Glossary of Satellite Terms

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The mechanism that drives and controls the antenna as it scans the sky for satellites.

Amplitude Modulation (AM)

The baseband signal is caused to vary the amplitude or height of the carrier wave to create the desired information content.


A device used to boost the strength of an electronic signal.


A form of transmitting information characterized by continuously variable quantities, as opposed to digital transmission, which is characterized by discrete bits of information in numerical steps. An analog signal is responsive to changes in light, sound, heat and pressure.

Analog-to-Digital Conversion (ADC)

Process of converting analog signals to a digital representation. DAC represents the reverse translation.


The Canadian domestic satellite system that transmits Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CSC) network feeds throughout the country. This system also carries long distance voice and data services throughout Canada as well as some transborder service to the U.S. and Mexico.


A device for transmitting and receiving radio waves. Depending on their use and operating frequency, antennas can take the form of a single piece of wire, a di-pole a grid such as a yagi array, a horn, a helix, a sophisticated parabolic-shaped dish, or a phase array of active electronic elements of virtually any flat or convoluted surface.

Antenna Depth “d”

Antenna depth is the depth of the parabolic antenna. To make this, anchor two nylon lines making two diameter in perpendicular angles. Measure the antenna depth from that crossing until the antenna base.

Antenna Diameter “D”

Antena diameter is the length of the diameter of the parabolic antenna and is indispensable to measure in center line.

Antenna Efficiency “EF”

Antena eficiency is an mesure of how much of the signal is effectively collected by parabolic antenna. The eficiency is determinate by exactness of the antenna surface and inperfections in your surface will go degenerate the signal received from satellite.

Antenna Temperature

Antena temperature is how much of terrestial noise is detected by it. An antenna detect more noise when your elevation reduce.


A cross sectional area of the antenna which is exposed to the satellite signal.


The point in an elliptical satellite orbit which is farthest from the surface of the earth. Geosynchronous satellites which maintain circular orbits around the earth are first launched into highly elliptical orbits with apogees of 22,237 miles. When the communication satellite reaches the appropriate apogee, a rocket motor is fired to place the satellite into its permanent circular orbit of 22,237 miles.

Apogee Kick Motor (AKM)

Rocket motor fired to circulate orbit and deploy satellite into geostationary orbit.


The loss in power of electromagnetic signals between transmission and reception points.

Attitude Control

The orientation of the satellite in relationship to the earth and the sun.

Audio Subcarrier

The carrier between 5 MHz and 8 MHz containing audio (or voice) information inside of a video carrier.

Automatic Frequency Control (AFC)

A circuit which automatically controls the frequency of a signal.

Automatic Gain Control (AGC)

A circuit which automatically controls the gain of an amplifier so that the output signal level is virtually constant for varying input signal levels.

AZ/EL Mount

Antenna mount that requires two separate adjustments to move from one satellite to another;


The angle of rotation (horizontal) that a ground based parabolic antenna must be rotated through to point to a specific satellite in a geosynchronous orbit. The azimuth angle for any particular satellite can be determined for any point on the surface of the earth giver the latitude and longitude of that point. It is defined with respect to due north as a matter of easy convenience.



A method of transmitting and scrambling television signals. In such transmissions MAC (Multiplexed Analog Component) signals are time-multiplexed with a digital burst containing digitized sound, video synchronizing, authorization, and information.


A terrestrial communications channel linking an earth station to a local switching network or population center.


The process of reducing the input and output power levels of a traveling wave tube to obtain more linear operation.

Band Pass Filter

An active or passive circuit which allows signals within the desired frequency band to pass through but impedes signals outside this pass band from getting through.

Bandwidth “BW”

A measure of spectrum (frequency) use or capacity. For instance, a voice transmission by telephone requires a bandwidth of about 3000 cycles per second (3KHz). A TV channel occupies a bandwidth of 6 million cycles per second (6 MHz) in terrestrial Systems. In satellite based systems a larger bandwidth of 17.5 to 72 MHz is used to spread or “dither” the television signal in order to prevent interference.


