The importance of satellite tracking
Artificial satellites have been one of the most important inventions of the past century. Satellites are continually tracking the earth in fixed orbits, receiving and sending data from and to earth stations. Satellites are responsible for long distance transmissions of television, audio, telephony, GPS and a variety of other uses, like uses in military, weather prediction (meteorology), etc.
The progress, path and movement of any man-made satellite can be followed and tracked. Satellite tracking is the name given to the activity of detecting or monitoring the position, movement or progress of a man-made satellite orbiting the earth.
The many uses of satellite tracking
Tracking of satellites is often done as a hobby by amateur satellite trackers or watchers. The development of this hobby began long back in the beginning of the space age in 1956 when Operation Moonwatch launched by the Royal Smithsonian Astronomical
Observatory when amateur satellite tracking controllers started tracking Soviet Satellites. In recent years it has been seen as a security threat, and access to websites like the NASA’s Orbital Information Group has begun to be restricted.
Satellite tracking may also be done for visually observing the satellites. The exact positions of satellites can be extracted and the satellite may be viewed with a telescope. On a certain position on earth a particular satellite may be viewed for only a certain period of time, hence exact tracking data is essential. Many planetariums around the world facilitate satellite tracking and viewing.
In a more unusual use, satellites orbiting the earth may be used for active or passive radio communication. Earth transmitters and receivers may be used by the communicators and the satellite may be tracked for its exact position and progress. Then the satellite may be used for tuning in to receive ongoing radio transmission, and also to send and receive messages using the satellite as the medium.
How and where can satellite tracking take place?
Tracking satellites may be accomplished through either planetariums, or a number of designated software. These software usually give a choice of selecting the satellite to be viewed and offer its position and trajectory. Weather, geostationary, military, television or amateur radio satellites can be tracked.
Some of these provide output helpful in adjusting dishes for picking up the right television signals, and are hence often used by television signal receiving station operators. Also these provide tracking for sun, moon and some other celestial bodies.
Some of the popular satellite tracking software are: Nova for Windows, Footprint, GorbTrack, J-track, Orbitron, etc. Most of these are available for free download on the internet.