The purpose of satellite communications is to relay signals around the curve of the Earth allowing communication between widely separated geographical points.
Satellite communications uses a wide range of radio and microwave frequencies. While normally reliable, obstacles do occur to prevent clear satellite communications.
One of these obstacles is space weather. Communication from the ground to satellites is affected by space weather as a result of perturbations of the ionosphere, which can reflect, refract, or absorb radio waves.
This includes radio signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. Space weather can change the density structure of the ionosphere by creating areas of enhanced density. This modification of the ionosphere makes GPS less accurate and can even lead to a complete loss of the signal because the ionosphere can act as a lens or a mirror to radio waves traveling through it.
Solar flares can also spell trouble for satellite communications. In fact, telecommunication satellites and even GPS satellites can be rendered inoperable for periods of time during flares.
Flares have also been known to cause radio blackouts and impact satellite communications for electric power grid, internet, mobile phones, navigation signals etc.
Additionally, high-energy particles from the sun can have direct impact by destroying sensitive microchips. Incoming charged particles can create buildups of charge inside electronics, resulting in destructive arcing and false signals.
Currently, the most discussed challenge is how to deal with space debris caused by mounting defunct human-made objects in space which no longer serve a useful function.
Scientists, military leaders and CEOs alike fear the odds are increasing that space debris could bring communication networks crashing back to Earth.
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