Satellite communications systems play a vital role in the global telecommunications system.
As of the beginning of 2022, approximately 2,000 artificial satellites orbiting Earth were relaying analog and digital signals carrying voice, video, and data to and from one or many locations worldwide.
A satellite is basically a self-contained communications system with the ability to receive signals from Earth and to retransmit those signals back with the use of a transponder—an integrated receiver and transmitter of radio signals.
A satellite also has to withstand the shock of being accelerated during launch up to the orbital velocity of 28,100 km (17,500 miles) an hour and a hostile space environment where it can be subject to radiation and extreme temperatures for its projected operational life, which can last up to 20 years.
Satellite communications systems use the very high-frequency range of 1–50 gigahertz (GHz; 1 gigahertz = 1,000,000,000 hertz) to transmit and receive signals.
The frequency ranges or bands are identified by letters: (in order from low to high frequency) L-, S-, C-, X-, Ku-, Ka-, and V-bands. Signals in the lower range (L-, S-, and C-bands) of the satellite frequency spectrum are transmitted with low power, and thus larger antennas are needed to receive these signals.
Signals in the higher end (X-, Ku-, Ka-, and V-bands) of this spectrum have more power; therefore, dishes as small as 45 cm (18 inches) in diameter can receive them.
This makes the Ku-band and Ka-band spectrum ideal for direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting, broadband data communications, and mobile telephony and data applications.
In the United States the regulatory body that governs frequency allocation and licensing is the Federal Communications Commission.
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