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Satellite Technology and Applications

[GPS, Trilateration in Action- Science ABC]


- Overview

Today, we find ourselves in an exciting new space race. Private companies and governments have set truly audacious goals, including returning to the moon, launching space tourism operations, colonizing Mars, and ultimately exploring outer space beyond the solar system. 

The satellite sector is undergoing a major renaissance, with emerging technologies helping established players and startups disrupt the space industry by enabling faster design cycles for space-based products such as satellites, more complex payloads and scalable communications systems. 

Over the past five years, we have witnessed steady growth in innovation and non-governmental, private commercial investment in the satellite industry.


- Satellite Technology: Past, Present, and Future

Satellite communications have come a long way since the launch of the first communications satellite, Telstar 1, in 1962. In recent years, there have been significant changes in the way humans use space. Access to and use of space has become crucial to many aspects of modern digital society and daily life. 

The number of space-related activities conducted by government, military and commercial actors around the world is increasing. Today, satellite communications services are used across multiple industries around the world, connecting people and businesses in even the most remote areas. 

Today, thousands of satellites of various types orbit the Earth, enabling a variety of communications, positioning, and Earth observation applications. Satellite technology provides ubiquitous connectivity. Satellite technology enables precise positioning and navigation. Satellite technology enables unprecedented “understanding". 

But what does the future of satellite communications services look like? With the emergence of new constellations such as OneWeb, the development of maritime software solutions, the development of the Internet of Things, the evolution of 5G, quantum computing in satellite technology, AI in future satellite systems, utilizing automation and robotics in future satellite technologies, we are entering a new era of global connectivity.

The future of satellite communications is exciting and full of potential. As technology continues to advance, the future of satellite communications is brighter than ever.


- Satellite Orbits

An orbit is the curved path that an object in space (such as a star, planet, moon, asteroid or spacecraft) takes around another object due to gravity.

Gravity causes objects in space that have mass to be attracted to other nearby objects. If this attraction brings them together with enough momentum, they can sometimes begin to orbit each other.

An orbit is a regular, repeating path in space that an object takes around another object. Objects in orbit around a planet are called satellites. According to the height of the satellite from the earth, satellite orbits can be divided into high earth orbit, medium earth orbit and low earth orbit.

  • High Earth orbit starts about one-tenth of the way to the moon. Many types of weather and some communications satellites tend to have higher Earth orbits, furthest from the surface.
  • Satellites operating in medium Earth orbit include navigation satellites, designed to monitor a specific area.
  • Most scientific satellites, including NASA's Earth Observing System satellites, have low-Earth orbits.


- Trends in Future Satellite Technology

The space industry is using emerging technologies like 5G, 3D printing, big data, and quantum computing to upgrade and scale operations in space. The future of satellite services may see satellite services begin to compete directly with terrestrial services.

The use of automation and robotics in future satellite technology has the potential to revolutionize the industry. Automation and robotics can lead to more efficient and cost-effective production and maintenance processes. It can also improve satellite communications and provide more precise data.

Here are some trends in future satellite technology, including:

  • Small satellites: It is expected that 370 small satellites will be deployed in low or medium orbits for communication services and earth observation images.
  • Satellite Internet of Things: The development of the Internet of Things is entering a new era of global connectivity.
  • Advanced ground systems: Advanced ground systems are a trend in satellite communications.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence can be used in automatic learning systems for satellite management.
  • Automation and Robotics: Automation and robotics can lead to more efficient and cost-effective production and maintenance processes.


Other future satellite technology trends include:

  • Quantum satellites
  • In-orbit and On-orbit service
  • Advanced payload system
  • Spacecraft propulsion
  • Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS)
  • Low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites 
  • Reusable rocket launch vehicles 
  • Satellites with all-electric propulsion New use cases for 5G and Beyond,  and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Miniaturization 
  • Smart propulsion 
  • Data analytics 
  • Cybersecurity


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[New York City, New York - Civil Engineering Discoveries]

- Quantum Satellites

Quantum satellites use quantum principles to establish secure communication channels between ground stations and satellites. Quantum satellites use quantum physics to entangle photons to communicate with ground stations.

Satellite-based quantum key distribution (QKD) can:

  • Enables secure communication channels between ground stations and satellites
  • Create secure encryption keys that are resistant to interception
  • Connecting local terrestrial quantum networks over long distances
  • Building a network of networks, much like the Internet is today


A quantum satellite uses photons that are inextricably linked or “entangled” by quantum physics, to communicate with a ground station. The satellite transmits pairs of entangled photons to two receivers in the access segment. The satellite creates a single quantum channel between two receivers.

Satellites are seen as a major opportunity for quantum secure communications because:

  • They play an important role in long-distance, long-distance communications and data transmission.
  • Architectures that move data through many different points can be compromised.


China is developing a quantum communications satellite that will carry a 600 mm diameter telescope for photon transmission. Satellites in higher orbits will allow the creation of a global, all-sky quantum communications network.


[More to come ...]


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