The basic direct output signal in an intermediate frequency based obtained directly from a television camera, satellite television receiver, or video tape recorder. Baseband signals can be viewed only on studio monitors. To display the baseband signal on a conventional television set a “modulator” is required to convert the baseband signal to one of the VHF or UHF television channels which the television set can be tuned to receive.


The rate of data transmission based on the number of signal elements or symbols transmitted per second. Today most digital signals are characterized in bits per second.


Low-power carrier transmitted by a satellite which supplies the controlling engineers on the ground with a means of monitoring telemetry data, tracking the satellite, or conducting propagation experiments. This tracking beacon is usually a horn or omni antenna.


The angle or conical shape of the beam the antenna projects. Large antennas have narrower beamwidths and can pinpoint satellites in space or dense traffic areas on the earth more precisely. Tighter beamwidths thus deliver higher levels of power and thus greater communications performance.


Slang for a communications satellite located in geosynchronous orbit.


A single digital unit of information

Bit Error Rate

The fraction of a sequence of message bits that are in error. A bit error rate of 10-6 means that there is an average of one error per million bits.

Bit Rate

The speed of a digital transmission, measured in bits per second.


An ordinary television signal consists of 30 separate still pictures or frames sent every second. They occur so rapidly, the human eye blurs them together to form an illusion of moving pictures. This is the basis for television and motion picture systems. The blanking interval is that portion of the television signal which occurs after one picture frame is sent and before the next one is transmitted. During this period of time special data signals can be sent which will not be picked up on an ordinary television receiver.

Block Down Converter

A device used to convert the 3.7 to 4.2 KHz signal down to UHF or lower frequencies (1 GHz and lower).


The area of highest gain in the center of the pattern of a directional antenna.

Business Television

Corporate communications tool involving video transmissions of information via satellite. Common uses of business television are for meetings, product introductions and training.


C Band

This is the band between 4 and 8 GHz with the 6 and 4 GHz band being used for satellite communications. Specifically, the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz satellite communication band is used as the down link frequencies in tandem with the 5.925 to 6,425 GHz band that serves as the uplink.

Carrier to Noise Ratio (C/N)

The ratio of the received carrier power and the noise power in a given bandwidth, expressed in dB. This figure is directly related to G/T and S/N; and in a video signal the higher the C/N, the better the received picture.


The basic radio, television, or telephony center of frequency transmit signal. The carrier in an analog signal. is modulated by manipulating its amplitude (making it louder or softer) or its frequency (shifting it up or down) in relation to the incoming signal. Satellite carriers operating in the analog mode are usually frequency modulated.

Carrier Frequency

The main frequency on which a voice, data, or video signal is sent. Microwave and satellite communications transmitters operate in the band from 1 to 14 GHz (a GHz is one billion cycles per second).

Cassegrain Antenna

The antenna principle that utilizes a subreflector at the focal point which reflects energy to or from a feed located at the apex of the main reflector.


Code division multiple access. Refers to a multiple-access scheme where stations use spread-spectrum modulations and orthogonal codes to avoid interfering with one another.


A frequency band in which a specific broadcast signal is transmitted. Channel frequencies are specified in the United States by the Federal Communications Commission. Television signals require a 6 MHz frequency band to carry all the necessary picture detail.

Circular Polarization

Unlike many domestic satellites which utilize vertical or horizontal polarization, the international Intelsat satellites transmit their signals in a rotating corkscrew-like pattern as they are down-linked to earth. On some satellites, both right-hand rotating and left-hand rotating signals can be transmitted simultaneously on the same frequency; thereby doubling the capacity of the satellite to carry communications channels.


A video processing circuit that removes the energy dispersal signal component from the video waveform.

Clarke Orbit

That circular orbit in space 22,237 miles from the surface of the earth at which geosynchronous satellites are placed. This orbit was first postulated by the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in Wireless World magazine in 1945. Satellites placed in these orbits, although traveling around the earth at thousands of miles an hour, appear to be stationary when viewed from a point on the earth, since the earth is rotating upon its axis at the same angular rate that the satellite is traveling around the earth.


