Advanced Satellite Technology

1st February 2024 by Pratik Mitra | Aerospace & Defense

Satellite Technology

Unveiling the Future: In the realm of telecommunications, the evolution of satellite technology stands as one of humanity's recent breakthroughs. Satellite Communication serves as the conduit linking terminals to terrestrial networks, offering a scope of coverage that spans the global, regional, or national landscape. The breadth of coverage dictates the involvement of numerous satellites in a unified network system to ensure effective communication. This technology encompasses both satellite-based and terrestrial wireless communication, influencing its intricate design. At the core of a satellite communication system lies its antenna, strategically positioned in a stable orbit above Earth. The developmental timeline of satellite technology unfolds through significant stages such as Telstar, Synchronous orbit satellites, Comsat, INTELSAT, and the Domestic Satellite system. Each stage contributes to the intricate tapestry of capabilities and functionalities that shape satellite communication. This paper delves into the profound impact of satellite technology on our social fabric, exploring not just its technical intricacies but also its transformative role in shaping contemporary human interactions and connectivity.  

A Communications Satellite, commonly known as ComSat, functions as an artificial satellite strategically positioned in space to facilitate telecommunications. This satellite-based communication medium relies on satellites as primary links between terminals, with earth stations or terminals marking the endpoints of satellite links. Communications occur through these terminals, connecting to terrestrial networks for efficient transmission. Satellites designed for optimal performance are often placed in equatorial circular orbits, approximately 42,164km from Earth, or about 35,787km above mean sea level. This specific orbit ensures geostationary stability, aligning with the Earth's rotation and consistently hovering over the same point on the equator.
The satellite operates by gathering information from the Earth station's dish and relaying it back to space. This exchange of signals enables communication between the satellite and the terrestrial network through terminals. The satellite's dish connection is crucial, as any deviation in direction may result in signal loss during transmission. Satellite communication involves a direct link from the dish to the satellite, emphasizing the need for precise alignment. This method of communication extends beyond individual satellites, often forming a satellite fleet to enhance overall connectivity and coverage in the realm of satellite technology.

Operational Definition of Key Concepts

Satellite - an earth-orbiting communication spacecraft designed to send and receive data from other satellites or earth stations. This data may carry voice, audio, video, or other information. It is the basis for satellite television
certain kinds of internet access and cell phone use, Hoffmann, 2007:256).
Orbit – the orbit may be circular with the center of the circle at the center of the earth, or elliptical, with the earth’s center at one of the two foci of the ellipse. A satellite may also orbit around the earth in different planes, WCS Manual, [email protected]
Dish Antenna - an antenna is in the shape of a circular dish and is in a parabolic form, used to receive satellite broadcasts. The lower the power of the satellite, the larger the diameter of the dish is required, Hoffman (2007:104).
Geostationary Satellite – is a term describing the placement of satellites so that they orbit the earth at the same speed that the earth rotates, effectively parking the satellites in one sport.
Microwave - is a signal send out to a number of different destinations, Rodman (2006:278).
Earth station – this is a centre through which communication takes place by use of radio with a space satellite.
LEO - Low-Earth Orbit: The LEO transmit signal about 200 – 1,000 miles up and has no signal delay in its transmission. It is a smaller satellite which is cheaper to launch.
MEO - Medium Earth Orbit: The MEO is a satellite technology that normally transmit signal at about 5,000 – 10,000 miles up. The MEO requires more satellite for a global coverage.
GPS – Global Positioning System: The GPS enables one to show direction particular when you mount such technology in your car. It is one of the long-distance wireless communication that use the satellite technology.
Downlink – Transmitting an electronic Signal from a satellite to a ground facility, Folkerts and Lacy (2004:451).
Uplink - Transmitting an electronic signal to satellite for storage or further distribution, (Ibid, p.447)

Satellite technology plays a pivotal role in global communication systems, functioning as microwave relay stations orbiting the Earth. These communication satellites facilitate the transmission of signals from ground stations to satellite stations in space, constituting the uplink, while the reverse process, transmitting signals from space down to Earth, represents the downlink. Scholars like Williams and Sawyer (2007:332) highlight the integral role of communication satellites in establishing the Global Positioning System (GPS), a system relying on twenty-four Earth-orbiting satellites constantly transmitting time radio signals for precise location identification.

