Which Agency would most likely regulate satellites used for worldwide communication?
Since the birth of the scape age, which started 60 years ago on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union first launched a satellite, a lot has changed ever since then. Now space science has developed to the extent that now these satellites carry a crew of astronauts who perform experiments. Whether on life on other planets, our obsession with space, using satellites for making money, or educational purposes has no end. Even though they are thousands of kilometers away from us, satellites are deeply integrated into our everyday lives.
What is a Satellite?
Artificial satellites are objects that are launched into the Earth’s orbit, temporarily or permanently, sometimes even with the crew members. The idea of an artificial satellite was first proposed by Isaac Newton. He said that when an object is fired at a certain velocity from height in a parallel direction to the horizon, it could travel around the Earth before crashing. Three centuries later, Russians (USSR) launched the first satellite, which came as a surprise to the western world. Since then, more than 5000 satellites have been launched by 70 different nations in space revolving around Earth. The satellites are used for different purposes, and one of them is providing links to the telecommunication systems.
What is Satellite Communication?
Communication, in general, is any conversation that takes place between two or more entities through a medium. Likewise, when communication occurs between two earth stations through satellites, it is called satellite communication. Satellite communication is a self-oriented telecommunication system that uses electromagnetic waves to communicate links via a transponder between different antenna points on Earth. The antennas capture and process the information provided by the satellites. In global communication, satellites play an important role. There are thousands of satellites revolving around planet earth that transmit analog and digital signals that carry data, voice, or video.
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Need of Satellite Communication
We use satellites in every communication, from watching TV to posting on Instagram to calling your mother from a police intercom when you’re lost in the woods. Everything involves satellite communication. Satellites enable all sorts of media communication, be it telephone, radio, television, internet, or military applications. Before introducing satellite communication, there were two ways through which some long-distance conversations took place; ground wave propagation and skywave propagation. The maximum distance covered by both waves was 1500 kilometers. Therefore, it limited communication for people who lived in different parts of the world. The arrival satellite communication removed these barriers and provided communication for long distances.
History of Satellite Communication
The history of satellite communication goes back to 1945 when Arthur C. Clarke, a British radio expert and science writer, published an article in which he proposed merging rocketry and microwave engineering to create artificial satellites in stationary orbits on the Earth that would act as relays for transmission from the Earth. He calculated that when three satellites are placed at equal distance at a stationary orbit, they will provide global radio coverage, except for certain Polar Regions.
His ideas were not taken seriously initially, but then the Soviet Union launched its first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in October 1957. The diameter of Sputnik 1 was 23 inches with four antennas that send low-frequency radio signals. This launch pushed people to think of the benefits artificial satellites can bring. Later in November 1957, Sputnik 2, much bigger than the first launch, was sent by Russians. Following the Sputniks, the US became concerned and sent his own satellite Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958.
In 1960 AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph Company) requested authorization from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy an experimental communications satellite to develop an operating framework quickly. It was a bit of a shock for the government because there were no such policies that could assist in executing the proposal. The launch of Echo 1 by NASA from the United States in August 1960 was an aluminum-coated balloon that contained no instruments but could reflect signals from the ground; it improved the quality of satellite systems.
Telstar 1 by NASA was sent in 1962 as the first active communication satellite that introduced two-way communication. It was the first time television images were transmitted between Europe and North America. Other countries also sent their satellites into space. The successful development of the satellite communication systems opened the doors to the global communication satellite industry. Commercial satellites were being sent, and the countries developed official policies.
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How Satellite Communication Works?
The communication satellites work like space mirrors; they bounce signals (radio, internet data, and television) from one corner of the Earth to another. The process of send and receiving signals involves three stages. The first stage is uplink which begins on Earth. Next, the signals from television broadcasts are sent from the ground station on Earth to satellite up in space at a high-frequency range of 1–50 gigahertz. In the second stage, the transponders such as radio receivers, amplifiers, and transmitters are used. Finally, the signals are received and retransmitted by the satellites back to Earth, where they are received by other earth stations in the satellite’s coverage area. Transponders are used to boost the incoming signals from Earth and change their frequency so that the outgoing signals aren’t changed.
The third and final stage involves a downlink. The data received by satellite is sent to a distant receiving earth station. There are multiple downlinks, but only one uplink and the frequency with which signals are sent to the satellite are called uplink frequency, and the user with which they are transmitted to the receiver is called downlink frequency.
Role of Satellites in Communication in 21st century
Today, the world has become a tiny global village because of the satellite communication system that allows people who live miles apart to have face-to-face conversations. We may not realize their importance, but these satellites play a considerable role in our daily communication. From the beginning, when the first artificial satellite was sent in 1957 up till now, the role of satellites in enabling communication has changed to a great extent. The significant change it brought is removing the physical barriers of long-distance communication in several ways. It also improved cellular connectivity by increasing the bandwidth of networks available on the ground.
Satellites have been sending television signals since the 1960s; these satellites are the source of cable and network TV. Live transmissions are available for over five decades now, communication satellites are used to broadcast news, sports, concerts, and other programs. In addition, direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) or Direct-to-Home (DTH) providers use satellites to transmit TV channels that are broadcasted by satellites directly to the homes of service provider customers with a satellite dish home receiver. Maritime also uses communication satellites, container ships, and oil tankers that need secure satellite connectivity to remain linked to their main offices.
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Pro and Cons of Satellite Communication
The communication satellites have several pros and cons that we’re going to discuss in this section.
Advantages of Satellite Communication
Following are the advantages of satellite communication:
- Large geographical area is covered compared to that of terrestrial systems; thousands of individuals or households can receive signals transmitted by the satellites.
- Bandwidth and more broadcasting possibilities are available.
- Transmission cost is cheap and independent of the coverage area.
- It is easy to install and manage the ground station sites.
- Convenient to obtain service from one single provider and uniform service is available.
Disadvantages of Satellite Communication
Following are the disadvantages of satellite communication:
- Launching satellites into orbits can be expensive.
- Satellite manufacturing is costly and requires much time
- Satellites require regular monitoring once they are placed in their orbits
- Propagation delay of satellite systems is more than that of conventional terrestrial systems. This can cause an echo in the voice.
- Satellites have an average lifespan of 12-15 years. After that new satellite has to be launched, which can be expensive.
- Interference can be caused due to weather conditions
Which agency would most likely regulate satellites used for worldwide communication?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for regulating communication satellites. It is an official federal body of the United States developed on June 19, 1934, by the Communications Act of 1934. The agency is responsible for controlling interstate and international radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable communications. The mission of the FCC is to make communication available to all the people living in the United States, “without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, a rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”
It is only responsible for maintaining technical aspects, including frequency and equipment, communication systems, not broadcast content. However, to ensure that all modes of communication will coexist, the FCC helps to control content, grant station charters, and track creativity. FCC is also involved in regulating the internet in the United States.
With the advance in technology, the work of FCC is getting more challenging each day. The Federal Communications Commission is currently concerned with net neutrality, the expansion of cell phone networks, and the overcrowding of radio airwaves. The telephone numbers and Internet network addresses are rapidly running out, and FCC is planning and focusing on solving the issue to ensure that future communication remains stable.