2. Satellite Meteorology

By the late 1960s, the use of satellites to look at the weather was increasingly common, but the technology itself was still in its infancy, and even by the end of the Apollo era there were still many experiments designed to see if the data from satellites were as reliable as those from traditional ground and atmospheric measurements.

Early satellites were launched with a lifespan of just a few months, and the images were examined on their return to Earth. These included the early Soviet Kosmos satellites as well as American efforts. Advances in communication techniques then allowed signals from an orbiting satellite to be sent back to a receiving station on Earth where they could be translated into photographic images. Although primitive by 2010's standards, the absence of modern circuit board, micro-chips and programming techniques meant that satellite developers crammed a large amount of complex, bulky, interconnected mechanical workings into a relatively small space. Ingenious solutions were arrived at to achieve simple aims, such as using electromagnets that would align with the Earth's magnetic field in order to maintain a satellite's orbital attitude.

There are two basic type of satellite orbit discussed in this work: geostationary and geosynchronous. Geostationary satellites are placed in a position above the Earth that allows them to observe the same features on the ground at all times. Geosynchronous satellites orbit in such a way that they pass over the same place on the ground at the same time each day. They are effectively always following the same path, but the rotation of the earth underneath them means that each time the return to a specific point in their orbit, they are over a different part of the planet.

Images from a number of different types of satellite are examined in this research: ATS, ESSA (and its ITOS and NOAA variations) and NIMBUS.

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