Discover the different functions of satellites in Earth orbit


There are currently about 3,000 spacecraft active in Earth’s orbit, located between 300 and 1,000 kilometers above the planet’s surface. It is common sense that the main function of these satellites is to provide data for navigation services, such as GPS, and for weather forecasts.

However, they also serve a variety of other purposes, whether for monitoring illegal activities or for missions that seek to identify signs of life in different locations. Check below vital satellite services that affect our daily lives.

1. Financial transactions

All financial transactions use satellite data to increase security. Thus, from simple payments and withdrawals at ATMs to millionaire movements in the stock market are anchored by location systems and timing services for this purpose. At that point, any problem can cause fluctuations and disrupt the flow of money.

2. Fighting natural disasters

Satellites monitor natural disasters, such as forest fires and storms. With the tendency of catastrophes to increase due to climate change, the information provided can help to combat and even prevent these events, by studying the behavior of occurrence in certain areas.

The effort even resulted in coordinated action by 17 countries to share satellite data in emergency situations, free of charge. The initiative, created in 2000, was responsible for supporting and thinking about responses in more than 700 cases around the world, in 126 countries.

3. Illegal activities

In addition to helping to prevent the impacts of natural events, satellites also provide data on irresponsible or even illegal human activity, according to national and international laws, on Earth. The scientific and journalistic dissemination of images allows authorities to take measures for uncontrolled deforestation scenarios and even in the investigation of suspicious and criminal actions, such as the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

4. Clandestine vessels

Clandestine vessels, such as pirates and illegal fishermen, do not transmit signals from their positions to identify their activities, which is a mandatory location at sea. However, high resolution images sent by satellites are able to detect boats, even at night, and thus send alerts of suspicious activity in a certain area.

5. Locate endangered species

High-resolution satellites also provide important data for scientists and institutions working to preserve endangered species. The information helps to locate and identify the number of different animals in various regions, for protection against threats through hunting and habitat destruction.

6. Search for alien life

Many satellites above the Earth’s atmosphere aim to capture information from space, by coupling telescopes in their buildings. Due to the interest in the search for life outside the Earth, the identification of exoplanets – planets located beyond the Solar System – presents itself as one of the main mission goals of many pioneer countries in space exploration.


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