Balloon Satellites

In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object that has been intentionally placed into orbit. A few of these satellites are balloon satellites. They are satellites that are inflated with gas after they have been put into orbit. There are also other human-made objects which are also called satellites, only placed in a much lower altitude, and with a very different operating method. These include the geostationary balloon satellites and atmospheric satellites.

Flat-Earthers deny the existence of satellites, and after they discovered the existence of balloon satellites, they started to use the fact as “proof” that orbiting satellites do not exist. It is the fallacy of hasty generalization. Using the same “logic” they are using, we can use the existence of trucks to “prove” buses don’t exist.

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Fiber-Optic vs Satellite Communication

Fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting data by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber. These days, the majority of data communication involves a fiber-optic connection. However, other methods of transmitting data exist, including satellites.

Flat-Earthers use the prominence of fiber-optic communication as “proof” of the nonexistence of satellites. Such a line of thinking is a fallacy of hasty generalization. Using the same “logic,” we can “prove” trains don’t exist just by showing the existence of cars.

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Frame of Reference

A frame of reference consists of an abstract coordinate system and the set of physical reference points that uniquely fix the coordinate system and standardize measurements. Speed or velocity is relative to a frame of reference. It is possible that two speeds/velocities are measured relative to a different frame of reference and thus cannot be directly compared.

Flat-Earthers would often compare two different speed measurements like an airplane moving at 900 km/h (560 mph) and Earth’s surface near the equator at 1674 km/h (1040 mph). They would conclude the airplane should not be able to catch up with Earth’s surface and would not be able to land if the Earth is rotating. They are wrong. The speeds are measured relative to the different frame of reference, and therefore, cannot be compared directly.

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White Alice and the Troposcatter Propagation

Troposcatter is a signal propagation method using the scattering phenomenon in the upper troposphere. As the signal pass through the upper troposphere, some of the energy is scattered back toward Earth, allowing the receiver station at the correct location to pick up the signal.

White Alice is a decommissioned troposcatter network in North America. Some flat-Earthers invented the “explanation” that the various satellite-based services we enjoy today are using White Alice. They are wrong. White Alice and other troposcatter networks cannot possibly replace all the services provided by satellites.

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Composite Photos of the Earth

NASA has published several pictures of the Earth that are composites. It means the pictures were the result of combining many images into a single picture. In most cases, the source pictures were taken from low-orbiting satellites to obtain higher resolution pictures of the Earth.

Flat-Earthers discovered the photos are composites and claimed to have exposed “yet another evidence” of wrongdoing. They would publish this “findings” everywhere to turn us emotional. They are wrong. Nobody is covering the fact the pictures are composites, and there is no intention to deceive. Information that the photos are composites can be readily found in NASA’s website, far before the claimed “discovery” by flat-Earthers.

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The Lack of Motion Blur in Earth Photos

The surface of the Earth close to the equator is moving at the speed of about 1670 km/h due to Earth’s rotation. To take a sharp picture of the Earth with the resolution of 10000×10000 from a stationary position in space, it would require the shutter speed faster than 2.7 seconds. It is not difficult at all to take a sharp picture of the entire Earth without perceivable motion blur.

Flat-Earthers claim that it should be impossible to take a sharp picture of the Earth from space due to the speed of Earth’s rotation. To them, the fact that a photographer cannot take a sharp photo of a speeding race car from the sidelines (they actually can) tells us it should be impossible to take a sharp picture of the Earth moving at 10× the speed.

They are wrong. Motion blur is caused by the angular speed of the object relative to the camera, not from its absolute speed. The vast distance required to take a photo of the Earth results in a very low angular speed, making it not difficult at all to take sharp images of the Earth.

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Orbital Station-Keeping

A satellite in a high enough orbit can remain operational for a very long time because in space there is practically no air resistance. This is a situation that never occurs in our everyday life. A car requires a constant consumption of fuel to keep running, but a satellite can remain in motion without consuming any fuel because there’s practically no force stopping it.

Flat-Earthers claim that satellites cannot stay up there for such a very long time because ‘we never refuel any satellites.’ They are wrong. In space, there is practically no drag, and satellites only need to consume fuel to adjust their speed periodically.

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Rockets and the Lack of Oxygen in Space

Most combustion engines work with oxygen from Earth’s atmosphere as its oxidizing agent in the combustion process. But in the case of rockets, there’s no oxygen in space. It would have to bring the oxidizer in addition to its fuel or use monopropellant which doesn’t require an oxidizer.

