What will happen if all satellites stopped working?
People may not realize it, but the world is dependent on satellites orbiting the earth. Since they were launched 60n years ago, satellites have become vital in the modern high-technology civilization (Bendick 1994). Since satellites are out there orbiting the earth and are invisible to the human eye, we take them for granted. Most people are not even aware that satellites exist. Therefore, if they are out there in space, who and how can satellites be destroyed. There are three scenarios when satellites can be destroyed. Nations at war can destroy satellites. A country at war with another can target satellites of the country they are at war with using anti-satellite system to destroy the satellites of it’s enemy country. The other scenario is when individuals or organized groups decide to launch high-altitude nuclear towards the satellites. Finally, a solar storm could wipe satellites. This is called a Carrington event and it’s believed it could destroy a modern civilization like the one we live in (Munroe 2014). In this paper, I will illustrate the possible scenarios of what would happen if all satellites stopped working.
One of the most probable consequences if satellites stopped working would be compromised communication (Soffar, 2015). Immediately after their destruction, we would experience communication difficulties such as failure to conduct transactions and share information (Hollingham, 2013). If communication satellites are to be lost, then bandwidth would also be lost (Miller 1993). Without communications satellites, telecommunication would fall squarely on ground-based telecommunication systems and undersea cables (Martin 2000). Many forms of communications would disappear instantly but some would remain. International calls and data traffic are solely dependent on communication satellites. Without these satellites, international calls would have to be re-routed and this would put pressure on undersea and terrestrial lines (Starosielski 2015). The capacity of undersea and terrestrial line would be saturated thus preventing calls from going through. Many internet connections would also vanish and those that would not vanish would be severely overloaded (Hollingham, 2013). Mobile phones would be useless. Remote areas would be the most affected as people would lose satellite television, radio and internet (Hussain et al. 2008). A considerable number of television networks relay programming from satellites. Therefore, if satellites stopped working, cable television would be out of service.
Most people are dependent on GPS and without it, navigation would be crippled (Del et al. 2008). Reading an actual map is so 1990. If satellites stopped, Global Positioning System (GPS) would be lost (Dr. Dartnell, 2014). Following its launch, GPS is now global and a number of systems are reliant on it. GPS is used in Cars, cellphones, tracking devices and many airplanes. Airline would be the most affected as they heavily rely on GPS to generate the most fuel efficient route for their planes to use (Hollingham 2013). Aircraft controllers would have a difficult time routing and communicating with airplane in the absence of GPS (Del et al. 2008). Airlines would have to use legacy procedures and systems. Today, there is an increased volume of airplane traffic thus without GPS, accidents would be guaranteed (Dr. Dartnell, 2014).
Apart from airline navigation systems, supply chain management systems, cargo vessels and transportation hubs supported by GPS would also be affected (Fox 1996). GPS is commonly used for position but it has recently been used to provide timing. Though atomic clocks can provide timing, GPS is currently being used to distribute universal time standard (UTS) through satellites (Johnson 2013). Within minutes of satellites stopping, distributing networks would start to experience time drift (Hollingham, 2013). This would in turn lead to serious performance issues that would affect everything from the financial sector to the power grid. The lack off effective sync would be much felt in banks where timing of transactions is important. Financial transactions of up to billions of dollars would be lost leading to a financial crash.
Sudden loss of satellite services would have considerable effect on military systems. Satellites have profound importance to the United States warfare domain. These include intelligence, weather predictions, warfare, navigation and communication (Dartnell, 2014). Satellite capability is the backbone of the United States military. Losing satellite connections would make the U.S vulnerable to war (Richards 2012). Enemies to the U.S would find it easy to penetrate the country were it to lose its Satellite connections. Drones, ground units and even missiles would not operate as expected without satellites services (Sandau 2008). The U.S military would have to rewrite its war strategy as the 21st high-tech one would be compromised. War would be different without satellites as the fighting nations would even struggle to find each other (Jasani & Stein 2002). The U.S military also uses satellites to monitor arms. Without space systems, arms control compliance cannot be monitored. Satellites enable transmission enable local and global sharing of information. Without satellites, we would not know what is happening around the world.
Satellites have improved our ability to predict weather (UCSUSA, 2015). While it is fine to predict a slight chance of precipitation, some nations are highly dependent on satellites to predict hazardous weather. During hurricane season, satellites save an estimated $3 billion in property and life damage (Maini et al 2011). Loss in satellite service would compromise science. Most information about climate change is derived from weather satellites (Hollingham, 2013). Over a prolonged period of time without satellites, we would be incapable of monitoring the ozone layer, distribution of polar ice and carbon dioxide levels. Ground balloons would come in hand during such times but they would be less accurate (Burns et al. 1986). Apart from monitoring earth weather, without satellite connections, we would be incapable of monitoring space storms and other elements of space weather.
With all satellites wiped out and nations suffering below, most government and private interests would focus on restoring satellites. It would take decades or more to restore the satellites to current standards. The focus on restoring satellites would take away government focus on other important factors such as heath care and education. Though equally or more important, the restoration of the destroyed satellites would be expensive both in time and financial resources (Son 2008). For developed nations this would not be a major problem but developing countries would be crippled by this event.
Most people see satellites as chunks of metals floating in space. The lay man cannot begin to fathom the importance of satellites in his life. From all the above information, the world does rely heavily on those floating chunks of metal. From communication to navigation to military interference, satellites do play a major role in our lives (Capderou, 2005). Communication can be single out as the most important thing around the world. Telecommunication and TV broadcast are heavily reliant on satellites and without satellites connections they would both be crippled. In a world without internet, telephone, cellphones or TV, most things would come to a halt. The economy would suffer major loses and insecurity would heighten. Weather predictions would become a nightmare and people in monsoon prone areas such as India would succumb to bad weather. A world without satellite connection is therefore unimaginable.
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