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Saturday, August 8, 2020

What is a Satellite? – Satellites Uses and Functions

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Have you ever gazed through the sky to look at the plane? If yes, what do you see apart from the plane? Well, you certainly see the vapor trails they leave behind.

Unfortunately, you cannot see the meticulously engineered satellites that spin in orbits because whereas others are as huge as trucks, others are as small as your hand. The fact that you don’t always see satellites could be one of the many reasons we take them for granted.

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But you’ll be surprised to know that the satellites we know little about play a very important role in our lives from transcontinental telephone calls and TV broadcasting to the internet and weather forecasting.

So, what exactly is a satellite?

Satellite is simply an object in space that moves in an orbit around a larger object. It can be natural or artificial. The earth orbits the sun and that makes it a satellite. Similarly, the moon orbits the earth hence a satellite.

In other words, the moon and earth are good examples of natural satellites. There are also thousands of man-made or artificial satellites, some of which are used for communication and others help meteorologists track hurricanes and predict the weather.

Basically, artificial satellites are attached to a rocket and placed into orbit, launched into space and when it’s in the right location, it is detached (from the rocket). Artificial satellites are also used to explore other parts of the solar system such as Jupiter, Mars as well as the Sun.

National Geographic estimates the number of satellites across the globe to be around 1000. Satellites are grouped according to the orbits they follow or their uses, but for your peace of mind, the following are the functions of satellites;

  • Communications
  • Earth observation
  • Navigation
  • Weather prediction


Have you ever asked yourself why you can text, call or even send a photo to anyone you want either in your home country or a different one effortlessly?

Well, chances are that you have never even thought about it but because you are reading this article, the answer is due to communication satellites.

Before communication satellites came along, people were unable to communicate with their loved ones. Your phone’s transmission signals travel in a straight line and if you are separated with the person you want to talk to by a mountain, the signals were blocked and hence no communication.


Fortunately, communication satellites enable signals to be sent everywhere and anywhere without any problem. These satellites handle mobile communications, telephone signals, ship-to-shore radio and relay radio and television signals from the point of the broadcast to stations throughout the country.


Many are the times when people travel to foreign countries for holidays, business or just to have fun. Whatever the case, the problem comes in when you leave your hotel in the morning but fail to locate it in the evening? What can you do if you find yourself in that situation?

People are different and can-do different things but one thing for sure is that if you have a Smartphone, you can use the map function to find direction to various locations thanks to navigational satellites.

Famously known as GPS, navigational satellite communicates through a signal sent between them to determine a specific location.


Weather satellites send a stream of data to report various facts about the weather from everywhere across the world. These satellites give information about rainfall, wind speed, temperature, and cloud patterns.

Interestingly, meteorologists make good use of the information beamed by weather satellites to predict the weather where they not only spot but also communicate chances of severe storms that could be dangerous.

Earth observation

Earth observation satellites are all about observing the earth. However, what they observe depends on various factors such as their payload, the type of orbit they are in, as well as the imaging instruments used.

The function of these satellites is to closely monitor environmental changes that can have detrimental effects on humans such as volcanoes and eruptions, bush fires, ice shifts, and hurricanes. Most importantly, these satellites help farmers in predicting which crops to grow in what seasons.

Bottom line

We are living in the digital era and regardless of how we praise the advanced technology, we cannot ignore the presence of satellites.


Basically, satellites make our lives easier as they help us to communicate with others, not only in our countries but across the world, help scientist predict the weather for adequate preparation and most importantly, they give us directions with the help of Smartphone.

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