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This paper presents a review of the most recent information on the effects of the earth's atmosphere on space communications systems. The design and reliable operation of satellite systems which provide the many applications in space and rely on the transmission of radio waves for communications and scientific purposes are dependent on the propagation characteristics of the transmission path. The presence of atmospheric gases, clouds, fog, precipitation, and turbulence cause uncontrolled variations in the signal characteristics which can result in a reduction of the quality and reliability of the transmitted information. Models and techniques used in the prediction of atmospheric effects as influenced by frequency, geography, elevation angle, and type of transmission are discussed. Recent data on performance characteristics obtained from direct measurements on satellite links operating to above 30 GHz are reviewed. Particular emphasis is placed on the effects of precipitation on the earth-space path, including rain attenuation, and rain and ice-particle depolarization. Sky noise, antenna gain degradation, scintillations, and bandwidth coherence are also discussed. The impact of the various propagation factors on communications system design criteria is presented. These criteria include link reliability, power margins, noise contributions, modulation and polarization factors, channel crosstalk, error-rate, and bandwidth limitations.