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An Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications Orion Satellite relays secure communications for the United States and other allied countries. Author: USAF (Los Angeles AFB).


communications satellite is an artificial satellite that relays and amplifies radio telecommunications signals via a transponder; it creates a communication channel between a source transmitter and a receiver at different locations on Earth. Communications satellites are used for televisiontelephoneradiointernet, and military applications. There are over 2,000 communications satellites in Earth’s orbit, used by both private and government organizations.

Wireless communication uses electromagnetic waves to carry signals. These waves require line-of-sight, and are thus obstructed by the curvature of the Earth. The purpose of communications satellites is to relay the signal around the curve of the Earth allowing communication between widely separated points.

Communications satellites use a wide range of radio and microwave frequencies. To avoid signal interference, international organizations have regulations for which frequency ranges or "bands" certain organizations are allowed to use. This allocation of bands minimizes the risk of signal interference.

A speculative publication of a paper written by Arthur C. Clarke touched on the topic in 1945.


Communications Satellites are usually composed of the following subsystems:

  • Communication Payload, normally composed of transpondersantennas, and switching systems
  • Engines used to bring the satellite to its desired orbit
  • station keeping, tracking and stabilization subsystem used to keep the satellite in the right orbit, with its antennas pointed in the right direction, and its power system pointed towards the sun
  • Power subsystem, used to power the Satellite systems, normally composed of solar cells, and batteries that maintain power during solar eclipse
  • Command and Control subsystem, which maintains communications with ground control stations. The ground control Earth stations monitor the satellite performance and control its functionality during various phases of its life-cycle.

The bandwidth available from a satellite depends upon the number of transponders provided by the satellite. Each service (TV, Voice, Internet, radio) requires a different amount of bandwidth for transmission. This is typically known as link budgeting and a network simulator can be used to arrive at the exact value.

Also seeEdit

  1. Anik A1
  2. Telstar
  3. Arabsat-1
  4. Eutelsat 1F1
  5. International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT)
  6. Space satellites
  7. Electromagnetic spectrum


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