Satellite

In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavor. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon.

The world's first artificial satellite, the Sputnik 1, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. Since then, thousands of satellites have been launched into orbit around the Earth. Some satellites, notably space stations, have been launched in parts and assembled in orbit. Artificial satellites originate from more than 50 countries and have used the satellite launching capabilities of ten nations. A few hundred satellites are currently operational, whereas thousands of unused satellites and satellite fragments orbit the Earth as space debris. A few space probes have been placed into orbit around other bodies and become artificial satellites to the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun.

Satellites are used for a large number of purposes. Common types include military and civilian Earth observation satellites, communications satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and research satellites. Space stations and human spacecraft in orbit are also satellites. Satellite orbits vary greatly, depending on the purpose of the satellite, and are classified in a number of ways. Well-known (overlapping) classes include low Earth orbit, polar orbit, and geostationary orbit.

As per the latest estimates, the total number of artificial satellites orbiting the Earth today is around 8,300. Of these, about 3,000 are not operational having lived out their useful life and are part of the space debris.

Satellites are usually semi-independent computer-controlled systems. Satellite subsystems attend many tasks, such as power generation, thermal control, telemetry, attitude control and orbit control An artificial satellite was a man-made form of technology that is put in orbit around a planet. (VOY: "Future's End, Part II") They had countless applications, including defense, weather forecast, surveillance and communication, and were used by many cultures.

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