Satellite facts and information

Satellite facts and information

There are many satellites in orbit fulfilling a huge variety of functions. Satellite technology has now become a part of everyday life, enabling worldwide communications, global navigation, surveying and monitor as well as gathering data for weather forecasting, and many more applications.

There are many facts associated with satellites that are both interesting and useful. Often the facts about these satellites and satellites in general may not be obvious.

We have compiled a page of interesting satellite facts as an introduction to satellite technology.

Please read some of our other satellite pages to gain more of an insight into satellite technology in general.


Facts about numbers of satellites in orbit


Number of satellites Over 2 500 in orbit around the Earth
First rockets that entered outer space The German V2 rocket in mid 1940s
Number of man-made objects orbiting the Earth In excess of 10 000


Facts about satellite firsts


First fictional depiction of satellite The first mention of the idea of a satellite in a fictionals tory occurred in a short story by Edward Everett Hale, The Brick Moon. This story appeared in a publications entitled” The Atlantic Monthly”. The serialisation started in 1869
First treatise on the use of satellites The idea of a satellite was first postulated Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935). In 1903 he published an academic paper entitled: ” Means of Reaction Devices.” In this he proposed the idea of a multi-stage rocket using liquid hydrogen and oxygen being used to launch the satellite into orbit as well as calculating the orbital speed required to maintain orbit as 8 km/s.
First concept of a space station This occurred in 1928 when the Slovenian scientist, Herman Potocnik (1892-1929) published a book entitled: “The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor.” In this he devised a scheme for establishing a permanent human presence in space. He developed the concept for the space station in some detail and calculated its geostationary orbit. He then went on to describe the use of orbiting spacecraft for observation of the ground for both commercial and military applications.
First detailed concept of geostationary communications satellites This appeared in an article in 1945 in a British magazine entitled Wireless World. Although written by the famous English science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) it postulated the concept of communications satellites to be used for mass communications. Clarke investigated many aspects of the system from the satellite launch, possible orbits and other aspects of the creation of a network of world-circling satellites. He also correctly suggested that just three geostationary satellites would provide coverage over the entire planet. Unfortunately he did not realise quite how much the system would be used, and that many more satellites would be required to cater for the huge volume of data.
First satellites Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union on 4th October 1957. It was a football sized globe that transmitted a “beep beep” sound as it orbited the Earth. The word Sputnik means satellite. It continued transmitting for about 21 days.
Second satellite Explorer 1 launched 31st January 1958 by USA.
First passive reflector satellite Echo 1 – launched by the USA on 12 August 1960. It was used as a large reflector for radio signals, and was also plainly visible from Earth to the naked eye
First active repeater communications satellite Courier 1B – this was launched on 4 October 1960. It was also the first satellite powered by solar cells that were used to re-charge batteries used to power the system when behind the earth.
First direct relay communications satellite Telstar 1 – launched on 10 July 1962, it carried the first transatlantic live television pictures via satellite. It was also used for telephone and high speed data communications.
First communications satellite in geostationary orbit Syncom 2. This was launched on 19 August 1964. It carried the first Olympic broadcasts to international audiences via satellite. These Olympics were held in Tokyo.