Modern satellites and their role in supporting human space flight.

The first manned voyage into space took place on April 12, 1961, changing the course of space exploration and humanity itself. As we mark the UN International Day of Human Space Flight, Telenor Satellite team reflects on the multi-faceted contributions of satellites to the progress of human space missions.

UN International Day of Human Space Flight

The first ever satellite was launched nearly 70 years ago, on October 4, 1957, arguably acting as the catalyst for all space exploration that has occurred since, and the role of satellites has been growing steadily from that time.

Today, satellites serve critical functions that benefit various ground-based enterprises, governments, military reconnaissance, and provide indispensable support for human spaceflight ventures.


Aiding the safety of human space flight

There is always an element of risk in human space travel, but satellites play a huge role in minimising that risk. Satellites have become indispensable tools for enhancing the safety, efficiency, and success of human spaceflight missions by providing essential communication, navigation, observation, and support capabilities.

Illustration of an astronaut in space.

Here are just some of the vital contributions they make today in supporting manned space missions:

Communication: Satellites facilitate communication between ground control centres and spacecraft, enabling astronauts to keep in touch with mission control, receive instructions, and send data back to Earth in real-time. Satellites also support voice, video, and data transmission for astronauts during missions so that they can maintain contact with their families and colleagues.

Navigation: It’s not just cars that rely on satellite-based navigation systems like GPS (Global Positioning System), they are also essential for spacecraft navigation and guidance, ensuring accurate positioning, velocity, and timing information for spacecraft both during launch and during docking manoeuvres, and not to mention the critical period of re-entry into the earth’s orbit.

Earth Observation: Satellites equipped with advanced sensors and imaging technology monitor the Earth’s surface, atmosphere, and environment so that astronauts can be prepared for landing their craft. This information aids in assessing weather conditions, tracking environmental changes, monitoring natural disasters, and selecting safe landing sites for the spacecraft.

Space Traffic Management: Satellites play a crucial role in managing the enormous amount of traffic found in space. They are able to track the positions and trajectories of both spacecraft and the debris including redundant satellites that are all to be found in the Earth’s orbit. This information helps prevent collisions and ensures the safety of crewed missions and space assets.

Supply and Resupply Missions: Satellites support logistical operations by serving as waypoints or communication relays for spacecraft delivering supplies, equipment, and payloads to crewed spacecraft or space stations.

Scientific Research: Astronauts conduct myriad scientific experiments and research while in space, and satellites can support their endeavours by transporting scientific instruments and payloads to conduct experiments in an environment where gravity is minimal. They also facilitate the observation of distant celestial objects, phenomena, and cosmic radiation, contributing to our understanding of the universe.


Inspiration from the Geosynchronous Orbit

While we may not be sending people into space, the world’s GEO-stationary satellites all play their part in ensuring that space travel is as safe as it can be and that advances are made to propel human space flight ever onwards. Modern satellites are indispensable for supporting human space flight enabling astronauts to conduct missions effectively and safely.

Illustration of a girl looking up into space at night.

Commercial satellites orbit the Earth and provide valuable data and services for numerous applications in areas such as telecommunications, weather forecasting, agriculture, environmental monitoring, and disaster management, among others.

We are very proud of the support our THOR satellite fleet provides to the maritime and land-based sectors, delivering critical links for data communications across EMEA, as well as seamless connectivity for broadcasting services throughout the Nordics and CEE.

As we recognise UN International Day of Human Space Flight, it continues to inspire us as satellite operators to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation in space technology and exploration. This day serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of human endeavours in space and reinforces the significance of satellite operations in advancing humanity’s presence and activities beyond the confines of our planet.