The communication satellite system operates within three zones in space: Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and Lower Earth Orbit (LEO). GEO, positioned approximately 22,300 miles above Earth and directly above the equator, enables satellites to maintain synchrony with the planet's rotation. The solar-powered transceivers on these satellites receive, amplify, and retransmit signals between Earth and space. MEO, located 5,000-10,000 miles above Earth, requires more satellites for global coverage than GEO. On the other hand, LEO ranges from 200-1000 miles up, offering minimal signal delay compared to GEO and MEO.

High-orbiting systems with fewer satellites ensure global coverage, but any shift in the positions of Earth and satellites can lead to signal loss and transmission inefficiencies. Despite early challenges, advancements in satellite technology continue to enhance the efficiency of communication systems, making a significant impact on global connectivity.  

The landscape of Domestic Satellite Systems (DSS) has evolved significantly, with notable contributions from various entities. The DSS initiative commenced in December 1973, initiated by RCA and operationalized through its subsidiary, RCA American Communication, Inc. (RCA Americom). This network, complemented by earth stations, utilizes RCA Satcom Satellites with a unique antenna system that optimizes power by facing the sun when visible and relying on nickel cadmium batteries otherwise. Other players in the DSS arena include Western Union's Westar, designed for versatile information transmission, and General Telephone and Electronics (GTE), which launched its domestic satellite system in 1981. The United States' ambitious space station, projected for operational status in the early 1990s, introduces a new dimension to space-based communication. Leveraging the space shuttle for construction, the station aims to host pressurized modules, allowing human habitation and work in space. This venture incorporates international cooperation, with European and Japanese modules contributing to the station. The space station, equipped with solar panels generating 75,000 watts of power, could potentially revolutionize communication systems technology, paving the way for smaller antenna usage and transforming media consumption habits. Satellite technology's impact extends beyond infrastructure to reshape information dissemination methods. The introduction of teleconferencing, facilitated by satellite hookups, allows individuals, including the President of the United States, to engage in virtual conferences with newsmakers and reporters across different locations. This technology, also known as videoconferencing or satellite media tours (SMT), serves diverse purposes, from business executive interviews with reporters nationwide to press conferences addressing specific issues. The evolution of satellite technology further extends to Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), introduced in 1994. DBS enables households to receive over a hundred channels through satellite digital signals delivered to a small dish installed at home. Positioned over 22,000 miles above the Earth's equator, DBS satellites usher in a new era of television broadcasting, enhancing the accessibility and variety of channels available to households.


Miniaturization Revolution: The satellite design landscape has undergone a transformative shift with the advent of the miniaturization revolution, marking a significant departure from traditional, large-scale satellites. This revolution is exemplified by the introduction of CubeSats, small and compact satellites that have shattered the cost and size barriers associated with their predecessors. CubeSats are typically diminutive in size, measuring around 10x10x10 cm, which not only makes them economically viable but also highly efficient to launch. This departure from the massive and expensive satellites of the past has unlocked new possibilities for space exploration. One of the notable advantages of CubeSats is their ability to be deployed in constellations, where multiple satellites work together in a coordinated manner. This deployment model enables a range of tasks, including Earth observation, communication, and scientific research, with a level of flexibility and cost-effectiveness that was previously unattainable. The miniaturization revolution has democratized access to space, offering opportunities for startups, universities, and smaller entities to actively participate in satellite development and space exploration. This has fostered a culture of innovation and research within the industry, as a new generation of space enthusiasts explores novel applications for these compact yet powerful satellites.

