AskDefine | Define satellite

Dictionary Definition

satellite adj : surrounding and dominated by a central authority or power; "a city and its satellite communities"


1 man-made equipment that orbits around the earth or the moon [syn: artificial satellite, orbiter]
2 a person who follows or serves another [syn: planet]
3 any celestial body orbiting around a planet or star v : broadcast or disseminate via satellite

User Contributed Dictionary



satellite (14c.)


  1. An object orbiting a celestial object.
    The Moon is a natural satellite of the Earth.
  2. Specifically, any man-made apparatus designed to relay telecommunication signals to and from Earth.
    Many telecommunication satellites orbit at 36000km above the equator.
  3. colloquial uncountable Satellite TV; reception of television broadcasts via services that utilize man-made satellite technology.
    Do you have satellite at your house?
  4. Anything that follows something else around.
    • 1826, Walter Scott, Woodstock, page 348
      ...he would nevertheless have a better bargain of this tall satellite if they settled the debate betwixt them in the forest... . Betwixt anxiety, therefore, vexation, and anger, Charles faced suddenly round on his pursuer... .
    • 1948, Willard E. Hawkins, The Technique of Fiction: A Basic Course in Story Writing, page 169,
      The unnamed chronicler in his Dupin stories was the first Dr. Watson type of satellite—a narrator who accompanies the detective on his exploits, exclaims over his brilliance... .
  5. (noun adjunct) Specifies something which is under the jurisdiction, influence, or domination of another body, such as a satellite state (or country), satellite campus, or satellite office.
  6. (noun adjunct) Specifies something utilizing man-made orbital satellite transmission technology; e.g. satellite TV, satellite phone.

Derived terms

Usage notes

The man-made telecommunication objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon.


object orbiting a celestial object
(noun adjunct) specifies the use of satellite technology



from satelittem (nominative of satelles)



  1. satellite

Related terms



  1. satellite

Extensive Definition

In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavor. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon.


Early conceptions

The first recorded fictional depiction of a satellite being launched into orbit is a short story by Edward Everett Hale, The Brick Moon. The story was serialized in The Atlantic Monthly, starting in 1869. The idea surfaces again in Jules Verne's The Begum's Millions (1879).
In 1903 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935) published Исследование мировых пространств реактивными приборами (The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction 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 around the Earth at 8 km/s, and that a multi-stage rocket fueled by liquid propellants could be used to achieve this. He proposed the use of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, though other combinations can be used.
In 1928 Herman Potočnik (1892–1929) published his sole book, Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums - der Raketen-Motor (The Problem of Space Travel — The Rocket Motor), a plan for a breakthrough into space and a permanent human presence there. He conceived of a space station in detail and calculated its geostationary orbit. He described the use of orbiting spacecraft for detailed peaceful and military observation of the ground and described how the special conditions of space could be useful for scientific experiments. The book described geostationary satellites (first put forward by Tsiolkovsky) and discussed communication between them and the ground using radio, but fell short of the idea of using satellites for mass broadcasting and as telecommunications relays.
In a 1945 Wireless World article the English science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) described in detail the possible use of communications satellites for mass communications. Clarke examined the logistics of satellite launch, possible orbits and other aspects of the creation of a network of world-circling satellites, pointing to the benefits of high-speed global communications. He also suggested that three geostationary satellites would provide coverage over the entire planet.

History of artificial satellites

see also Space Race
The first artificial satellite was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957, and that started the whole Soviet Sputnik program, with Sergei Korolev as chief designer. This triggered the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Sputnik 1 helped to identify the density of high atmospheric layers through measurement of its orbital change and provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. Because the satellite's body was filled with pressurized nitrogen, Sputnik 1 also provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection, as a loss of internal pressure due to meteoroid penetration of the outer surface would have been evident in the temperature data sent back to Earth. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the so-called Space Race within the Cold War.
Sputnik 2 was launched on November 3, 1957 and carried the first living passenger into orbit, a dog named Laika.
In May, 1946, Project RAND had released the Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, which stated, "A satellite vehicle with appropriate instrumentation can be expected to be one of the most potent scientific tools of the Twentieth Century. The United States had been considering launching orbital satellites since 1945 under the Bureau of Aeronautics of the United States Navy. The United States Air Force's Project RAND eventually released the above report, but did not believe that the satellite was a potential military weapon; rather, they considered it to be a tool for science, politics, and propaganda. In 1954, the Secretary of Defense stated, "I know of no American satellite program."
On July 29, 1955, the White House announced that the U.S. intended to launch satellites by the spring of 1958. This became known as Project Vanguard. On July 31, the Soviets announced that they intended to launch a satellite by the fall of 1957.
Following pressure by the American Rocket Society, the National Science Foundation, and the International Geophysical Year, military interest picked up and in early 1955 the Air Force and Navy were working on Project Orbiter, which involved using a Jupiter C rocket to launch a satellite. The project succeeded, and Explorer 1 became the United States' first satellite on January 31, 1958.
The largest artificial satellite currently orbiting the Earth is the International Space Station.

