Airbus Defence and Space

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Dissecting a communications satellite: what are all the parts for?

This animation shows all the different elements that make up a communications satellite and their various functions.

Animation part of communications satellite by Airbus Defence and Space

A communications spacecraft consists of:

  • A service module, the generic standard element for all missions, supporting the basic functions of a space vehicle
  • The payload, which includes a mission-specific communications module carrying the RF equipment, as well as a set of receive and transmit antennas


The payload on a communications satellite is designed to receive and transmit signals to and from various places on Earth.

There are two main elements in a communications satellite payload:

  • Communications antennas, which receive and transmit signals down to Earth
  • The repeater subsystem, including the transponders and other equipment needed to change frequencies, filter, separate, amplify and group signals, and route them to the right address on Earth