Carrier-to-noise ratio measured either at the Radio Frequency (RF) or Intermediate Frequency (IF)


Coder/decoder system for digital transmission.


Ability of multiple satellites to share the same approximate geostationary orbital assignment frequently due to the fact that different frequency bands are used.

Color Subcarrler

A subcarrier that is added to the main video signal to convey the color information. In NTSC systems, the color subcarrier is centered on a frequency of 3.579545 MHz, referenced to the main video carrier.

Common Carrier

Any organization which operates communications circuits used by other people. Common carriers include the telephone companies as well as the owners of the communications satellites, RCA, Comsat, Direct Net Telecommunications, AT&T and others. Common carriers are required to file fixed tariffs for specific services.


A noise-reduction technique that applies single compression at the transmitter and complementary expansion at the receiver.

Composite Baseband

The unclamped and unfiltered output of the satellite receiver’s demodulator circuit, containg the video information as well as all transmitted subcarriers.


Contiguous United States. In short, all the states in the U.S. except Hawaii and Alaska.

Cross Modulation

A form of signal distortion in which modulation from one or more RF carrier(s) is imposed on another carrier.


Carrier-to-noise-temperature ratio.



Demand-Assigned Multiple Access – A highly efficient means of instantaneously assigning telephony channels in a transponder according to immediate traffic demands.


Direct broadcast satellite. Refers to service that uses satellites to broadcast multiple channels of television programming directly to home mounted small-dish antennas.


The dB power relative to an isotropic source.


The ratio of the power to one Watt expressed in decibels.

Decibel (dB)

The standard unit used to express the ratio of two power levels. It is used in communications to express either a gain or loss in power between the input and output devices.


The offset angle of an antenna from the axis of its polar mount as measured in the meridian plane between the equatorial plane and the antenna main beam.


A television set-top device which enables the home subscriber to convert an electronically scrambled television picture into a viewable signal. This should not be confused with a digital coder/decoder known as a CODEC which is used in conjunction with digital transmissions.


Reinstatement of a uniform baseband frequency response following demodulation.


The time it takes for a signal to go from the sending station through the satellite to the receiving station. This transmission delay for a single hop satellite connection is very close on one-quarter of a second.


A satellite receiver circuit which extracts or “demodulates” the “wanted “signals from the received carrier.


The modulation level of an FM signal determined by the amount of frequency shift from the frequency of the main carrier.


Conversion of information into bits of data for transmission through wire, fiber optic cable, satellite, or over air techniques. Method allows simultaneous transmission of voice, data or video.

Digital Speech Interpolation

DSI – A means of transmitting telephony. Two and One half to three times more efficiently based on the principle that people are talking only about 40% of the time.


To reduce the frequency of a signal, typically from RF to IF.


The signal that comes down from a satellite to an earth station.

Dual Spin

Spacecraft design whereby the main body of the satellite is spun to provide altitude stabilization, and the antenna assembly is despun by means of a motor and bearing system in order to continually direct the antenna earthward. This dual-spin configuration thus serves to create a spin stabilized satellite.


A term meaning two-way communications: simuntaneous reception and transmission using different frequencies.


Earth Station

The term used to describe the combination or antenna, low-noise amplifier (LNA), down-converter, and receiver electronics. used to receive a signal transmitted by a satellite. Earth Station antennas vary in size from the.2 foot to 12 foot (65 centimeters to 3.7 meters) diameter size used for TV reception to as large as 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter sometimes used for international communications. The typical antenna used for INTELSAT communication is today 13 to 18 meters or 40 to 60 feet.

Echo Canceller

An electronic circuit which attenuates or eliminates the echo effect on satellite telephony links. Echo cancellers are largely replacing obsolete echo suppressors.

Echo Effect

A time-delayed electronic reflection of a speaker’s voice. This is largely eliminated by modern digital echo cancellers.

Edge of Coverage

Limit of a satellite’s defined service area. In many cases, the EOC is defined as being 3 dB down from the signal level at beam center. However, reception may still be possible beyond the -3dB point.