Propulsion Systems:

Satellite design has witnessed substantial innovation in propulsion systems, marked notably by advancements in electric propulsion. Departing from the limitations of traditional chemical propulsion systems, electric propulsion has ushered in a new era of enhanced satellite capabilities and efficiency.

Electric propulsion systems operate by utilizing electrically charged particles for thrust, providing several advantages over their chemical counterparts. One key benefit is the ability to achieve higher speeds while consuming less fuel, resulting in increased fuel efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This shift in propulsion technology has opened up new possibilities for satellites to execute complex tasks with improved maneuverability. The greater maneuverability offered by electric propulsion systems allows satellites to efficiently change positions in orbit, enabling them to perform intricate maneuvers and tasks. This flexibility is particularly valuable for applications such as Earth observation, communication, and scientific research, where precise orbit adjustments are often required. Moreover, electric propulsion contributes to the extension of satellite lifespan. By conserving fuel and enabling precise adjustments to orbits, these systems enhance a satellite's operational longevity. This innovation reflects a significant step forward in satellite propulsion technology, paving the way for more efficient and versatile satellite missions in the evolving landscape of space exploration.

Sustainable Development Goals:

Satellite technology emerges as a cornerstone in advancing sustainable development, intricately aligned with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations. Positioned as microwave relay stations, communication satellites orchestrate the transmission of signals between ground and space stations. Their unique vantage point not only aids in monitoring Earth's resources but also plays a pivotal role in achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Earth observation satellites, situated in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and Lower Earth Orbit (LEO), contribute crucial data for environmental monitoring, disaster management, and social inclusion. The technology's transparency and accountability facets enhance compliance with environmental regulations and ensure connectivity in remote areas, promoting social equity. Satellite technology actively addresses specific SDGs, such as climate action, sustainable cities and communities, life on land and below water, zero hunger, responsible consumption and production, clean water and sanitation, industry, innovation, and infrastructure, peace, justice, and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals. These satellites offer a versatile tool that intersects with multiple SDGs, playing a crucial role in the pursuit of sustainable development. Key use cases further demonstrate the technology's diverse applications, including environmental monitoring, disaster response, agricultural management, water resource monitoring, urban planning, renewable energy, climate change research, social impact monitoring, connectivity for remote areas, and space debris management. Overall, satellite technology emerges as an innovative and globally impactful solution to address complex challenges and foster sustainable development across the globe.

Military:  The British Army played a vital role in supporting the United Nations' stabilization mission in Gao, Mali, with a particular focus on long-range reconnaissance. This mission was significantly enhanced through the deployment of advanced satellite technology, leveraging the capabilities of the Intelsat network. A 25-member British Army medical team utilized this cutting-edge technology to provide extended medical cover for approximately 300 soldiers in the challenging desert terrain of rural Africa. The implementation of this satellite technology, coupled with GRC's SCYTALE for secure connectivity, marked a substantial advancement.

The medical team now benefits from the ability to deliver rapid assessments and first aid, ensuring seamless communication and connectivity back to medical specialists in the UK for real-time analysis and guidance. This technological solution proves to be a game-changer, enabling the deployed teams to receive the best possible care. The portability of the FlexMove solution facilitates hassle-free movement for the team, particularly crucial for bandwidth-heavy and mission-critical applications. The use of the Satcube terminal allows for rapid deployment and impressive data speeds of up to 10 x 3 Mbps. Supported by the ST Engineering iDirect IQ modem, built on a future-proof, software-defined architecture, this integrated system provides maximum flexibility for the British Army in their crucial mission. 

Social impact: Satellite technology, a complex system encompassing content providers, broadcast centers, geosynchronous communication satellites, small satellite receiving dishes (STRD), and satellite receiving equipment, has a profound impact on social life. Through selective perception and retention, it shapes how individuals process and remember information, influencing their understanding of the communicated content. This technology accelerates the evolution of society by facilitating rapid information dissemination, allowing for the swift sharing of news, entertainment, and educational content. Furthermore, satellite communication introduces interactive capabilities, transforming traditional communication tools like telephones into dynamic and engaging platforms.