Space Surveillance Network

The United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN) has been tracking space objects since 1957 when the Soviets opened the space age with the launch of Sputnik I. Since then, the SSN has tracked more than 26,000 space objects orbiting Earth. The SSN currently tracks more than 8,000 man-made orbiting objects. The rest have re-entered Earth's turbulent atmosphere and disintegrated, or survived re-entry and impacted the Earth. The space objects now orbiting Earth range from satellites weighing several tons to pieces of spent rocket bodies weighing only 10 pounds. About seven percent of the space objects are operational satellites (i.e. ~560 satellites), the rest are space debris. USSTRATCOM is primarily interested in the active satellites, but also tracks space debris which upon reentry might otherwise be mistaken for incoming missiles. The SSN tracks space objects that are 10 centimeters in diameter (baseball size) or larger.

Non-Military Satellite Services

There are three basic categories of non-military satellite services:

Fixed Satellite Service

Fixed satellite services handle hundreds of billions of voice, data, and video transmission tasks across all countries and continents between certain points on the earth’s surface

Mobile Satellite Systems

Mobile satellite systems help connect remote regions, vehicles, ships and aircraft to other parts of the world and/or other mobile or stationary communications units, in addition to serving as navigation systems

Scientific Research Satellite (commercial and noncommercial)

Scientific research satellites provide us with meteorological information, land survey data (e.g., remote sensing), and other different scientific research applications such as earth science, marine science, and atmospheric research.


Orbit types

The first satellite, Sputnik 1, was put into orbit around Earth and was therefore in geocentric orbit. By far this is the most common type of orbit with approximately 2456 artificial satellites orbiting the Earth. Geocentric orbits may be further classified by their altitude, inclination and eccentricity.
The commonly used altitude classifications are Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and High Earth Orbit (HEO). Low Earth orbit is any orbit below 2000 km, and Medium Earth Orbit is any orbit higher than that but still below the altitude for geosynchronous orbit at 35786 km. High Earth Orbit is any orbit higher than the altitude for geosynchronous orbit.