Effective Isotropic Radiated Power – This term describes the strength of the signal leaving the satellite antenna or the transmitting earth station antenna, and is used in determining the C/N and S/N. The transmit power value in units of dBW is expressed by the product of the transponder output power and the gain of the satellite transmit antenna.


The upward tilt to a satellite antenna measured in degrees required to aim the antenna at the communications satellite. When aimed at the horizon, the elevation angle is zero. If it were tilted to a point directly overhead, the satellite antenna would have an elevation of 90 degrees.


A device used to electronically alter a signal so that it can only be viewed on a receiver equipped with a special decoder.


End of Life of a satellite.

Equatorial Orbit

An orbit with a plane parallel to the earth’s equator.


Engineering Service Circuit – The 300-3,400 Hertz voice plus teletype (S+DX) channel used for earth station-to-earth station and earth station-to-operations center communications for the purpose of system maintenance, coordination and general system information dissemination. In analog (FDM/FM) systems there are two S+DX channels available for this purpose in the 4,000-12,000 Hertz portion of the baseband. In digital systems there are one or two channels available which are usually convened to a 32 or 64 Kbps digital signal and combined with the earth station traffic digital bit stream. Modern ESC equipment interfaces with any mix of analog and digital satellite carriers, as well as backhaul terrestrial links to the local switching center.



Ratio of antenna focal length to antenna diameter. A higher ratio means a shallower dish. f/D is a pure number


Frequency division multiple access. Refers to the use of multiple carriers within the same transponder where each uplink has been assigned frequency slot and bandwidth. This is usually employed in conjunction with Frequency Modulation.


This term has at least two key meanings within the field of satellite communications. It is used to describe the transmission of video programming from a distribution center. It is also used to describe the feed system of an antenna. The feed system may consist of a subreflector plus a feedhorn or a feedhorn only.


A satellite TV receiving antenna component that collects the signal reflected from the main surface reflector and channels this signal into the low-noise amplifier (LNA)


Intermediate Frequency. This refers to the low frequency RF level to which the satellite signal is converted before processing inside a receiver, typically 70 MHz.


Frequency Modulation – A modulation method whereby the baseband signal varies the frequency of the carrier wave.

FM Threshold

That point at which the input signal power is just strong enough to enable the receiver demodulator circuitry successfully to detect and recover a good quality television picture from the incoming video carrier. Using threshold extension techniques, a typical satellite TV receiver will successfully provide good pictures with an incoming carrier noise ratio of 7db. Below the threshold a type of random noise called “sparkles” begins to appear in the video picture. In a digital transmission, however, signal is sudden and dramatically lost when performance drops under the threshold.

Focal Length

Distance from the center feed to the center of the dish.

Focal Point

Focal Point is the point where the feedhorn is placed. Focal Point is the distance betwen the antenna base and the input signal point of the feedhorn measured in inches.


A map of the signal strength showing the EIRP contours of equal signal strengths as they cover the earth’s surface. Different satellite transponders on the same satellite will often have different footprints of the signal strength. The accuracy of EIRP footprints or contour data can improve with the operational age of the satellite. The actual EIRP levels of the satellite, however, tends to decrease slowly as the spacecraft ages.

Forward Error Correction (FEC)

Adds unique codes to the digital signal at the source so errors can be detected and corrected at the receiver.


The number of times that an alternating current goes through its complete cycle in one second of time. One cycle per second is also referred to as one hertz; 1000 cycles per second, one kilohertz; 1,000,000 cycles per second, one megahertz: and 1,000,000,000 cycles per second, one gigahertz.

Frequency Coordination

A process to eliminate frequency interference between different satellite systems or between terrestrial microwave systems and satellites. In the U.S. this activity relies upon a computerized service utilizing an extensive database to analyze potential microwave interference problems that arise between organizations using the same microwave band. As the same C-band frequency spectrum is used by telephone networks and CATV companies when they are contemplating the installation of an earth station, they will often obtain a frequency coordination study to determine if any problems will exist.

