Niki S. / Physics #336 / 7 April 1997
Satellites are ingenious creations, but that does not make them unbreakable.
There have been malfunctions and faults in satellites. Despite these malfunctions
and faults there are new and many ways to repair these satellites.
Fall to the Earth
Satellites remain in orbit until their velocity decreases and the gravitational
force pulls them down into a dense part of the atmosphere. It slows down
because of friction of air particles. The satellite quickly compresses
air in front of it , the air becomes so hot that most or all of the satellite
burns up. "A satellite burns up when it re-enters the earth's atmosphere.
The outer surface is heated up by air friction and starts to glow. As air
thickens the heating affect increases. The satellite breaks up in a fiery
shower. Some pieces may reach the ground intact" (Encyclopedia Britannica
It is possible foe satellites to get lost and lose their path in space.
Sometimes satellites can get off track. "The smallest inaccuracy in
a calculation or the malfunction of a rocket can cause the space vehicle
to veer of target" (Walers , Tom pg unavailable).
Guidance systems are installed in satellites , which can change velocity
and direction. Satellites have guidance systems to keep them on course.
An example of a type of guidance system is radio-command guidance systems.
Changes in velocity and direction are broadcast by the spacecraft to a
station on the ground. An inertial guidance system makes the velocity and
direction of the satellite be measured by onboard computers and flight
controllers to prevent the satellite from being thrown off track.
There are some time limits for a satellite to be repaired. If, for
example , it were to be repaired by the purchasing or building of a slimmed
down version of Anik-E it would be attempted to get it working within 12
to 14 months. If part of a satellite breaks down, the satellite owner will
usually continue to operate it. This is because ground controllers can
repair or reprogram the satellite. There have been cases where space shuttle
crews have retrieved and repaired a satellite in space. When a satellite
needs to be repaired the necessary adjustments are broadcast back to the
craft and control motors on the craft carry out the instructions. This
may be directed by ground personnel or it can also be automatic. If a satellite
can no longer perform usefully and cannot be repaired or reprogrammed,
operators from the control center will send a signal to shut the satellite
The most common way for a satellite to break is by the disconnection
of solar panels. "Network Force must be conditioned to deal with continuously
fluctuating, adaptive design of the overall system. The loss of a Network
Limb, interim levels of less-than dominant understanding and otherwise
malfunctions or battle damage" (Tempestilli , Mark pg unavailable).
"Solar panel becomes disconnected from AnikE-1 knocking out more than
50% of its capacity" (Knight Riddle pg unavailable).
Satellites are a very useful and reliable invention but do contain
a number of malfunctions. This does not mean that these malfunctions cannot
be repaired. Not only can they be repaired but they can be repaired by
crews in space. Technology has allowed us to invent satellites and now
technology has allowed us to repair and update them. Just like people old
satellites will eventually die and new ones are constantly being born.