Centric classifications

Altitude classifications

Inclination classifications

Eccentricity classifications

Synchronous classifications

Special classifications

Pseudo-orbit classifications

Satellite Modules

The satellite’s functional versatility is imbedded within its technical components and its operations characteristics. Looking at the “anatomy” of a typical satellite, one discovers two modules. |- bgcolor=#efefef ! Country || Year of first launch || First satellite || Payloads in orbit in 2008 |- |align="left"| flag Soviet Union || 1957 || Sputnik 1 || 1398 |- |align="left"| flag United States || 1958 || Explorer 1 || 1042 |- |align="left"| flag Canada || 1962 || Alouette 1 || 25 |- |align="left"| flag Italy || 1964 || San Marco 1 ||14 |- |align="left"| flag France || 1965 || Astérix || 44 |- |align="left"| flag Australia || 1967 || WRESAT || 11 |- |align="left"| flag Germany || 1969 || Azur ||27 |- |align="left"| flag Japan || 1970 || Osumi || 111 |- |align="left"| flag China || 1970 || Dong Fang Hong I || 64 |- |align="left"| flag United Kingdom || 1971 || Prospero X-3 || 25 |- |align="left"| flag Poland || 1973 || Intercosmos Kopernikus 500 || ? |- |align="left"| flag Netherlands || 1974 || ANS || 5 |- |align="left"| flag Spain || 1974 || Intasat || 9 |- |align="left"| flag India || 1975 || Aryabhata || 34 |- |align="left"| flag Indonesia || 1976 || Palapa A1 ||10 |- |align="left"| flag Czechoslovakia || 1978 || Magion 1 || 5 |- |align="left"| flag Bulgaria || 1981 || Intercosmos 22 || |- |align="left"| flag Brazil || 1985 || Brasilsat A1 ||11 |- |align="left"| flag Mexico || 1985 || Morelos 1 || 7 |- |align="left"| flag Sweden || 1986 || Viking || 11 |- |align="left"| flag Israel || 1988 ||Ofeq 1 || 7 |- |align="left"| flag Luxembourg || 1988 ||Astra 1A ||15 |- |align="left"| flag Argentina || 1990 ||Lusat || 10 |- |align="left"| flag Pakistan || 1990 ||Badr-1 ||5 |- |align="left"| flag South Korea || 1992 ||Kitsat A ||10 |- |align="left"| flag Portugal || 1993 ||PoSAT-1 || 1 |- |align="left"| flag Thailand || 1993 ||Thaicom 1 || 6 |- |align="left"| flag Turkey || 1994 ||Turksat 1B || 5 |- |align="left"| flag Chile || 1995 ||FASat-Alfa ||1 |- |align="left"| flag Malaysia || 1996 ||MEASAT ||4 |- |align="left"| flag Norway || 1997 ||Thor 2 ||3 |- |align="left"| flag Philippines || 1997 ||Mabuhay 1 ||2 |- |align="left"| flag Egypt || 1998||Nilesat 101 || 3 |- |align="left"| flag Jordan || 1998||Acts 1 || 1 |- |align="left"| flag Denmark || 1999 ||Ørsted ||3 |- |align="left"| flag South Africa || 1999||SUNSAT ||1 |- |align="left"| flag Saudi Arabia || 2000||Saudisat 1A || 12 |- |align="left"| flag United Arab Emirates || 2000||Thuraya 1 ||3 |- |align="left"| flag Algeria || 2002||Alsat 1 ||1 |- |align="left"| flag Greece || 2003||Hellas Sat 2 || 2 |- |align="left"| flag Nigeria || 2003||Nigeriasat 1 ||2 |- |align="left"| flag Iran || 2005 || Sina-1 || 1 |- |align="left"| flag Kazakhstan || 2006 || KazSat 1 || 1 |- |align="left"| flag Colombia || 2007 || Libertad 1 ||1 |- |align="left"| flag Vietnam || 2008 || VINASAT-1 ||1 |}
While Canada was the third country to build a satellite which was launched into space, it was launched aboard a U.S. rocket from a U.S. spaceport. The same goes for Australia, who launched on-board a donated Redstone rocket. The first Italian-launched was San Marco 1, launched on 15 December, 1964 on a U.S. Scout rocket from Wallops Island (VA,USA) with an Italian Launch Team trained by NASA. Australia's launch project, in November 1967, involved a donated U.S. missile and U. S. support staff as well as a joint launch facility with the United Kingdom. Kazakhstan claimed to have made their satellite independently, but the satellite was built with Russian help, like Polish and Bulgarian ones earlier..

Attacks on satellites

In recent times satellites have been hacked by militant organisations to broadcast propaganda and to pilfer classified information from military communication networks.
Satellites in low earth orbit have been destroyed by ballistic missiles launched from earth. Both Russia and the United States have demonstrated ability to eliminate satellites. In 2007 the Chinese military shot down an aging weather satellite, Russia and the United States have also shot down satellites during the Cold war.


Due to the low received signal strength of satellite transmissions they are prone to Radio jamming by land-based transmitters. Such jamming is limited to the geographical area within the transmitter's range. GPS satellites are potential targets for jamming, but satellite phone and television signals have also been subjected to jamming.


