Friday Factday: Satellites
Friday Factday

Friday Factday: Satellites

Ben Thornton
Ben Thornton

Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to yet another episode of Friday Factday! This week, I'm zooming waaaaaay out into orbit to take a look at something we take for granted but rarely truly think about: Satellites. Specifically, the man-made variety.

Let's get into it!

Sputnik Wins! Sputnik Wins!

In a blow to America's ego, the Russians were the first to launch a man-made satellite into orbit when they sent Sputnik 1 up on October 4, 1957.

This was a momentous occasion for both the Russians and mankind as a species, but Sputnik 1 itself wasn't quite as impressive as the marvels of engineering floating up there these days. In fact, it was only about the size of a beach ball, though it did look like it was straight out of an old-school sci-fi film, so points for aesthetics, I guess.

Usain Bolt Who?

Satellites move a lot faster than you might think. In media, satellites often feel like they're slow moving but the sheer scale warps perceptions – just like when you see a plane in the distance and it appears to be moving slowly across your vision.

Satellites can actually travel up to a staggering 18,000 miles per hour, circumnavigating the globe 14 times per day. That's crazy to think about.

It's a Big Network

People understand that there are multiple satellites in orbit of the Earth at any given time – it's referred to as a satellite network for a reason. I'd wager most people would guess that there were several hundred, maybe a thousand satellites up there. In reality, there are 2,500.

That's a lot of eyes gathering a lot of data for a lot of different reasons. From national security to disaster management to GPS navigation, we're so intertwined with the technology that if a large portion of the network were to suddenly go down, there'd be chaos.

Ever Heard of Maxar?

Me neither. At least, not before researching for this piece. According to their website, they supply “90% of the foundational geospatial intelligence used by the U.S. Government,” and have 125+ Petabytes (no, that's not the name of an artisanal bakery based on the Hunger Games, it's a measurement equivalent to 1,000 Terabytes) of data in their satellite imagery archive.

So, a pretty important entity, then. Also, I can't be the only one who reads “We provide secure, precise geospatial intelligence, enabling government and commercial customers to monitor, understand and navigate our changing planet” and gets a sour taste in their mouth, right?

Protective Measures

Satellites are used for many things and keeping yourself protected and secure from them is a difficult task. A good first step is obviously to get a VPN that can both encrypt your data and mask identifying information, like your IP.

Keeping you safe from the prying Brother Eye sitting high up in the sky, however, is a little outside of our remit. So until invisibility tech becomes widely available, I got nothing outside of starting a subterranean society, and that sounds miserable.

Still, the first few folks to smash the button below will be able to get a year's worth of Windscribe Pro for the low price of $29. It might not make you physically invisible but it'll help cover your tracks online.

Ben Thornton
Ben Thornton