Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures

Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures

Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures

Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures

Synopsis

Down to Earth presents the first comprehensive overview of the geopolitical maneuvers, financial investments, technological innovations, and ideological struggles that take place behind the scenes of the satellite industry. Satellite projects that have not received extensive coverage--microsatellites in China, WorldSpace in South Africa, SiriusXM, the failures of USA 193 and Cosmos 954, and Iridium--are explored. This collection takes readers on a voyage through a truly global industry, from the sites where satellites are launched to the corporate clean rooms where they are designed, and along the orbits and paths that satellites traverse. Combining a practical introduction to the mechanics of the satellite industry, a history of how its practices and technologies have evolved, and a sophisticated theoretical analysis of satellite cultures, Down to Earth opens up a new space for global media studies.

Excerpt

Thousands of satellites have been launched into orbit during the past fifty years. During these launches eager spectators gazed upward in amazement as a fiery plume turned into a delicate white contrail tracing a rocket as it bolted into the sky only to vanish a few minutes later. The scene of a satellite launch is familiar to most. Not only have thousands of people witnessed launches with their own eyes, such scenes have appeared in television news accounts and have been popularized by Hollywood films over the years. While the purpose of a launch is to thrust a satellite into orbit, this book sets out to perform a reverse maneuver and bring the satellite down to Earth. In doing so, it focuses on the material effects and functions of satellites, the countries and companies that develop them, the cultures they generate, the orbital paths they occupy, and the industries of which they are a part.

While many are familiar with the spectacle of the launch, fewer people know about satellites themselves. Thus the act of witnessing a satellite launch can be understood as one small step toward a deeper investigation of satellite technologies, industries, and cultures. Satellite design is a highly specialized field that involves engineers and scientists who tinker behind closed doors in federal science labs and corporate clean rooms. Satellite regu lation enlists a scattered web of national and international agencies ranging from the Federal Communications Commission to the European Space Agency and from the United Nations (U.N.) to the International Telecommunications Union. Satellite funding structures are labyrinthine and support everything from the fabrication of the satellite itself to the policies that insure it, from the building of Earth stations to the salaries of employees who manage them. And satellite uses are manifold, engaging all kinds of players from different parts of the world, whether a wildlife biologist tracking a grizzly bear in Alaska, an immigrant worker in Germany downlinking a television show from Turkey, or a U.S. military intelligence analyst monitoring nuclear weapons facilities in Iran.

This book is titled Down to Earth to emphasize the material and territorial relations of satellite technologies, industries, and cultures. It is also meant to . . .

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