25 Interesting Facts about Satellites

1International Cometary Explorer

A satellite named International Cometary Explorer launched in 1978 and thought to be shut down in 1997, was actually discovered in 2008 to still be fully operational with plenty of fuel. Through efforts of crowdfunding and approval from NASA, a group successfully established contact and fired the engines for the first time since 1987.


2. The Hubble Telescope's mirrors are ground so precisely that if they were scaled up to be the size of Earth, the largest bump would be only 6 inches tall.


3. The Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was such a shocking event that at least one theater manager stopped the movie to announce it. The movie was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and in the audience was a young Stephen King.


4. In 1998, a satellite named PanAmSat Galaxy IV failed and it caused about 80% of the world's pagers to stop working.


5. The Hitomi X-ray telescope exploded in space due to a software bug that caused it to compensate for a rotation it didn't have. This overcompensation caused a snowball effect which ultimately caused the satellite to spin out of control and explode.


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6Orion

The largest class of satellites are the Orion spy satellite class. These giant listening devices are equipped with an umbrella-shaped sail that is estimated to be 330 feet in diameter.


7. The ROSAT (the German Satellite that re-entered the earth’s atmosphere in 2011) failure was most likely due to a Russian Cyber Attack.


8. LES1, a satellite that was abandoned in 1967, started transmitting again in 2013, after its batteries decayed and shorted the solar panels straight to the electronics.


9. Ariel 1, the first British satellite launched in 1962, spent only 76 days in orbit before it was damaged by an American nuclear explosion test in space.


10. There is a satellite named LAGEOS orbiting Earth that is predicted to re-enter the atmosphere in 8.4 million years, carrying a message addressed to the beings/humans and civilizations of the future.


11CALIPSO satellite

The CALIPSO satellite not only measures dust concentration in the atmosphere but also specializes in scaring people in rural areas at night by blasting a 900 feet diameter beam of bright visible light on the ground for a split-second.


12. A piece of the first satellite in space, the Russian Sputnik, landed in Manitowoc, Wisconsin upon re-entry and the townspeople created a festival in its honor.


13. In 1978, a Soviet nuclear reconnaissance satellite named Kosmos 954 re-entered the atmosphere along with its 50kg Uranium core, scattering debris over northern Canada. After 10 months, 6 million Canadian dollars, and covering 50,000 sq. miles, an American-Canadian team failed to recover 99.9% of the Uranium fuel.


14. The first American spy satellites literally dropped their film from space in a "film bucket" that was then scooped up in midair by a plane.


15. AMSAT-OSCAR 7, an amateur radio satellite which was launched in 1974 was thought to have failed in 1981, but it remained intermittently functional. It allowed Polish anti-communist activists to safely and clandestinely communicate when martial law was imposed in 1983. The telephone network had been shuttered, and other communication methods were too easily discovered.


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16Corona spy satellite

After a classified Corona spy satellite's film capsule was found by Venezuelan farmers and broken open, the US realized that labeling it "Secret" was a bad idea. Later capsules offered in eight languages a reward for returning it to American officials.


17. There is a satellite named STRaND-1 in orbit that's running a Nexus 1 Android as one of its main CPU's.


18. Satellites are programmed to avoid meteorites so they don't get destroyed. With over 8,000 satellites orbiting the Earth, only one has ever been destroyed by a meteorite.


19. When the Skylab satellite crashed in Australia in 1979, Australia issued the US a fine for littering. NASA still hasn’t paid the fine.


20. The first private satellite named OSCAR 1 was launched in 1962 (about 4 years after the launch of Sputnik-1). It was built by an amateur radio club and orbited the earth for 22 days transmitting the message "Hi" in Morse code.


21Envisat satellite

Since we lost contact with the giant Envisat satellite it's become the likeliest cause of a future 'Kessler Syndrome' whereby a low earth orbit collision causes a cascade of thousands more - potentially making space exploration and satellite use untenable for generations


22. Himawari 8 is a geostationary Japanese satellite that takes pictures of the Earth above Australia and Japan every 10 minutes.


23. Vanguard 1, launched in 1958, was the fourth orbital satellite, but first to be solar powered and although communication with it was lost in 1964, it remains the oldest manmade satellite still in orbit and has already completed more than 220,000 Earth orbits.


24. GeoEye-1, the satellite that provides Google with imagery for Google Maps, provides the US government with the same imagery but at a higher resolution.


25. When the Chinese Launch of Tiangong-1 was broadcasted on China Central Television. The instrumental version of 'America the beautiful' was played. No explanation was given.

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