellites (more than currently exist!). This plan to
‘take over the world’ recently collapsed due to a
lack of organization and launch program efforts.
Gaining the high levels of funding needed is an
another issue – many satellite related companies
have already been through bankruptcy, like Iridium
Latency delays are problematic, particularly when
communication needs to be instant. Maintenance
and malfunction issues are also problematic due to
the fact the satellites are so remote, not like
traditional communications. These problems are
likely to remain for the foreseeable future.
There is no doubt that satellite technologies have
forever changed the world in a positive sense.
Imagine a world without satellite TV or accurate
The possibilities of satellite technology seem to
be unlimited – surely its not unrealistic to think
that we will soon, through satellites, be able to
wirelessly link our laptops to the internet from
any place in the world, no matter how remote.
As we have seen though many problems are
inherent with the technology, and it will be
important to learn from the mistakes made by
such ventures like Teledesic.