12.6. Earth Orbiting Satellites

By Daniel Brenners, December 2014.

Overview. Twenty two thousand miles above our heads, a global race for orbital real estate is underway. A single circular orbit around the Earth, called the geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), is the only area in space that allows a satellite to remain in a fixed point in the sky above Earth's surface while it rotates.1 This prime location allows for satellites to have consistent communication with the ground below. Satellite television, a $100 billion industry, relies on satellites within the GEO to broadcast signals to homes across the world. Global positioning systems (GPS) and military applications also depend on satellites within this thin ring around the Earth. Unfortunately, space is severely limited in the GEO, and tension is growing over who gets to send their satellites to this valuable parking lot in the sky. The principles used to organize which satellites get to be placed in the GEO have many unforeseen legal and sociopolitical complications. As room becomes limited, it becomes increasingly important to find a solution to the problem of multiple organizing agents competing to organize this system to support varying interactions.

What is being organized? The scope of resources being organized are the satellites being deployed to the GEO. These are physical objects that have been launched into orbit. The satellites are each unique and are able to provide a variety of interactions. The only unifying attribute ...

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