They are in the news. They are in your view of the sky. They are flying up from Earth by the hundreds and thousands.
In a few years, there could be more than 50,000 satellites in orbit. Most of them will fly low, crossing the sky and covering the Earth with radio waves, cameras and radar. Flying so low, they brush the upper edges of the atmosphere, which gradually slows them until they fall to Earth.
In their short lifetimes, they connect us, capture information about the Earth and deepen our understanding of the planet we call home.
Flying Too High To Be Seen
There is a place in space where no atmosphere reaches. Where satellites fly so high, they are invisible. Where they don’t cross the sky but hover magically over a single spot on Earth.
We call that place geostationary orbit, or GEO. Satellites there seem motionless because they circle the Earth along the equator at the same speed the Earth is turning below them.
It is the orbit proposed by science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in 1945 before the dawn of the satellite age. It’s the perfect place to send one digital signal and have it reach millions of sites at the same time. For decades, it has delivered TV and phone calls, internet and business networks, communications for military missions, humanitarian camps, remote mines and ships at sea.
The Oldest Orbit Proves Its Worth Every Day
And no matter how many new satellites we launch, the value of GEO keeps flying higher.
With no atmosphere to slow them down, GEO satellites last more than fifteen years – about three times longer than low-flying ones.
Because GEO satellites last so long, companies like Hughes can afford to make them bigger and more powerful. Its new Jupiter 3 satellite is the size of a bus with a wingspan like a commercial airliner. It will join Jupiter 1 and 2 in delivering broadband to millions of customers.
GEO is getting smarter, too. Instead of big, fixed beams, the newest satellites send out hundreds of narrow spotbeams, each delivering its own load of bandwidth. New technology lets the satellites steer their beams automatically in response to demand on the ground, and steady progress in ground systems squeezes even more capacity out of them every year.
Paving the Way to the Future
What will the world be like with thousands of satellites in orbit? It will be a world where the internet goes everywhere. A world where your smartphone connects directly to satellites. A world where billions more people will rise out of poverty because they are connected.
That was the dream of Arthur C. Clarke in 1945 – a dream of GEO satellites connecting people around the world. Today, that dream is becoming a reality before our eyes.
Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), an innovator in satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks for 50 years, provides broadband equipment and services; managed services featuring smart, software-defined networking; and end-to-end network operation for millions of consumers, businesses, governments and communities worldwide. The Hughes flagship Internet service, HughesNet®, connects more than 1.5 million subscribers across the Americas, and the Hughes JUPITER™ System powers Internet access for tens of millions more worldwide. Hughes supplies more than half the global satellite terminal market to leading satellite operators, in-flight service providers, mobile network operators and military customers. A managed network services provider, Hughes supports nearly 500,000 enterprise sites with its HughesON™ portfolio of wired and wireless solutions. Headquartered in Germantown, Maryland, USA, Hughes is owned by EchoStar. To learn more, visit www.hughes.com or follow HughesConnects on Twitter and LinkedIn.