Frequency modulated

A system where the instantaneous radio frequency varies in proportion to the instantaneous amplitude of the modulating signal.

Frequency re-use

A technique that allows two separate TV channels to be broadcast simultaneously on the same transponder by alternating their polarizations (i.e., one channel is horizontally polarized and the other vertically polarized).



A measure of amplification expressed in dB.


Refers to a geosynchronous satellite angle with zero inclination. so the satellite appears to hover over one spot on the earth’s equator.


The Clarke circular orbit above the equator. For a planet the size and mass of the earth, this point is 22,237 miles above the surface.

Gigahertz (GHz)

One billion cycles per second. Signals operating above 3 Gigahertz are known as microwaves. above 30 GHz they are know as millimeter waves. As one moves above the millimeter waves signals begin to take on the characteristics of Iightwaves.

Global Beam

An antenna down-link pattern used by the Intelsat satellites, which effectively covers one-third of the globe. Global beams are aimed at the center of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans by the respective Intelsat satellites, enabling all nations on each side of the ocean to receive the signal. Because they transmit to such a wide area, global beam transponders have significantly lower EIRP outputs at the surface of the Earth as compared to a US domestic satellite system which covers just the continental United States. Therefore, earth stations receiving global beam signals need antennas much larger in size (typically 10 meters and above (i.e.30 feet and up). Gregorian Dual-reflector antenna system employing a paraboloidal main reflector and a concave ellipsoidal subreflector.


A figure of merit of an antenna and low noise amplifier combination expressed in dB. “G” is the net gain of the system and “T” is the noise temperature of the system. The higher the number, the better the system. Also called of Merit Factor.

Guard Channel

Television channels are separated in the frequency spectrum by spacing them several megahertz apart. This unused space serves to prevent the adjacent television channels from interfering with each other.


Half Transponder

A method of transmitting two TV signals through a single transponder through the reduction of each TV signal’s deviation and power level. Half-transponder TV carriers each operate typically 4 dB to 7 dB below single-carrier saturation power.


Electronic control center – generally located at the antenna site of a CATV system – usually including antennas, preamplifiers, frequency converters, demodulators and other related equipment which amplify, filter and convert incoming broadcast TV signals to cable system channels.

Hertz (Hz)

The name given to the basic measure of radio frequency characteristics. An electromagnetic wave completes a full oscillation from its positive to its negative pole and back again in what is known as a cycle. A single Hertz is thus equal to one cycle per second.


The master station through which all communications to, from and between micro terminals must flow. in the future satellites with on-board processing will allow hubs to be eliminated as MESH networks are able to connect all points in a network together.



INTELSAT Business Services.


The angle between the orbital plane of a satellite and the equatorial plane of the earth.


The International Maritime Satellite Organization operates a network of satellites for international transmissions for all types of international mobile services including maritime, aeronautical, and land mobile.


The International Telecommunications Satellite Organization operates a network of satellites for international transmissions.


Energy which tends to interfere with the reception of the desired signals, such as fading from airline flights, RF interference from adjacent channels, or ghosting from reflecting objects such as mountains and buildings.

ISDN – Integrated Services Digital Network

A CCITT standard for integrated transmission of voice, video and data. Bandwidths include: Basic Rate Interface – BR (144 Kbps – 2 B & 1 D channel) and Primary Rate – PRI (1.544 and 2.048 Mbps).

Isotropic Antenna

A hypothetical omnidirectional point-source antenna that serves as an engineering reference for the measurement of antenna gain.


International Telecommunication Union.



ISO Joint Picture Expert Group standard for the compression of still pictures.


Ka Band

The frequency range from 18 to 31 GHz.


Kilobits per second. Refers to transmission speed of 1,000 bits per second.

Kelvin (K)

The temperature measurement scale used in the scientific community. Zero K represents absolute zero, and corresponds to minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 273 Celsius. Is also the amount of thermal noise generated by an LNB. The lower the Noise Temperature (in K degree), the better the performance of the LNB. Thermal noise characteristics of LNB are measured in Kelvins.

Kilohertz (kHz)

Refers to a unit of frequency equal to 1,000 Hertz.


