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Abstract: This paper is based on material extracted from the WTEC Panel Report Global Satellite Communications Technology and Systems, December 1998. It presents an overview of key technology trends in communications satellites in the last few years. After the introduction which deals with such issues as the transformation of the one‐at‐a‐time approach for building satellites to a production‐oriented one, there follows a discussion of critical technologies for large geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites with power systems growing to 20 kW and more. Satellite antenna technology, one of the most critical areas in measuring progress, is next reviewed, including large reflector antennas, phased arrays and optical beam formers. This is followed by a discussion of onboard processing (analog and digital), progress in satellite traveling wave tubes, solid state power amplifiers and optical satellite technologies including intersatellite links (ISLs). Last some pertinent satellite bus issues (electric propulsion, thermal control and attitude control) are reviewed. Small and mini‐satellites are discussed, but not treated in great detail as much of their technology is derived from that of GEO satellites.