We all have our favorite radio stations that we preset into our car radios, flipping between them as we drive to and from work, on errands and around town. But when you travel too far away from the source station, the signal breaks up and fades into static. Most radio signals can only travel about 30 or 40 miles from their source. On long trips that find you passing through different cities, you might have to change radio stations every hour or so as the signals fade in and out. And it's not much fun scanning through static trying to find something -- anything -- to listen to.

Photo courtesy XM Satellite Radio
Satellite radio broadcasters promise crystal-clear music transmitted from thousands of miles into space.

Now, imagine a radio station that can broadcast its signal from more than 22,000 miles (35,000 km) away and then come through on your car radio with complete clarity. You could drive from Tacoma, Washington, to Washington, D.C., without ever having to change the radio station! Not only would you never hear static interfering with your favorite tunes, but the music would be interrupted by few or no commercials.

XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio have both launched such a service. Satellite radio, also called digital radio, offers uninterrupted, near CD-quality music beamed to your radio from space.

Car manufacturers have installed satellite radio receivers in some 2001 and 2002 models, and electronics companies have launched several models of portable satellite radio receivers. In this article, you'll learn what separates satellite radio from conventional radio and what you need to pick up satellite radio signals.

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