A type of high-power amplifier which uses a special beam tube.

Ku Band

The frequency range from 10.9 to 17 GHz.



The frequency range from 0.5 to 1.5 GHz. Also used to refer to the 950 to 1450MHz used for mobile communications.

Leased Line

A dedicated circuit typically supplied by the telephone company.

Low Noise Amplifier (LNA)

This is the preamplifier between the antenna and the earth station receiver. For maximum effectiveness, it must be located as near the antenna as possible, and is usually attached directly to the antenna receive port. The LNA is especially designed to contribute the least amount of thermal noise to the received signal.

Low Noise Block Downconverter (LNB)

A combination Low Noise Amplifier and downconverter built into one device attached to the feed. The LNB converts the entire 3.7 to 4.2 GHz band down to a lower band 950 to 1450 MHz.

LNB Temperature

LNB (Low noise block) temperature is how much of noise is generated by his eletronic circuit. An LNB of low noise is required for an system of good quality. The tipical values is 25 Kelvin degree.


MAC (A, B, C, D2)

Multiplexed analog component color video transmission system. Subtypes refer to the various methods used to transmit audio and data signals.


The amount of signal in dB by which the satellite system exceeds the minimum levels required for operation.

Master Antenna Television (MATV)

An antenna system that serves a concentration of television sets such as in apartment buildings, hotels or motels.

Megahertz (MHz)

Refers to a frequency equal to one million Hertz, or cycles per second.

Merit Factor

The same that G/T.


Line-of sight, point-to-point transmission of signals at high frequency. Many CATV systems receive some television signals from a distant antenna location with the antenna and the system connected by microwave relay. Microwaves are also used for data, voice, and indeed all types of information transmission. The growth of fiber optic networks have tended to curtail the growth and use of microwave relays.

Microwave Interference

Interference which occurs when an earth station aimed at a distant satellite picks up a second, often stronger signal, from a local telephone terrestrial microwave relay transmitter. Microwave interference can also be produced by nearby radar transmitters as well as the sun itself. Relocating the antenna by only several feet will often completely eliminate the microwave interference.


The process of manipulating the frequency or amplitude of a carrier in relation to an incoming video, voice or data signal.


A device which modulates a carrier. Modulators are found as components in broadcasting transmitters and in satellite transponders. Modulators are also used by CATV companies to place a baseband video television signal onto a desired VHF or UHF channel. Home video tape recorders also have built-in modulators which enable the recorded video information to be played back using a television receiver tuned to VHF channel 3 or 4.


Techniques that allow a number of simultaneous transmissions over a single circuit.



Any unwanted and unmodulated energy that is always present to some extent within any signal.

Noise Figure (NF)

A term which is a figure of merit of a device, such as an LNA or receiver, expressed in dB, which compares the device with a perfect device.

Noise Temperature

The amount of thermal noise present in a device or system, expressed in K degree. The lower the noise temperature, the better.

NTSC – National Television Standards Committee

A video standard established by the United States (RCA/NBC} and adopted by numerous other countries. This is a 525-line video with 3.58-MHz chroma subcarrier and 60 cycles per second.


Orbital Period

The time that it takes a satellite to complete one circumnavigation of its orbit.


Packet Switching

Data transmission method that divides messages into standard-sized packets for greater efficiency of routing and transport through a network.

PAL – Phase Alternation System

The German developed TV standard based upon 50 cycles.per second and 625 lines.

Parabolic Antenna

The most frequently found satellite TV antenna, it takes its name from the shape of the dish described mathematically as a parabola. The function of the parabolic shape is to focus the weak microwave signal hitting the surface of the dish into a single focal point in front of the dish. It is at this point that the feedhorn is usually located. There are two basic types of parabolic dish antennas : The prime focus feed and the Cassegrain feed.

Path Loss

The loss of signal strength incurred between the poit of transmission and the point of reception.

Phase-Locked Loop (PLL)

A type of electronic circuit used to demodulate satellite signals.


