Updated: Feb 5
How awesome are artificial satellites?! Pretty awesome, right? And incredibly important! Artificial satellites are sent into space to orbit Earth and make our daily lives a little more amazing.
Thanks to artificial satellites we can talk on the phone with friends that are thousands of kilometres away, watch our favourite science shows online, and even know when it's going to rain (and how much).
Plus, artificial satellites help us learn more about our planet and even outer space. They are our eyes and ears in the sky.
Oh, and can you keep a secret? We were planning on telling you this at the end of our satellite story, but... we're too excited to wait!
Thanks to our launching partner, Virgin Orbit, YOU can now launch your very own, tiny satellite. But before you do, let's learn why artificial satellites are sent into space and how they make our lives better.
How big are artificial satellites?
Do you remember what we learned about Sputnik? Sputnik was the first-ever human-made satellite to make it into space. It was no bigger than a volleyball, but oh, what a big impact it had on the world!
Sputnik is proof that satellites don't have to be huge to make a big difference. Some artificial satellites can only have 10 cm in length, while others can reach even 50 meters.
And hear this: the biggest artificial satellite is almost as big as a house with five bedrooms! In fact, if you count its solar panels, it's even bigger than a rugby stadium.
Do you know which is the biggest artificial satellite? The International Space Station, of course.
How 'bout that?! As surprising as it might seem, humans can live on satellites. In fact, as you already know, several astronauts are right now defying gravity on the International Space Station.
Different purposes, different orbits
If you ever saw a glimmering light moving in the night sky, you might have spotted a satellite. Chances are pretty big, since thousands of artificial satellites orbit Earth as we speak.
But not all satellites occupy the same orbit. In fact, scientists decide on which orbit to place them based on what their task will be. Some are closer and some are farther away.
Satellites can be placed in:
Low Earth Orbit (LEO), at an altitude starting from 200 km to 2,000 km
Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), at an average altitude of 20,000 km
Geostationary Orbit (GEO), almost 36,000 km above Earth
Most Low Earth Orbit satellites are used for space observation and discovery missions (think of the International Space Station). These are our space-based friends with a taste for adventure!
The satellites placed on the Medium Earth Orbit take care of navigation. Thanks to them you can always discover the fastest route to school (or that great pizza place). Some MEO satellites can also be used for communications or even for studying space.
Geostationary satellites are mainly in charge of communications and weather. You can think of them as your space-bound friends that help you go online, talk to grandma, and
Types of artificial satellites
How many different types of artificial satellites can you name? C'mon, you can name at least three types. We know you can. Here's a hint: think about their uses. Let's see now. There are:
Navigation satellites - the ones that send the signals to your Maps app, telling it everything it needs to know.
Communication satellites - these little buddies make sure your internet, TV, and phone work.
Weather satellites - no, they can't make sure it won't rain tomorrow, but they can warn you if it does.
Earth observation satellites - they take photos of Earth (say cheese!).
Astronomical satellites - monitor space and provide amazing images with far, far, far away galaxies.
International Space Station - an amazing science lab/satellite where astronauts and scientists perform tons of fascinating experiments with microgravity.
Few people can launch artificial satellites. But you can!
Do you know how satellites are launched into orbit? Well, let us tell you, it's incredibly hard. You need approval and an extremely powerful rocket. Plus a ton of other things we won’t even get into.
Luckily, you have us on your side. If you’re a Junior Astronaut at heart, join our Nanonaut programme and launch your own tiny satellite.
Our friends from Virgin Orbit and their incredible LauncherOne launching rocket are ready to take it to outer space! For real!
Don’t wait until you’re ‘big enough’ to explore space. Follow your curiosity, build your dreams, and, who knows, maybe one day you’ll even become an astronaut!