Airborne radio telephone communication via a satellite is usually abbreviated SATCOM.
Use of satellites for this purpose complements satellite-based navigation capability. Aircraft onboard equipment for SATCOM includes a satellite data unit, a high power amplifier and an antenna with a steerable beam.
A typical aircraft SATCOM installation can support data link channels for packet data services as well as voice channels. SATCOM data link is currently used for only a small proportion of in route ATM communications in contrast to the much more extensive use as an alternative to VHF and HF for non-ATC purposes.
The Asia-Pacific Region has been a particular focus for many of the early developments in the use of SATCOM for ATM data link. SATCOM functionality, which primarily depends upon geostationary satellites, is poor in polar regions, where HFDL (HF Data Link) provides equivalent service for some uses.
Satellite communications has many applications today. For example, in telecommunications, the use of artificial satellites to provide communication links between various points on Earth. Satellite communications play a vital role in the global telecommunications system.
Approximately 2,000 artificial satellites orbiting Earth relay analog and digital signals carrying voice, video, and data to and from one or many locations worldwide.
NASA satellites help scientists study Earth and space. They also measure gases in the atmosphere, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, and the amount of energy that Earth absorbs and emits. Satellites also monitor wildfires, volcanoes and their smoke. All this information helps scientists predict weather and climate.
Then there is the very important area of military satellite communications. The most common missions are intelligence gathering, navigation and military communications. The first military satellites were photographic reconnaissance missions.
There’s even a Military Satellite Communications Directorate, a United States Space Force organization headquartered at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. It is one of several wings and other units that make up the Space and Missile Systems Center.
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