The multifaceted influence of satellite technology extends across various dimensions of society, including political, economic, cultural, and social realms. It enables a more interconnected world, bridging geographical gaps and fostering global communication. However, the societal impact is nuanced, featuring both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, it facilitates real-time global communication, enhances access to information, and contributes to the democratization of media. Conversely, challenges such as information overload, privacy concerns, and potential misuse of technology underscore the need for thoughtful consideration of the implications of satellite communication on the fabric of contemporary social life.

Satellite Functionality:

The integration of advanced technology has revolutionized satellite functionality, ushering in a new era of efficiency and versatility. Notable advancements have propelled satellites to transmit large volumes of data in real-time, significantly impacting decision-making processes and enabling seamless communication over extended distances. Cutting-edge technologies, including adaptive coding, error correction coding, and advanced modulation formats, have elevated signal quality and reliability, ensuring stable communication even in challenging environments. Furthermore, advanced sensors and high-resolution cameras have enhanced satellite imaging and mapping capabilities, providing valuable insights for industries such as agriculture, urban planning, and environmental monitoring. The implementation of autonomous operations, facilitated by sophisticated algorithms and machine learning, streamlines satellite functionality, reducing operational costs, enhancing efficiency, and allowing satellites to make real-time decisions without human intervention. Moreover, the integration of satellites with the Internet of Things (IoT) has expanded their capabilities, enabling real-time data collection and transmission from remote locations, particularly benefiting sectors like agriculture, transportation, and asset tracking. Overall, advanced technology has positioned satellites as indispensable tools, continuously pushing the boundaries of exploration and understanding of both Earth and the broader cosmos.

Market Overview

The global satellite market is poised for significant growth over the next five years, according to the latest research findings. In 2022, the market reached an estimated value of USD 399,384.89 million, and it is projected to expand further to USD 578,919.67 million by 2028, exhibiting a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.38 percent during the forecast period. This comprehensive report spans the years 2018 to 2028, offering an in-depth analysis of the global satellite market. It provides a systematic overview of the current status and trends shaping the market, a detailed examination of the competitive landscape involving major players, and an elaborate breakdown of segment markets based on type, application, and region. The research encompasses a thorough exploration of key factors influencing market dynamics, including technological advancements, regulatory frameworks, and evolving consumer preferences. With a focus on types and applications, the report delves into the specific demands and trends within the satellite market, offering valuable insights for industry stakeholders and potential investors. The anticipated growth and evolving landscape of the global satellite market present opportunities for innovation and strategic positioning within the industry.

Determining the largest manufacturer in the global satellite market can be challenging, as it depends on various factors such as revenue, market share, and specific segments within the satellite industry. However, some of the prominent and well-known companies on the list include: Airbus Defence and Space, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Thales Alenia Space, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Orbital Sciences (now part of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems), Space Systems Loral (now part of Maxar Technologies), OHB, Harris (now part of L3Harris Technologies)

These companies are major players in satellite manufacturing, with involvement in various aspects of satellite development, production, and deployment. The ranking may vary based on specific criteria or industry segments, and it's advisable to check the most recent industry reports or financial statements for the latest information on the leading manufacturers in the global satellite market.


Weather Issues: Bad weather like heavy rain or storms can affect the quality of signals and temporarily cut off communication. Using new technologies and strategies helps overcome these weather challenges.

Latency: Satellite communication takes a bit longer for signals to travel between Earth and satellites, causing a delay. Technology is helping to reduce this delay over time.

Space Junk: With more satellites in space, there's a risk of them colliding with space debris. Organizations are working on ways to manage the space environment and prevent collisions to keep satellite communication safe.

Costs: Building and keeping up satellite systems can be very expensive, making it hard for smaller groups or faraway areas. Thankfully, more competition and better technology are making satellite communication more affordable.

