Regimental Division,
Office Chief of Signal

United States Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, GA
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Cartoon rocket Satellites are used to make telephone calls, broadcast television programs or send information from computers. But for satellites to be useful to us, we have to first get them into space.

How satellites get into space

Getting a satellite into space is a major technical accomplishment! It requires lots of planning and is basically a two-part process.

The first part is the "launch phase." In the launch phase, the satellite itself is placed onboard some type of launch vehicle, like a rocket or the space shuttle. The rocket is launched into orbit, and at a predetermined altitude the satellite separates from the rocket.

The second part is the "orbit injection phase." To get into the final planned orbit, the satellite must use its own on-board energy. This energy is supplied by thrusters onboard the satellite that fire in small increments repeatedly until the satellite reaches its correct orbit. This requires very careful monitoring by controllers on the ground. Once the satellite is at the right orbit, it usually gets its power from sunlight collected by its solar panels, which it converts into energy.

Text by Debbie Linton. Ms. Linton works for Information Technology and Applications Corporation’s Fort Gordon, Ga., branch, as contract support to the military satellite communications project manager and Training and Doctrine Command’s satellite communications systems manager. She’s a retired Signal Corps major who began her career as an Army air-traffic controller and completed it as an Army satellite communications architect. She has continued her satellite architectural work as a civilian and is author of the Army’s satellite communications architecture book.

Rocket diagram
Click above to see parts of a rocket.

Satellite solar panels
Click above to see a satellite's solar panels.

Last modified on:
April 04, 2012

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