A technique used by the satellite designer to increase the capacity of the satellite transmission channels by reusing the satellite transponder frequencies. In linear cross polarization schemes, half of the transponders beam their signals to earth in a vertically polarized mode; the other half horizontally polarize their down links. Although the two sets of frequencies overlap, they are 90 degree out of phase, and will not interfere with each other. To successfully receive and decode these signals on earth, the earth station must be outfitted with a properly polarized feedhorn to select the vertically or horizontally polarized signals as desired.

In some installations, the feedhorn has the capability of receiving the vertical and horizontal transponder signals simultaneously, and routing them into separate LNAs for delivery to two or more satellite television receivers. Unlike most domestic satellites, the Intelsat series use a technique known as left-hand and right-hand circular polarization.

Polarization Rotator

A device that can be manually or automatically adjusted to select one of two orthogonal polarizations.

Polar Mount

Antenna mechanism permitting steering in both elevation and azimuth through rotation about a single axis. While an astronomer’s polar mount has its axis parallel to that of the earth, satellite earth stations utilize a modified polar mount geometry that incorporates a declination offset.

Polar Orbit

An orbit with its plane aligned in parallel with the polar axis of the earth

Power Received “EIRP”

The power received EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power) is how much of the signal irradiated by satellite is received on surface of the earth effectively (measure in dBW).

Prime Focus

The type of feed in a parabolic dish antenna which is positioned above the dish as the antenna’s focal point. As differentiated from a Cassegrain feed.

PTT – Post Telephone and Telegraph Administration

Refers to operating agencies directly or indirectly controlled by governments in charge of telecommunications services in most countries of the world.

Pulse Code Modulation

A time division modulation technique in which analog signals are sampled and quantized at periodic intervals into digital signals. The values observed are typically represented by a coded arrangement of 8 bits of which one may be for parity.


QPSK – Quadrature Phase Shift Keying

System of modulating a satellite signal.


Rain Outage

Loss of signal at Ku or Ka Band frequencies due to absorption and increased sky-noise temperature caused by heavy rainfall.

Receiver (Rx)

An electronic device which enables a particular satellite signal to be separated from all others being received by an earth station, and converts the signal format into a format for video, voice or data.

Receiver Sensitivity

Expressed in dBm this tells how much power the detector must receive to achieve a specific baseband performance, such as a specified bit error rate or signal to noise ratio.


The antenna’s main curved dish, which collects and focuses signals onto either the secondary reflector or the feed.



A sophisticated electronic communications relay station orbiting 22,237 miles above the equator moving in a fixed orbit at the same speed and direction of the earth (about 7,000 mph east to west).

Scalar Feed

A type of horn antenna feed which uses a series of concentric rings to capture signals that have been reflected toward the focal point of a parabolic antenna.


A device used to electronically alter a signal so that it can only be viewed or heard on a receiver equipped with a special decoder.


A color television. system developed by the French and used in the USSR. Secam operates with 625 lines per picture frame and 50 cycles per second, but is incompatible in operation with the European PAL system or the U.S. NTSC system.


The response of an antenna to unwanted signals originating from sources other than the intended transmitter. This type of interference can greatly reduce antenna efficiency.

Signal to Noise Ratio (S/N)

The ratio of the signal power to the noise power in a specified bandwidth, expressed in dB. A video S/N of 54 to 56 dB is considered to be an excellent S/N, that is, of broadcast quality. A video S/N of 48 to 52 dB is considered to be a good S/N at the headend for Cable TV.

Single-Channel-Per-Carrier (SCPC)

A method used to transmit a large number of signals over a single satellite transponder.


An adjustment that compensates for slight variance in angle between identical senses of polarity generated by two or more satellites.

Slant Range

The length of the path between a communications satellite and an associated earth station.


That longitudinal position in the geosynchronous orbit into which a communications satellite is “parked”. Above the United States, communications satellites are typically positioned in slots which are based at two to three degree intervals.


A form of noise picked up by a television receiver caused by a weak signal. Snow is characterized by alternate dark and light dots appearing randomly on the picture tube. To eliminate snow, a more sensitive receive antenna must be used, or better amplification must be provided in the receiver (or both).

