What Are the Uses of Satellites: Earth Observation?

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Every great milestone that humans have achieved was somehow fueled by technological innovation. And Earth observation using satellites is such a technology. Using this spacecraft, we can monitor global warming, weather anomalies, and map the entire world down to its smallest details. 

If you are as fascinated by space as we are, you will love this article. Here, we are answering the question of what are the uses of satellites

Weather Forecast

Let us start by answering, what are earth observation satellites? A weather satellite is particularly used to monitor the weather and climate of our planet. They are also referred to as meteorological spacecraft. Unlike their predecessors, these weather satellites do not only monitor clouds, but are way more advanced. 

Earth observation satellites applications are picking up accurate data on energy flows, heatwaves from the sun, ocean currents, glaciers, snow & dust storms, pollution levels, wildfires, and so on. 

Even a few decades ago, we could get access to weather forecast data by tuning into the radio or TV broadcasts. But now, we can see weather predictions using our smartphone. You can go on Google and search for weather forecasts in your area for the next 7 days, and you will get this data instantly. Other than Google, there are now hundreds of smartphone apps that use data from these weather stations. 

There are primarily three types of weather forecast spacecraft. Geostationary satellites orbit our planet from a distance of 22,000 miles. These sats move at the same rate as the Earth. 

Then we have polar-orbiting satellites, which orbit our planet from a distance of 500 miles. These spacecraft are used to monitor oceans and clouds in ultra HD resolution. 

And lastly, we have deep sea satellites. They are the farthest from our planet’s surface, orbiting over one million miles above. Top benefits of earth observation satellites are that we can monitor solar energy bursts and transmit weather alerts to the ground stations. 

Now, are you wondering how many earth observation satellites are there? Well, there are more than 150 such operational satellites in our planet’s orbit. 

Environment Monitoring

Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/environmental-protection-326923/?download 

The Earth we see today is very different from our planet a million years ago. Earth’s uppermost layer is made out of different tectonic plates. Their movement results in volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other climate hazards. But they also contribute to the ever-changing shape of our Earth. Did you know, the largest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, emerged after Indian and Eurasian Tectonic plates smashed into each other?

But how is it relevant to our discussion of weather satellites, and what are earth observation satellites used for, you might ask? Well, thanks to this spacecraft, scientists and researchers can accurately predict climate changes, Earth’s vegetation, atmosphere composition, and so on. These devices also help us see objects on our oceans’ surface. 

Satellites used for environmental monitoring are always situated on sun-synchronous orbits. As these orbits are at an optimal distance from the Earth’s polar regions, they can cover the entire planet. 

Mapping

As far as other end-consumer applications of earth observation satellites are concerned, we have global mapping. It is done primarily using satellite imagery. These satellites work independently. Earth observation satellite data are available to both private companies (Google Maps, Apple Maps) and governments. But they have to buy a license to use earth observation images.

Depending on the camera on board, satellites used for mapping use five different resolutions — temporal, spectral, radiometric, spatial, and geometric. 

One big disadvantage of space Imagery is that the time to process these pictures is very lengthy. Also, when you consider the sheer area of Earth, you can imagine the time and resources that go into developing images captured. 

The oldest satellite imaging program is Landsat. Since it was launched into space back in 1980, it has been capturing images of Earth at 30m resolution. 

Navigation

We all use Google Maps to find a location that we have never been to before. This is just one application of spacecraft used for Navigation. These devices are also referred to as SatNavs. 

There are currently three fully operational Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) orbiting the Earth. The United States Global Positioning System (GPS), China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), and Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). 

Earth observation from a satellite platform provides data for civil navigation, as well as military applications. 

So, there you go. Now you know what the Earth Observation satellite used for. Earth observation nanosatellite technology is becoming ever more affordable as the spacecraft is getting ever smaller. Soon enough, we’ll have entire constellations orbiting our planet as more private companies join the new Space Race. 

Yash Ranjan
Yash Ranjan
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