Remind students that satellites are used for communication, spying, search and rescue, scientific research, meteorology, navigation, and space exploration.

Basic components of a satellite could include solar panels to generate electricity, antennae to send signals and sensors to measure temperature, wavelength, latitude and longitude, or locate distress signals.

Design and build your own satellite and invent a mission for it.

  1. Discuss the following with students
  • What do satellites look like?
  • What are the orbits they follow?
  • How do they stay in orbit?
  • What are some of the tasks they perform?
  1. Look at examples of actual satellites and point out and discuss features and designs.
  2. Supply cans, egg cartons, paper or foam cups, and other materials to allow students to build their own satellite models.
  3. Ask them to address these questions before they design their models:
  • How is your satellite powered? (Real satellites are variously powered by solar panels, fuel cells that convert chemical energy to electrical energy, or by nuclear energy.)
  • What is its mission?
  • What kinds of remote sensing activities will you want it to perform?
  • How will it acquire this data? (What kind of equipment will it use?
  • How will it communicate with people on Earth?
  • What kind of orbit will you choose for it (polar or geostationary)?
  1. Using a string, suspend satellites from the ceiling of the classroom.
  2. Use a satellite model and a globe to illustrate how satellites orbit the Earth in a geostationary or a polar orbit.
  3. Write a press release to be issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) about what your satellite will do during its mission.

Within it provide a brief biography of the Mission Commander (you) and any selected crew members.

The press release should be no longer than two pages, double-spaced. The most important information should be in the first paragraph.


  • Photographs or illustrations of satellites
  • cans
  • milk cartons
  • egg cartons
  • paper or foam cups
  • plastic pipe cleaners
  • aluminum foil
  • buttons
  • coins
  • wire
  • cardboard
  • tape
  • rubber bands
  • glue
  • markers
  • crayons
  • string
  • a globe