Scientific Satellites

Jennifer M. / Physics 337 / April 17, 1997
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Their are various kinds of scientific satellites. Among these are scientific research, land and sea observation, weather and navigation satellites. All of these are of significant importance throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
[ Research Satellites ] [ Observation Satellites ] [ Weather Satellites ] [ Navigation Satellites ]


Research Satellites

Certain satellites are important for scientific research. These satellites gather data for scientific analysis. This includes observations of the atmosphere of our planet, the stars, the sun and other parts of space. Demeis states that earth orbiting satellites can observe celestial objects without the interference from the Earth's atmosphere (72). These satellites are able to record data without the interference of gases, lights, and magnetic fields produced on earth. Scientific satellites are not restricted to earth orbits, they also orbit the sun, moon, and other planets.

Observation Satellites

Observation satellites help to observe many features of the earth's surface. Oberright states, "Scientists use earth observation satellites to locate mineral deposits, to determine the location and size of freshwater supplies . . . and to detect the spread of disease in crops and forests"(150b). The U.S. satellites of the LANDSAT and SEASAT series find such data. The LANDSAT satellites have been used "for making estimates of global wheat production, for forest and range land inventories, for mineral and oil exploration and geological mapping, and for environmental monitoring and impact assessments"(Charyk 87). SEASAT has "detected ocean currents, tides, and storm surges"(Charyk 87). It's instrumentation "included a radar that measured altitude to an accuracy of 10cm (4in) and wave heights from 1 to 20m (3 to 65 ft)"(Charyk 87). The earliest of these types of satellites were used for cartography, or the surveying and mapping of the Earth's surface.

Weather Satellites

Weather satellites are one of the most important instrumentation used to predict the weather. The photos of these satellites "locate weather features--storm systems, fronts, upper-level wind direction and speeds--that are characterized by certain cloud formations"(Charyk 87). Island and coastal weather stations use this data to find and track major storms. Satellite data can "provide information about ocean, desert, and polar areas where conventional weather reports are unavailable or limited"(Charyk 87). Meteorologists, weather forecasters, have received enormous benefits from satellites. As early as 1960, NASA launched Trios 1 the word stands for Television and Infrared Observation Satellite. One of the first benefits to come from this system was the classification of clouds according to brightness, formation, color, height, shape, and size. This greatly helped meteorologists in the prediction of hurricane and tornadoes with earlier and greater accuracy.

Navigation Satellites

Navigation satellites allow the operators of land vehicles, ships, and aircraft to determine their locations within 100 feet any where on earth. These vehicles all have on board a computerized receiver which can pick up radio signals from satellites miles in space. This enables the computers to pinpoint the vehicle's location. Demeis states, "By knowing the position of several satellites from their signals, it is possible to determine the exact location of a ship on earth. A modern system that uses laser-beam signals can determine positions to within less than one inch"(72).


Scientific satellites are a necessity of life on earth today. They show us what other planets look like, where to find minerals and water, and they locate forest fires, ocean currents, and storms. Satellites are used for surveying land, and predicting weather. Without satellites, jet air travel would be a dangerous sport, and ships at sea would not be able to navigate so easily.


Charyk, Joseph V. and Sidney Metzger. "Satellite, Artificial". Academic American Encyclopedia 1992 Ed.

Demeis, Richard. "Satellite". Comptons Encyclopedia. 1995.

Oberright, John E. "Satellite, Artificial". The World Book Encyclopedia. 1995 Ed.