Chances are your life has been affected in some way by satellite technology – maybe you’ve zoomed into your house on an internet map, or perhaps you’ve got satellite TV. Read on for a brief history of this important technology.
Writers and thinkers have been pondering the possibility of sending artificial satellites into space as long ago as 1728 when Isaac Newton published his book on physics, ‘A Treatise of the System of the World’. In this book Newton included a thought experiment based on gravity that showed it was possible for a manmade object to orbit the earth. The scientific theory of satellites had been established, but it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that satellites moved from the realm of the imagination into reality.
The technology of satellites and space travel advanced at an unprecedented rate, driven by international competition as both America and the USSR sought to become the most technologically advanced nation in the world.
The commercial angle
Even as the superpowers of the world were locked in this battle for prestige and strategic edge, many in the business world were keen to capitalise on the opportunities offered by satellites and space. Communications, weather monitoring and television signal broadcasting satellites started to be used by commercial organisations and the number of satellites being launched into orbit continued to grow at an exponential rate.
More companies than ever began offering satellite services, and the benefits of space borne technology started to be more widely felt. In the 90s, satellite TV as we now know it was launched, allowing individual households to directly access services from technologies perched at the very edge of space.
Bringing you up to date
Technological advances have continued to develop at a rapid pace over the past decade or so and now the satellites circling the globe are packed with cutting edge systems – a far cry from the rudimentary Sputnik 1. The number of man-made objects in orbit has also increased exponentially over the years, with well over a thousand active satellites circling the planet.
With that kind of coverage, the influence of satellites on our lives is enormous. From telephone calls to GPS to interactive TV, satellite technology is vital to a massive range of communication technologies these days. In the future, this is only likely to increase.
How does satellite technology affect your life?
Article by Mhairi Steele