How Countries Use Satellites

Adeel I. / Physics/336 / April 17,1997
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[ Development of Military Satellites ] [ Uses of Military Satellites ]
[ Military Satellites in U.S. Navy and Air Force ]
[ Restrictions Placed on Civilian Satellites by Countries ]
[ Development of Spy/Reconnaissance Satellites ] [ Types of Spy/Reconnaissance Satellites ]
[ Future of Reconnaissance Satellites ] [ Satellites in Agriculture ]
[ Satellites in Oceanography ]
Countries use satellites in many areas. These areas include military, reconnaissance, agriculture, and oceanography. With the help of satellites in these areas, countries have strengthened their military power and have improved their economic systems. Although only certain countries have this technology, more and more are getting access due to the new developments of satellites which have reduced its cost.

Development of Military Satellites

Military satellites have developed through the years. In 1976, the first so called "military satellite" was let into space. It was known as the KH-11 and was equipped with large telescopes and video cameras to observe Earth and to continuously transmit pictures to ground stations. Also, the KH-11 was one of the few satellites of the time with improved nighttime observing ability. " It's rumored that KH-11's can pick out objects six inches long, and perhaps as little as two inches long; it may be possible to read automobile plates" (Waters, 63). Another major development of the military satellite was the development of the Cosmos 1426. This military satellite was developed and launched in 1982 by the Soviet Union in response to the United States' KH-11. The images obtained by this Satellite were in film form. Its quality was cheaper than that of the KH-11, but was produced and launched in more numbers. Also, in 1988, Israel and South Africa constructed and launched the Offea 1. France, Italy, and Spain have also collaboratively started their own network of military satellites.


Uses of Military Satellites

Countries use satellites in the military in various ways. Military satellites are used in the Air Force, Navy, and primarily in military detection. The United States is one of the leading countries involved in highly technologically advanced military satellites. To gain a superior system of military satellites, a country must place restrictions on civilian satellites so their uses would not go in the wrong hands. Countries use military satellites for military detection. Military detection is primarily accomplished by Navigational Systems such as the NNSS (Navy Navigational Satellite System). However, there are also other examples of measurement and intelligence collection systems. These include the nuclear detonation detection systems on Global Positioning System Satellites; radar systems such as the missile tracking and detection radar at Diyarkir.


Military Satellites in U.S. Navy and Air Force

In the U.S., military satellites have a big impact on the Air Force and Navy. Just recently, the U.S. Air Force started building powerful electronic cameras to scan skies and calculate, automatically, motions of all satellites that enter their fields of view. These new systems of satellites, can detect fainter objects and analyze orbital maneuvers by satellites in minutes, whereas photographic techniques require a minimum of an hour and a half. Also, military satellites play a big role in the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Navy has just developed a Navigation Satellite System(NNSS). It has been developed initially for ballistic(Of or relating to projectiles, their motion, or their effects)missile submarines for use in their updating of the inertial navigational system. However, it has also been extended for ships. This was made assessable because now high accuracy fixes several times a day can be retrieved on every point on the Earth with the help of this new Navy Navigation Satellite System. NNSS is passive and uses low-orbit satellites to function.


Restrictions Placed on Civilian Satellites by Countries

Despite the advanced technology of the military satellites, civilian satellites are prohibited to construct and launch satellites as sophisticated. " Governments try to prevent civilian satellites from gaining capabilities that could affect national security." The U.S. Government also follows this principal. For instance, they have made the capabilities of the KH-11 a military top-secret. Even the existence is not officially admitted by the government. Despite these limitations, civilian satellites are providing valuable information on meteorology, agriculture, forestry, geology, environmental science, and other areas.


Development of Spy/Reconnaissance Satellites

Spy and reconnaissance satellites have been developed throughout the years. This development was achieved through a series of steps. According to Waters, the "technology of military reconnaissance by satellite changed considerably over the years." In the 1960's and 1970's, the U.S. developed satellites that could use their own rocket engines and navigational systems to move from one orbit to another, or swoop closer to Earth for especially detailed observations. The U.S. military continued to develop satellites that could relay information to Earth on radio waves. Film-dropping satellites remained essential for high-resolution pictures until 1976. The biggest step to reconnaissance satellites came as result of the Cold War. " The Cold War was the development and deployment of increasingly sophisticated reconnaissance satellites, manned and unmanned spy planes, and land and sea-based listening posts" (High Flying 49). It was at this time that spy and reconnaissance satellites broke off from the other military satellites and formed their own category, officially.


Types of Spy/Reconnaissance Satellites

Today, spy satellites have differentiated into different types. There are four basic kinds of spy satellites; reconnaissance, ocean surveillance, early warning, and elint. The most important type of spy satellite is the reconnaissance. The reconnaissance satellites photograph missile bases and other places of military interest. They have to get close-up pictures, thus, they are placed in low orbits. The drag from the atmosphere slowly brings them down causing their life time to be only a few weeks.


Future of Reconnaissance Satellites

Reconnaissance satellites have been used by countries in many ways and will be continued to be used in the future. It has been reported from the National Reconnaissance Office, which handles intelligence satellite procurement(obtaining by special force), there has been the developing of an imaging satellite that would cover eight times more territory in a single image than the advanced KH-11. This wide-area capability, obtained at the cost of a reduced scale, makes it possible to cover far more territory with less effort. This will tremendously help countries in their spy and reconnaissance satellite technology. Also, due to the reduction of satellite cost, more countries will be able to enter the world of Reconnaissance satellites to reap its benefits and advantages.


Uses of Satellites in Agriculture

Countries have also used satellites to improve agriculture. Satellites are now being used to distinguish crops from weeds, and healthy plants from sick ones with the help of infra-red vision. Satellite based navigation, such as GPS(Global Positioning System) which was developed by the military, also assists in the process. With this, farmers can keep track of precisely what they're putting as they plant, fertilize and spray. A farmer now also has the ability to take account of such differences as different kinds of soil, varying in acidity, organic content, and nitrogen levels( all meriting different treatment). Also, differences of drainage and treatment can be determined. All this improves yield and prevents the waste of valuable chemicals. American, Russian, British and French concerns are already selling satellites or access to these satellites to farmers and corporations. This practice is well established in America, where over a dozen companies sell receivers and navigation equipment. The most noted is the John Deere "Green Star". It is an array of GPS(Global Positioning System) navigation, crop mapping and monitoring gadgetry.


Uses of Satellites in Oceanography

Satellites have also had a profound effect in oceanography. In regional and local seas, satellites provide remote sensing which gives a unique approach to monitoring the environment for the management of living resources, fishing, navigation and coastal erosion. " _ It will become relatively inexpensive to develop local and regional programs for purposes such as forecasting sea conditions, monitoring pollution or performing bathymetric(Measurement of the depth of large bodies of water) surveys" (Robinson 34). Thus, every maritime nation will have access to valuable information needed for the management of that part of the ocean that compromises its exclusive economic zone.



In conclusion, countries use satellites in many areas and for different reasons. Whether its military reconnaissance, agriculture, or oceanography, satellites have improved a nation's military strength and/or economic strength. Satellites in these fields are still being advanced and will continue to play an important role in the future of all nations and the world.



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