External links

satellite in Afrikaans: Satelliet
satellite in Arabic: ساتل
satellite in Belarusian: Штучны спадарожнік Зямлі
satellite in Bosnian: Sateliti
satellite in Bulgarian: Изкуствен спътник
satellite in Catalan: Satèl·lit artificial
satellite in Czech: Umělá družice
satellite in Welsh: Lloeren
satellite in Danish: Satellit
satellite in German: Satellit (Raumfahrt)
satellite in Estonian: Tehiskaaslane
satellite in Modern Greek (1453-): Τεχνητός δορυφόρος
satellite in Spanish: Satélite artificial
satellite in Esperanto: Artefarita satelito
satellite in Basque: Satelite artifizial
satellite in Persian: ماهواره
satellite in Faroese: Fylgisveinur
satellite in French: Satellite artificiel
satellite in Friulian: Satelit
satellite in Galician: Satélite artificial
satellite in Korean: 인공위성
satellite in Hindi: उपग्रह
satellite in Croatian: Satelit
satellite in Indonesian: Satelit
satellite in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Satellite
satellite in Italian: Satellite artificiale
satellite in Hebrew: לוויין
satellite in Georgian: ხელოვნური თანამგზავრი
satellite in Latvian: Mākslīgais pavadonis
satellite in Luxembourgish: Satellit (Raumfaart)
satellite in Hungarian: Műhold
satellite in Dutch: Kunstmaan
satellite in Japanese: 人工衛星
satellite in Norwegian: Kunstig satellitt
satellite in Polish: Sztuczny satelita
satellite in Portuguese: Satélite artificial
satellite in Russian: Искусственный спутник Земли
satellite in Sicilian: Satèlliti artificiali
satellite in Simple English: Satellite
satellite in Slovak: Umelá družica
satellite in Slovenian: Satelit
satellite in Serbian: Сателит
satellite in Finnish: Satelliitti
satellite in Swedish: Satellit
satellite in Thai: ดาวเทียม
satellite in Vietnamese: Vệ tinh
satellite in Turkish: Yapay uydular
satellite in Ukrainian: Штучний супутник
satellite in Urdu: مصنوعی سیارہ
satellite in Yiddish: סאטעליט
satellite in Chinese: 人造衛星

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ATDA, ATS, Alouette, Anna, Apollo, Ariel, Atlas-Score, Biosatellite, Comsat, Cosmos, Courier, Diapason, Discoverer, ERS, Early Bird, Echo, Elektron, Explorer, GATV, Gemini, Injun, Intelsat, Lofti, Luna, Lunar Orbiter, Lunik, Mariner, Mars probes, Mercury, Midas, Nimbus, OAO, OGO, OSO, Pageos, Pegasus, Pioneer, Proton, Ranger, Relay, Samos, San Marco, Secor, Sputnik, Surveyor, Syncom, Telstar, Transit, Vanguard, Viking, Voskhod, WRESAT, Zond, accompanying, acolyte, adherent, aide, aide-de-camp, ally, ancillary, appendage, archduchy, archdukedom, artificial satellite, artificial satellites, assistant, attendance, attendant, attending, body of retainers, body politic, buff, buffer state, captive nation, cavaliere servente, chieftaincy, chieftainry, city-state, cohort, coincident, collateral, colony, commonweal, commonwealth, communications satellite, cortege, country, county, court, courtier, creature, crescent, crescent moon, dangler, decrescent, decrescent moon, demilune, dependant, dependent, disciple, domain, dominion, duchy, dukedom, dummy, earldom, empery, empire, entourage, fan, favorite, figurehead, flunky, follower, following, free city, full moon, geo probe, geodetic satellite, geophysical satellite, gibbous moon, gillie, goon, grand duchy, half-moon, hanger-on, harvest moon, heeler, helper, henchman, homme de cour, incident, increscent, increscent moon, jackal, kingdom, lackey, land, lieutenant, man, mandant, mandate, mandated territory, mandatee, mandatory, minion, moon, myrmidon, nation, nationality, navigational satellite, new moon, orb of night, parasite, partisan, polis, polity, possession, power, principality, principate, probe, protectorate, province, public, puppet, puppet government, puppet regime, pursuer, pursuivant, queen of heaven, queen of night, realm, republic, research satellite, retainer, retinue, right-hand man, robot satellite, rout, sectary, seneschalty, servant, settlement, shadow, sidekick, silvery moon, sovereign nation, space probe, space satellite, spacecraft, sputnik, state, stooge, successor, suite, sultanate, superpower, supporter, sycophant, tagtail, tail, territory, the wandering Moon, thug, toparchia, toparchy, train, trainbearer, unmanned satellite, vassal, votary, waning crescent moon, waning moon, ward heeler, waxing crescent moon, waxing moon, weather satellite, wet moon
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