How do satellites communicate?

Satellites communicate by using radio waves to send signals to the antennas on the Earth. The antennas then capture those signals and process the information coming from those signals. Information can include:

  • scientific data (like the pictures the satellite took),
  • the health of the satellite, and
  • where the satellite is currently located in space

The technology used on a satellite varies, depending on its mission. Computers aboard a satellite can receive, store and transmit information in the form of radio signals sent to and from stations on Earth. For Earth scientists, the receipt of the data begins a long process of determining what the data means. By incorporating the data into computer models (which use mathematical formulas called algorithms) researchers can simulate, or model, Earth’s processes — how the atmosphere, oceans and land surfaces interact as a system. Scientists hope that incorporating global satellite data into their computer models will help them better understand the interactive roles of Earth’s systems, and help them predict how the Earth’s environment will change over time.