How Countries Use Satellites
Adeel I. / Physics/336 / April 17,1997
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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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