Satellite-communication systems are expected to play a significant role in meeting global telecommunication demands in the 21st century. Recent convergence of computing and communications has opened new markets for services and applications such as web surfing, video conferencing, Intranet and High Speed Internet Access. Hybrid satellite and terrestrial solutions will provide an interconnectivity with distant/isolated nodes of the terrestrial network. A number of new satellite-communication systems have been proposed at geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) and low earth orbit (LEO) configurations operating at Ka-band and above frequencies. Most of these system are planned to use on- board processing and ATM or 'ATM-like' switching. Although ATM technology has been designed to provide a transparent service over terrestrial networks, satellite ATM networks will provide global connectivity and statistical multiplexing gain while maintaining quality of service (QoS) requirements. To make future satellite systems for multimedia services feasible, several technical and regulatory/standards challenges have to be solved. This paper reviews briefly the planned GEO and LEO systems, addresses the multimedia satellite network architectural issues, and discussed the technical challenges such as traffic management, QoS, performance requirements, and possible solutions. the current status on the standards activities for satellite ATM networking is also provided.