Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) is the standard generic term for satellite navigation systems ("sat nav") that provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning with global coverage. GNSS allows small electronic receivers to determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude) to within a few metres using time signals transmitted along a line-of-sight by radio from satellites. Receivers calculate the precise time as well as position, which can be used as a reference for scientific experiments.
A spy satellite officially referred to as a reconnaissance satellite is an Earth observation satellite or communications satellite deployed for military or intelligence applications.
These are essentially space telescopes that are pointed toward the Earth instead of toward the stars. The first generation type took photographs, then ejected canisters of photographic film, which would descend to earth.
Earth observation satellites are satellites specifically designed to observe Earth from orbit, similar to reconnaissance satellites but intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, map making etc. Geostationary satellites hover over the same spot, providing continuous monitoring to a portion of the Earth's surface. Polar orbiting satellites provide global coverage, but only twice per day at any given spot.
A space station is an artificial structure designed for humans to live and work in outer space for a period of time.
To date, only low earth orbital (LEO) stations have been implemented, otherwise known as orbital stations. A space station is distinguished from other manned spacecraft by its lack of major propulsion or landing facilities—instead, other vehicles are used as transport to and from the station. Current and recent-history space stations are designed for medium-term living in orbit, for periods of weeks, months, or even years. The only space station currently in use is the International Space Station. Previous stations include the Almaz and Salyut series, Skylab and Mir.
Tether satellite is a satellite connected to another by a thin cable called a tether. The space tether idea had its origin in the late 1800s. The idea became more popular in the 1960s, and subsequently NASA examined the feasibility of the idea and gave direction to the study of tethered systems, especially tethered satellites.
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