Flat-Earthers claim rockets should not be able to work in space because there’s no oxygen in space. They are wrong. The lack of oxygen in space is merely an engineering problem which is not impossible to solve. Rockets are engineered to carry its oxidizer or utilize monopropellant which does not require an oxidizer.

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Drag

Drag is a force acting opposite to the relative motion of an object moving with respect to a surrounding fluid. The higher the density of the fluid, the higher the magnitude of the drag.

Flat-Earthers claim that it is impossible for satellites to have such high speed. Usually, they would compare the speed of satellites to something like the SR-71 Blackbird, which holds the record as the fastest aircraft. They are wrong. At the altitude where satellites reside, the air density is several magnitudes smaller compared to near the surface, and thus, the drag experienced by satellites is also several magnitude smaller.

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Satellite Watching

It is not hard to spot satellites. Satellites can easily be seen under the following conditions:

  1. They are easier to see the larger and the closer they are.
  2. The darker the sky, the easier to see them.
  3. Satellites are visible only when they are lit by the sunlight.

Because of these conditions, satellites are usually seen a few hours after sunset or a few hours before sunrise.

Flat-Earthers claim that satellites can never be seen, and the fact is evidence that “satellites don’t exist”. They are wrong. Satellites can easily be seen under the right conditions.

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Galilean Moons: The First Objects Observed to Orbit Another Object

Jupiter possesses four large moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. These are called the Galilean Moons. They are easy to observe and the first objects found to orbit a planet other than the Earth.

Flat-Earthers are often seen demanding proof that an object can orbit another object. All they have to do is to use a telescope to observe Jupiter and its Galilean moons.

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Geostationary Satellites

If a satellite has the orbit of 35786 km above Earth’s surface, the satellite will be in motion at the same speed as the Earth’s rotational rate. As a result, the satellite will appear practically motionless when observed from the surface. Many communication satellites reside in this orbit, and a satellite dish receiving signals from the satellite does not have to track the satellite.

Flat-Earthers often take the fact that satellites are in motion and most satellite dishes have a fixed direction as ‘proof’ the dishes cannot be pointing to satellites. They are wrong.

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Iridium Flare

Iridium is a satellite constellation consisting of 66 satellites. It provides satellite phone services over the entire Earth surface. The first generation satellites have three door-sized reflective antennas. Because of their reflectivity, Iridium satellites will occasionally reflect sunlight to Earth’s surface. The Iridium flare will look like a bright flash over a few seconds.

Most flat-Earthers deny the existence of satellites. Iridium flares provide an easy opportunity to confirm the existence of satellites, at least until the end of 2018, when they are replaced by newer non-reflecting satellites.

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Cellular Network vs. Satellite Communications

“If satellites exist, then why would mobile phone operators bother to install transceivers everywhere?” flat-Earthers asked this a lot.

The logic is that if using a satellite can get you a vast coverage area, then spending a lot of money and effort to install towers everywhere does not make any sense. Usually, they would follow-up and conclude that “satellites don’t exist.”

They are wrong. Satellites do exist, and there are good reasons why mobile phone communication utilizes cellular architecture.

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The MH370 Disaster and the Inability of the GPS System to Locate It

The GPS system is one-way. The satellites broadcast signals. GPS devices receive and process the signals to determine their location.

Flat-Earthers often point out the fact we were unable to locate the ill-fated MH370 as ‘evidence’ GPS doesn’t work and therefore doesn’t exist. They are wrong. GPS satellites never receive any signal from GPS devices, and it is not possible for them to locate MH370.

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Why Don’t We See Satellites in Photos Taken From The ISS?

“Why don’t we see satellites in photos taken from the ISS?” (or from space in general). That’s a recurring question within the flat-Earth community, usually asked without expecting an answer, assuming that an answer is impossible, and that it is a glaring oversight when the powers that be purposefully made the picture using CGI.

But no, the pictures are real. And satellites are not visible because they are too far spaced apart from each other.

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Curved Rocket Trajectory

Rockets follow a curved trajectory when going into space because their objective is not only to reach space, but also to enter Earth orbit. In Earth orbit, rockets have enough speed to counter Earth’s gravity and do not require a lot of energy to stay up there. To enter Earth orbit, a rocket needs to attain a high enough horizontal speed.

Flat-Earthers claim the curved trajectory of any rocket launch tells us no rocket has ever reached space. They are wrong. The curved trajectory is a way for rockets to enter Earth orbit.

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