Parts of a Satellite

Colleen G ./ Physics #337 / 19 May 1997
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Satellites are made up of components that make them useful to earth. The components for each satellite depend on what each satellite is needed to do. This falls into two major categories: what they are made of and what they are made to do. Each category helps us to understand the functions of satellites better

Major components of satellites

Satellites need a power source and special materials to make them lightweight and durable. "All spacecraft, whatever the size, need a power source. Unless the mission requires a vehicle to operate very far from the sun, solar arrays and batteries will provide it with power" (Hogan 90). The batteries may be nickel hydroxide cathodes with a platinum catalyst anode. Potassium hydroxide is the electrolyte. Batteries are one of the heaviest subsystems in a satellite. Gallium arsenide arrays can be used for highly capable small satellites. Graphite epoxy make up the communications satellite and aluminum is appropriate for small satellites.

What are they constructed to do?

Satellite components need radio dishes, cameras, and telescopes to do specific work. Radio dishes are used in communications satellites. Cameras take pictures of the earth for weather satellites. Telescopes help make pictures more clear and are used to study the universe. Subsystems help instruments work together and keep the satellite operating. "Satellites consist of certain building blocks: A power supply and distribution system, telemetry and communications, a navigation system, on-board intelligence, thermal management equipment, attitude control, a structure to carry all of the above, and a payload" (Hogan 88) Satellites contain a payload that has a weapons system, optics, big communications system, and scientific instruments. "The payload can't function without the satellite that supports and serves it" (Hogan 88).


Satellites need a wide range of components and a power source to help them work. A structure holds all the components together. The major components of satellites are constructed to each satellite for it to function for its specific purpose.



Hogan, Brian J. "Voyages Go Lite." Design News. 6 September 1993: 87-93.

"Satellite, Artificial." Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft

Corporation, Funk and Wagnalls Corporation, 1993-1995.