What is a satellite?
A satellite doesn’t necessarily have to be a tin can spinning through space. The word “satellite” is more general than that: it means a smaller, space-based object moving in a loop (an orbit) around a larger object. The Moon is a natural satellite of Earth, for example, because gravity locks it in orbit around our planet. The tin cans we think of as satellites are actually artificial (human-built) satellites that move in precisely calculated paths, circular or elliptical (oval), at various distances from Earth, usually well outside its atmosphere.
What do satellites do for us?
We tend to group satellites either according to the jobs they do or the orbits they follow. These two things are, however, very closely related, because the job a satellite does usually determines both how far away from Earth it needs to be, how fast it has to move, and the orbit it has to follow. The three main uses of satellites are for communications; photography, imaging, and scientific surveying; and navigation.
What do they do?
Communications satellites are “space mirrors” that can help us bounce radio, TV, Internet data, and other kinds of information from one side of Earth to the other.