Satellite Mishaps

Michael B. / Physics #337 / 17 April 1997
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In many scientific breakthroughs, such as satellites, there are defects that occur which are eventually fixed but they send scientists back to the drawing board. Many different things can cause a mishap in a satellite. Anything from melting, to loose wires or to bad circuits can cause a problem. These problems can cause a satellite to get lost or it causes them to fall.

Lost Satellites:

In many cases, when satellites lose their communication links due to certain conditions in outerspace, they become lost in space and wait to be found. Among the recent, yet past, mishaps, different satellites were lost but they were found by the spaceship Endeavour. One case occurred back in 1995 when an unnamed satellite was retrieved. Scientists couldn't tell what went wrong but its main mission was to make a weight test (New York Times 26). Another satellite, called the Wake Shield, was another case in 1996. It's mission to produce semiconductor film out in space failed due to system problems and the good old Endeavour found it and nursed it back to health (New York Times A22).

Falling Satellites:

Satellites are created to perform a mission in space but there are many cases when the force that keeps them afloat dies out and it causes them to fall. One of the main things that causes a satellite to fall is when the velocity decreases. This in turn causes the gravitational force to pull it down into a pretty dense part of the atmosphere. When this force pulls the satellite down far into the atmosphere, it compresses the air and this air becomes so hot it causes the satellite (or a part of it) to burn down. "A satellite slows down due to the friction of air particles in the upper atmosphere and the gentle pressure of the sun's energy" (Oberright 150c).

Satellite Repairs:

When these varied mishaps occur, and the satellites are retrieved, scientists are able to make repairs and doctor them up for their next mission. Another way to repair a satellite is if it is still in orbit is to use its computer systems if they are still functioning. In a very rare instance, a space shuttle crew could even retrieve the satellites and fix it and send it back into space. Basically there are no problems that can't be fixed in the repairs of satellites.


The information provided shows how no problem can not be solved and that in the end it is all good. Satellites were made to, in a sense, make our lives easier and to provide us with necessary information that can be used to make the world a better place in the near future. There is absolutely no reason why we should not try to fix all of the problems so that we can help prepare the future, and also to improve the systems to give them more scientific use in the future.

Works Cited

Oberright, John E. "Artificial Satellites." The World Book Encyclopedia. 1996 ed.

"Shuttle Catches Up With Research Satellite." The New York Times. 26 May 1996: 26.

"Trouble Ends As Astronauts Fetch Satellite." The New York Times. 15 September 1995: A22.