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The paper describes some essential trends in the development of satellite communications and introduces promising future applications. Important developments are the set up of standards based on digital video broadcast (DVB) and the application of on-board switching taking into account quality of service (QoS). Other developments are the application of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) to satellite networks and the usage of optical inter-satellite and inter-platform links. Seamless interworking with terrestrial wireless access networks and with terrestrial core networks is of paramount importance for the success of satellite networks. Future applications of satellite communications include aeronautical satellite communications, satellite-based air traffic management and personalised land mobile radio broadcasting.