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Communication with Satellites

14 April, 2015 - 15:37

Global wireless communication relies on satellites. Here, ground stations transmit to orbiting satellites that amplify the signal and retransmit it back to earth. Satellites will move across the sky unless they are in geosynchronous orbits, where the time for one revolution about the equator exactly matches the earth's rotation time of one day. TV satellites would require the homeowner to continually adjust his or her antenna if the satellite weren't in geosynchronous orbit. Newton's equations applied to orbiting bodies predict that the time T for one orbit is related to distance from the earth's center R as

R=\sqrt[3]{\frac{GMT^{2}}{4\pi ^{2}}}


where G is the gravitational constant and M the earth's mass. Calculations yield R = 42200km, which corresponds to an altitude of 35700km. This altitude greatly exceeds that of the ionosphere, requiring satellite transmitters to use frequencies that pass through it. Of great importance in satellite communications is the transmission delay. The time for electromagnetic fields to propagate to a geosynchronous satellite and return is 0.24 s, a significant delay.

Exercise 6.7.1

In addition to delay, the propagation attenuation encountered in satellite communication far exceeds what occurs in ionospheric-mirror based communication. Calculate the attenuation incurred by radiation going to the satellite (one-way loss) with that encountered by Marconi (total going up and down). Note that the attenuation calculation in the ionospheric case, assuming the ionosphere acts like a perfect mirror, is not a straightforward application of the propagation loss formula.