Behaviour and Use of Satellites
Satellites crop up in all specifications in some form or another and also provide a nice opportunity to focus on the importance of the British satellite industry as highlighted in several of the resources. These resources are designed to help introduce the types of satellites and their uses. The first video from NASA provides a nice introduction to the common parts and those that that follow provide some detail of individual satellites and projects. The last resources provides some questions that, whilst rather dated, help explore some of the behaviours of satellites and look to connect the orbit heights and times.
The study of satellites will inevitably overlap with the study of circular motion and so you may want to look at the list of resources on Circular Motion as well
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Links and Resources
This 4 min film from NASA provides a useful overview of statellites. It explains key vocabulary, gives uses of satellites and explains the differences between geostationary satellites and orbiting satellites. This would make a good end to a lesson on satellites. Try giving students a copy of the relevent part of the specification; as they watch the film ask them to highlight the sections it deals with.
This would make a good introduction to the topic of satellites and students are likely to appreciate finding out more about some exciting spacecraft and moons. Satellite technology is a fast moving field and this activity looks a little dated now. However, it’s simple and engaging and it would be worth spending a bit of time to update the pictures and maybe the satellites used too.
You might or might not decide to use the student worksheet but the best activity is matching the satellites. The activity would be improved by putting the information and pictures on a set of cards rather than the student activity sheet so that students can move them around and sort them.
The teacher sheet contains some useful background information but don’t bother with the table of moons.
The UK space industry is very successful and much larger than most people think. These short films illustrate the range of careers available and help students to gain an accurate impression of what the work entails. The film showing Stephanie Kohl would make a good end to a study of satellites by demonstrating that this is a field alive and kicking in the UK. The emphasis on young engineers and an informal working environment is welcome, as it the fact that Stephanie is female – what a shame that still needs saying.
From the list on offer here, choose Sky's the Limit for Satellites, A few years on from 2011 when this was published, and despite a recession, Surrey Satellites still lead the world in designing and building small satellites. You can use this document to highlight to your students the fabulous career opportunities in this field that are available in the UK. Surrey (and other space engineering companies) struggle to recruit enough scientists and engineers from the UK to fill all their posts a and the field continues to expand.
You could give it to students for homework and ask them to turn the numerical information it contains into a infographic.
This magazine, from the UK space agency, contains an interesting article on the use of satellites. “When Disaster Strikes” (pages 13-15) highlights the role satellites play in disaster relief.
It could be used with students in several ways. Pages 14 and 15 of the article could be read aloud whilst students highlighted all the uses of satellites that are mentioned. These could form information sheets from which students produce their own leaflets or posters to persuade the public that the UK government should spend money on satellites.
Chapter two of this book (page 15 of the pdf document) is entitled “Satellites” and it provides some challenging but do-able questions on the topic. These would be good questions for the class to work through together, led by the teacher working on the board, but they also provide good extension materials for particularly able students. The answer to question 12a, of course, is that the force of gravity is not 9.8ms-2 out at the moon, it’s much reduced. It illustrates nicely why satellites further from the surface of the Earth move more slowly.