‘Satellites live and breathe in space; they are very vulnerable to solar activity. They affect our banking systems, our TVs and cell phones, all the luxuries of life.’ The world entered a new phase of history and attained a new height of groundbreaking moments on October 4, 1957, when the then Soviet Union launched the earth’s first artificial satellite named Sputnik which translated in the Russian native lingua as ‘fellow traveler’. It was in the shape of a basketball weighing almost 83.6 kg.
Though it did very little in orbiting the Earth every 98 minutes and emit a simple radio signal. However this little successful event started what has been dubbed as ‘the Space Race’ because the whole world especially the United States of America was unsettled by the fact that the Union were able to facilitate a successful launch and possessed the electronic technology to operate the satellite concurrently, and that has opened the gateway to the possibilities of lunar landings as well as space shuttle missions resulting in weather predictions and direct broadcast television satellites.
The truth is the idea or the concept of a satellite is almost similar to the processing of gold which sees so much effort exerted and resources utilized to achieve a finessed and definite result that may not be seen as equal to what was initially put into the process. The aim of a satellite is to be placed high enough above the Earth’s atmosphere to move at 8 kilometers per second.
The process involves the successful launch because some of the satellites don’t even make it past the launching stage in circumstances when minute calculations were erroneous or assumptions were made to accommodate possibilities, the orbital insertion and the control of any satellite is complex at least.
In this part of the world the truth is such things only interest a handful of people; people who are exposed enough to be witness to that kind of information and happening around the world. We don’t even realize how important satellites are for us and the role they play in our daily lives.
Satellite technologies have come to affect our lives without us even realizing it. The very first point of note being communication. Of all the various satellite technologies, we can agree that communication technology has probably had the greatest impact on our world. It has been referred to as one of the greatest forces for the “super-tribalization” of the human species. Communication satellites have also proven to be one of the most successful commercial applications of space technology.
As of the year 2002, about 200 communication satellites were orbiting above Earth. The first telephone communication satellites being ECHO and Telstar namely were launched in 1960 and 1962, respectively. These and many subsequent satellites carried analog signals to all parts of the world.
The introduction and the demands of the Internet however and personal communication devices such as pagers then and wireless phones now have resulted in technologically advanced communication satellite technologies. The other side of these communication satellites is seen in television broadcasting.
It was in 1962 that there was the launch of the Relay satellite which is practically responsible for the broadcast or the relay. It has in no way been left behind as advancements have gone on as we see evidence all around in the use of home satellite dishes that work owing to greater satellite transmission. The internet was not left out of the blessing that the communication satellites brought to the table from the skies.
Because these satellites have been used to provide internet access and so many of them have been advanced and deployed, we are enjoying a faster and stable internet, with download speeds reaching up to 50mbps.
Aside from communication satellites, satellites, in general, have given us the most amazing insight in predicting weather conditions all around the world. On this wise, large scale natural disasters are noticed and are effectively prepared for before they make an impact.
Although this is still very rough around the edges, NASA is working on more advanced satellites that can detect changes in the atmosphere on a quicker scale.
Currently, there are 4,635 satellites out there orbiting the planet (don’t we just like the attention?). The interesting question that people don’t ask is how many of them are from Africa? Ghana recently became the first Sub Saharan country in Africa to launch an educational satellite, the first of any kind of satellite from us, which hit orbit on Friday, July 7th last year.
Adding to a total of 8 nations who have achieved the feat out of which only 4 presently have functioning satellites. As fast as the news traveled around and people talked about how the Ghanaian engineers had done well to pull off an amazing feat is the same speed it took for it to die down.
How we aren’t even encouraging our efforts when minds come together to do things like this is one of the serious issues we have in this part of the world and the worst part is it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.