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  • Satellites are incredibly useful tools, and they’ve changed the way we monitor and track things on Earth and in space.

    Satellites are built to perform specific functions. All satellites have common components like batteries and solar panels to keep them powered, but the payload components are specific to the kind of mission data they are designed to collect. The satellite’s purpose determines the orbit it occupies. The article Building satellites for Earth observation provides more information about components and orbits including specifics about the payload sensors.

    People who build satellites have lots to think about and lots of decisions to make! Do you think that you have what it takes to build a satellite for a specific mission? And if you succeed, what kind of data will you collect and what will it tell you?

    There are three different missions to choose from. Each mission is supported by an article with helpful background information and an activity to analyse the data the satellite collects.

    In this activity, students build a fit-for-purpose satellite and send it into the correct orbit to gather observational data.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • identify some of the essential components that satellites use
    • match a payload component to a particular mission
    • choose the orbit for a particular mission
    • use Hub resources to inform the decisions they make
    • analyse the data the satellite has collected (optional).

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    The Hub has wrap-around resources that take this interactive from a fun game to a deeper learning experience.

    Building satellites for Earth observation provides background knowledge about missions, payloads and orbits.

    The following articles provide background information about the purpose of each mission. The activities feature the type of data the satellite collects. They contain simple suggestions on how to use this data as well as prompting questions to build student understanding of the science capabilities ‘Gather and interpret data’ and ‘Interpret representations’.

    The resources are easily accessed while using the interactive – look for the red buttons.

    Related content

    Find out about MethaneSAT – a purpose-built satellite that detects methane emissions. The article Measuring methane from space explores some of MethaneSAT’s components and how scientists are working to ensure the data it collects is accurate.

    Activity ideas

    Make a physical model of the satellite with the activity Build a 3D satellite model.

    Practise matching up satellite images with on-the-ground observations in the simple activity Validating remote sensing observations.

    Build on your engineering skills – use the interactive Rocket launch challenge to send the Electron rocket into space.


    This resource has been produced with funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the support of the New Zealand Space Agency.

      Published 25 July 2022 Referencing Hub articles
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