Limited Data Speed: In the past, satellite networks could only transfer data at slower rates. New types of satellites, called High-Throughput Satellites (HTS), are helping to increase data speeds and handle more information.


Space‑Terrestrial Integrated Architecture for Internet of Things: an investigated a space terrestrial integrated network oriented IoT, where massive IoT terminals can access both the space network and the terrestrial network. We conceived a space terrestrial integrated architecture for supporting massive connections. Moreover, we also discussed some technical issues of ST-IoT, including reliable identification methods, access and communication integrated flow, and clustering cooperative transmission strategy. To further improve the tolerable number of IoT terminals, more efforts should be devoted in both innovative fundamental theory and sophisticated experiments.

Resource Allocation Strategy Based on Matching Game: to effectively solve the problem of radio resource allocation based on data services, we propose a new resource allocation strategy based on the matching game. The matching game includes many-to-many matching between MEO satellites and LEO satellites, many-to-many matching game between LEO satellites and base stations, and many-to-many matching game between base stations and users. Based on the proposed multi-layer many-to-many matching game model among MEO satellites, LEO satellites, base stations and users, the corresponding matching game algorithms are designed from the perspective of utility function QoE and we use total data rates to reflect the performance. The simulation results show the effectiveness and stability of the proposed matching game compared with the many-to-one matching and one-to-one matching games, and the results also show that the many-to-many matching game makes communication systems more efficient with higher resource utilization. However, the matching game algorithm proposed in this paper has limitations, without considering the impact of the movement of the MEO and LEO satellites relative to the ground on resource allocation. Therefore, the future research will focus on matching games in the environment with dynamic changes. Moreover, radio resource allocation is not only based on matching game technology, but also can be combined with cooperative game or non-cooperative game to improve the effective utilization of resources.

Satellite E2E Network Slicing Based on 5G Technology: We have presented what we believe to be the first scheme of state-of-the-art satellite E2E network slicing based on 5G technology to provide customized services for the diversified applications. To this end, we present a common satellite network slicing architecture to support the flexible deployment of the network functions between satellite and the ground. Then, on the one hand, for the slicing service domain, the sub-slices of access network, transmission network and core network are designed including the classification and the isolation technologies based on 5G technology to support resource allocation on demand. On the other hand, for the slicing management domain, slicing KPI design, slicing deployment and slicing management are developed in satellite E2E network slicing. Finally, the challenges and potential research are presented in detail to give a view of future work.

Adaptability Analysis of IP Routing Protocol in Broadband LEO Constellation Systems: Taking the inter-satellite Internet with low-orbit broadband constellation as the background, this paper starts from the high dynamics of satellite nodes and network topology, which is an important factor that affects the design of the LEO constellation routing protocol. Then, based on the in-depth simulation and analysis of the characteristics of the LEO constellation, the routing convergence performance test and adaptability analysis of the ground standard IP routing protocol are carried out. The results show that in the high dynamic inter-satellite interconnection LEO constellation system, the standard IP routing protocol cannot directly meet the networking application requirements of the LEO constellation network due to the long convergence time and frequent dynamic changes. The analysis of the characteristics of the LEO constellation in this paper is significant for the design of routing protocols under high dynamic characteristics. The advanced ground network design ideas need to be learned and combined with the operating characteristics of the LEO constellation network to optimize the design of the satellite routing protocol. Specifically, the idea of SDN can be used for reference. The ground SDN controller can integrate satellite operation parameters, centrally perform routing calculations, and inject the routing table into the satellites. The satellites change to the corresponding routing table regularly to complete data forwarding according to the corresponding routing table. This conclusion can provide reference for routing architecture and protocol technical route selection for the broadband LEO constellation.

Satellite Market

Pratik Mitra

Research Associate

A dynamic market research specialist with expertise in industry research, market assessment, competitive intelligence, and strategic market intelligence to provide information for business decisions.

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