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What is a satellite?

A satellite is a space object that orbits a larger body, such as a planet or a star.

What is the difference between a natural and an artificial satellite?

There are two different types of satellites:

Most often, when we talk about satellites, we are referring to artificial satellites.

The M3MSat (left) and Envisat (right) satellites. The size of the satellites can be seen when comparing them with the scientists standing next to them. (Credits: Defence Research and Development Canada and the European Space Agency)

How big are satellites?

Satellites can be as small as an oven or as big as a bus. They also come in a variety of shapes, depending on their mission and use.

What are the components of a satellite?

To function, satellites need essential elements:

What types of data are collected by satellites?

Satellites can collect or relay different types of data:

Discover the various types of satellites.

What do satellites do in orbit?

All satellites have missions or roles to play, such as:

Discover the use of satellites in our everyday lives.

What is a satellite's service life?

Nowadays, satellites must have an end-of-mission plan. When a satellite's mission is over, the satellite re-enters the atmosphere and disintegrates so as not to become space debris. This must happen no later than 25 years after the beginning of the mission.

This animation shows the rate at which space debris accumulates around Earth. It is estimated that more than pieces of 36,000 debris larger than 10 cm in diameter orbit Earth.

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