Solar Outage

Solar outages occur when an antenna is looking at a satellite, and the sun passes behind or near the satellite and within the field of view of the antenna. This field of view is usually wider than the beamwidth. Solar outages can be exactly predicted as to the timing for each site.


The range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used in transmission of voice, data and television.


Satellite signal that falls on locations outside the beam pattern’s defined edge of coverage.

Spin Stabilization

A form of satellite stabilization and attitude control which is achieved through spinning the exterior of the spacecraft about its axis at a fixed rate.


A passive device (one with no active electronic components) which distributes a television signal carried on a cable in two or more paths and sends it to a number of receivers simultaneously.

Spot Beam

A focused antenna pattern sent to a limited geographical area. Spot beams are used by domestic satellites to deliver certain transponder signals to geographically well defined areas such as Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

Spread Spectrum

The transmission of a signal using a much wider bandwidth and power than would normally be required. Spread spectrum also involves the use of narrower signals that are frequency hopped through various parts of the transponder. Both techniques produce low levels of interference Between the users. They also provide security in that the signals appear as though they were random noise to unauthorized earth stations. Both military and civil satellite applications have developed for spread spectrum transmissions.


Solid state power amplifier. A VSLI solid state device that is gradually replacing Traveling Wave Tubes in satellite communications systems because they are lighter weight and are more reliable.


Minor orbital adjustments that are conducted to maintain the satellite’s orbital assignment within the allocated “box” within the geostationary arc.


A second signal “piggybacked” onto a main signal to carry additional information. In satellite television transmission, the video picture is transmitted over the main carrier. The corresponding audio is sent via an FM subcarrier. Some satellite transponders carry as many as four special audio or data subcarriers whose signals may or may not be related to the main programming.

Synchronization (Sync)

The process of orienting the transmitter and receiver circuits in the proper manner in order that they can be synchronized . Home television sets are synchronized by an incoming sync signal with the television cameras in the studios 60 times per second. The horizontal and vertical hold controls on the television set are used to set the receiver circuits to the approximate sync frequencies of incoming television picture and the sync pulses in the signal then fine tune the circuits to the exact frequency and phase.



The transmission bit rate of 1.544 millions bits per second. This is also equivalent to the ISDN Primary Rate Interface for the U.S. The European T1 or E1 transmission rate is 2.048 million bits per second.

T3 Channel (DS-3)

In North America, a digital channel which communicates at 45.304 Mbps.


Time division multiple access. Refers to a form of multiple access where a single carrier is the shared by many users. Signals from earth stations reaching the satellite consecutively are processed in time segments without overlapping.

TI – Terrestrial Interference

Interference to satellite reception caused by ground based microwave transmitting stations.


An electronic device consisting of oscillator, modulator and other circuits which produce a radio or television electromagnetic wave signal for radiation into the atmosphere by an antenna.


A combination receiver, frequency converter, and transmitter package, physically part of a communications satellite. Transponders have a typical output of five to ten watts, operate over a frequency band with a 36 to 72 megahertz bandwidth in the L, C, Ku, and sometimes Ka Bands or in effect typically in the microwave spectrum, except for mobile satellite communications. Communications satellites typically have between 12 and 24 onboard transponders although the INTELSAT VI at the extreme end has 50.


Television Receive Only terminals that use antenna reflectors and associated electronic equipment to receive and process television and audio communications via satellite. Typically small home systems.


The process of adjusting an electronic receiver circuit to optimize its performance.


Traveling wave tube amplifier.



The earth station used to transmit signals to a satellite



Voltage Standing Wave Ratio. A measurement of mismatch in a cable, waveguide, or antenna system.


Very small aperture terminal. Refers to small earth stations, usually in the 1.2 to 2.4 meter range. Small aperture terminals under 0.5 meters are sometimes referred to Ultra Small Aperture Terminals (USAT’s)



A metallic microwave conductor, typically rectangular in shape, used to carry microwave signals into and out of microwave antennas.



A set of packet switching standards published by the CCITT.