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Enhancing Search and Rescue

Search and rescue (SAR) missions often use satellite communications along with data from GPS receivers to improve success rates. The searchers’ safety and success are increased when there is an accurate record of their positions. For areas that have been mapped (for example, using satellite imagery), GPS units can be programmed with coordinates of dangerous sites (mine shaft s or cliff s) to warn searchers as they approach. Search dogs commonly wear GPS receivers so the search team can track the area the dog has covered.

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Identifying a Building’s Environmental Impact

Remote sensing satellites are used in urban planning, such as estimating population density and regional growth. Analysis and processing of satellite images can create maps that identify building use. Such patterns can also be analyzed over time. In this way, the number of residential dwellings can be estimated from high-resolution satellite images of cities. Dwelling estimates can then be aggregated to any geographical unit of analysis, population estimates for cities, and a dwelling density surface that can be categorized into any number of residential land-use classes.

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Pushing Education through Satellite Connections

Satellite communications have allowed governments in developing nations to establish e-governance portals and services without investing in terrestrial infrastructure. In Mexico, a distance learning course was beamed via satellite and the Internet to more than 1,800 teachers. Several governments, like the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN) in India, have established VSAT networks to communicate between offices and bring governmental services to remote provinces.

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Tabulating Votes with VSATs

Satellite capabilities are enabling dependable voting mechanisms in governments around the world. An e-voting satellite network, such as Gilat’s VSAT network, consists of a satellite dish and modem at each polling site connected to a central hub. Each poll operates electronic voting machines, which are connected to the central hub database via these very small aperture terminal (VSAT) connections.

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Canadian Coast Guard Communications

Remote outposts and naval vessels also can benefit from the high bandwidth mobile communication network offered by satellites. In 2006, the Canadian Coast Guard selected Telesat to provide ship-to-shore communications via satellites.

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Emergency Satellite Phones Aid in Disaster Management

Natural disasters often disable vital terrestrial communication networks. In these instances, telecommunications satellites can preserve communication within a devastated area. Satellite phones provide instant communication infrastructure for first responders and their command centers. Satellite data and phone networks can be set up quickly to aid in disaster management activities, helping the government and other institutions with activities such as organization of relief efforts. Both Globalstar and Iridium deployed more than 10,000 satellite phones each after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005.

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Exploring the Use of Space Resources

As the space infrastructure continues to grow, it is possible to expand the sphere of economically useful resources into space and neighboring planetary bodies. NASA, ESA, and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are among the space agencies that have conducted studies or workshops to address the feasibility of using extra-terrestrial resources, or In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU).

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Concerned about Space Debris

Of growing concern to the international community is orbital debris— ranging from paint flecks to entire upper stages— resulting from half a century of space access. It is estimated that 100,000 to 150,000 objects larger than one centimeter remain in orbit.

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Hoping to Nip Disease in the Bud and Keep Electricity Flowing

65 countries, the European Commission (EC) and more than 40 international organizations are supporting the development of a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) during the next decade. GEOSS is proposed as an overarching system of existing and future earth observations systems.

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Virtual World Courtesy of the Internet

A novel application of satellite capabilities that supports retail operations came online in 2005 with the launch of Google Earth—an interactive, 3D map of the Earth’s surface constructed entirely of satellite images, taken by using various instruments and at various times in a mosaic fashion.

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