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Satellites and Geography

  • By: Barney Warf
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The world's network of satellites and earth stations constitute a critical, and often overlooked, element in the global telecommunications infrastructure. While most treatments of this topic typically depict it in technologically deterministic, apolitical terms, satellites are deeply embedded in terrestrial political relations.

Satellites in orbit appear in a variety of sizes and degrees of technological sophistication. Large satellites capable of handling international traffic sit 35,700 km (22,300 miles) high in geostationary orbits, which are by far the most valuable orbital slots because only in that narrow sliver of space do satellites and Earth travel at the same speed relative to each other, making the satellite a stable target for signals transmitted upward from earth stations. Because such orbital arcs are a scarce resource, their distribution is ...

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