A Quick Look at Satellites

For my project, I’m using data from the remote sensing instrument called the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU).  It measures global atmospheric temperatures in order to provide information on atmospheric water forms. AMSU is flying on board of NASA’s Aqua satellite.  Reading about AMSU and its functions, I thought it’d be interesting to write something about satellites.

It wasn’t until the end of 1950’s that satellites came into existence. The first artificial satellite was Sputnik 1 by the former Soviet Union.  The successful launch of Sputnik 1 was on October 4, 1957 marking the beginning of the space age and of course the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.  Sputnik 2, world’s second satellite, launched on November 3 of same year. On January 31, 1958 Explorer 1 became America’s first satellite.

Satellites are important platforms in remote sensing, especially because they provide a synoptic view of the earth; meaning a single image provides information on a larger area of the earth in a way that is impossible to capture such image without a satellite. Since 1960s, satellites have developed much in their capabilities and technologies.

The first earth observatory satellite was the Television and Infrared Observation Satellites (TIROS) that was launched in the 1960. It was an experimental satellite to monitor cloud patterns. TIROS 1 operated for 78 days and proved that the weather patterns of the earth can be monitored by space. TIROS provided the first accurate weather forecast based on data derived from monitoring the earth from space.

It was not until the 1970s that a land observatory satellite was launched. Satellites like TIROS did not provide much detailed info regarding the land. Landsat was launched in 1972. Initially Landsat was known as ERTS– Earth Resources Technology Satellite. There are 7 Landsat satellites that have been launched since then.

Satellites and their sensors are important in so many ways. To name a few,  meteorology, climate change, monitoring natural disasters, war and rescue missions, vegetation and agriculture are vital  remote sensing applications.

Click here to watch a quick video of various applications of Landsat satellite data/imagery.