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Supported by UK Space Agency

Satellite insight

Discover more about satellites and how useful they are as we try to create our own orbital objects.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Scissors
  • PVA glue
  • Pens or pencils
  • A4 paper
  • Satellite-making materials (like recycled plastic bottles, cardboard, paper, boxes, tubes, packets and scraps of material)
Satellite examples and features
PDF – 905.1KB

Before you begin

  • Have everyone bring along with them to the session the recycled items for making satellites, in as great a quantity as they can. These should be clean and ready to use as part of a craft activity.
  • Prepare enough copies of the ‘Satellite examples and features’ for one per group. Set out the materials to build a satellite in piles for each group.

Gain a satellite insight

  1. See how much everyone already knows about what a satellite is and what one does.

 

  1. Everyone should do their best to picture a man-made satellite in their head. They should try to focus on features and details. See if anyone can name any.

 

  1. Split everyone into pairs or small groups and have each pair or group sit by a pile of satellite-building recycled materials. They’ll also need the ‘Satellite examples and features’ for reference.
  2. Instruct everyone to build a satellite using the craft materials and recycled items. Encourage everyone to be creative in the design of their satellite. Real man-made satellites come in all shapes and sizes, from the size of a shoe box up to the size of a large van. All satellites have a power source, a way of sending and receiving signals and a propulsion system.
  1. When the models are made, join the small groups together to form larger teams of eight to 10 people. They should keep with them all of the models they just made. Each team will need some scrap paper.
  2. Have a person from each team write down a word or draw a picture of something that relies on satellites to function. Do this on scrap paper, then scrunch the paper into a ball. This will be the team’s ‘signal ball’.
  3. Each person with the signal ball should stand on one side of the activity area and be the ‘starting satellite’, while the rest of each team should dot themselves around the rest of the space. Those holding the satellites become ‘satellites’, while those not holding satellites or signal balls become ‘space rocks’.
  4. Explain that teams must pass their signal ball from the starting satellite to a ‘final satellite’, using their satellites to pass the ball.
  1. Each team should choose one of their satellites or players to be the ‘final satellite’. The signal ball should be caught in the antenna dish, before being thrown to the next satellite.
  1. When everyone understands, run the game. When a signal ball reaches the final satellite, it can be unrolled and read out. Everyone in the team should then swap roles, create a new signal ball and play again.

Take it further by creating a gravity well

  1. Now, split into groups of three or four. Give each group a hula hoop, four bulldog clips and a piece of cloth or sheeting.
  2. Have each group stretch their piece of cloth or sheeting over the hula hoop and secure it to the hoop using the bulldog clips. Give each group a weight, like a hockey ball, to place in the centre of the cloth or sheeting attached to the hoop. It should make an impression in the centre.
  1. Give each group two marbles and have them try to roll the marbles around the gravity well. Groups should work together to make sure the marbles move in circles or ellipses around the centre of the cloth or sheeting, without crashing into it. Let each group complete a few successful orbits.
  2. Have everyone think about this experiment, and how it might relate to satellites in orbit around the Earth.

Reflection

This activity helped us to understand how satellites communicate with each other, and therefore how we use satellites to communicate using technology. When we speak face-to-face, we communicate using more than just words. We use pitch and tone, as well as body language. But when we use technology, emails and text messages, for example, we only communicate with written words, so the meaning of our messages could be misunderstood by the receiver. When communicating using these technologies, how can we be sure that our messages are clear and understandable for the receiver? If you’re sending a message to a group of people, how can you address the specific person you need to speak to?

Safety

Scissors

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people

Science

Supervise young people, and only do science activities that are advised and age appropriate for your section. Test activities first, to make sure you’re confident you can lead them safely. Use protective clothing where necessary.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.