How many satellites are in space? There are thousands of satellites in the sky above us at this moment, orbiting Earth. Satellites have many uses for the government, military, and even civilians. They provide us the ability to have things like Internet access, television, GPS, and much more. They also have scientific purposes such as Earth and space observation and provide the means for high-level technology development. More than half of the 4,550 satellites orbiting Earth are used for communications purposes, and that number will continue to rise as tech billionaires look to bring high-speed Internet access to every corner of Earth.
But what we want to know is, who owns our orbit? The research team at Dewesoft analyzed data collected by the UCS Satellite Database, ESRI, and the Space Foundation to create a list of the 50 owners of the most satellites orbiting Earth. As of Sept. 1, 2021, SpaceX is leading the race, with their Starlink satellite program planning to send more than a thousand new satellites into orbit every year. SpaceX owns an incredible 36% of the satellites in orbit around Earth. Read on to see which governments, organizations, and companies own the most satellites in our orbit with this galactic graphic.
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Who Owns the Most Satellites Orbiting Earth?
SpaceX owns and operates the most satellites orbiting Earth. The space company’s 1,655 satellites make up more than a third of the total satellites in orbit. Why are there so many SpaceX satellites in orbit? Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, has a goal of delivering high-speed broadband Internet access to almost everyone in the world through his new venture Starlink. SpaceX aims to launch a total of 1,500 Starlink satellites in 2021. SpaceX rockets bring tens of satellites up at a time, and it even set a record at the beginning of 2021 for bringing 143 satellites into Earth’s orbit on just one rocket. SpaceX now offers to transport other companies’ satellites to orbit on their rockets for the price of $1 million, which has opened up opportunities for even more commercial satellites to be launched into our orbit.
The 10 Owners of the Most Satellites Orbiting Earth
- SpaceX: 1,655
- OneWeb Satellites: 288
- Planet Labs Inc.: 188
- Chinese Ministry of National Defense: 129
- Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation: 125
- Spire Global Inc.: 121
- Swarm Technologies: 120
- U.S. Air Force: 87
- Iridium Communications Inc.: 75
- National Reconnaissance Office (NRO): 63
Which Country Has the Most Satellites Orbiting Earth?
The United States has the most satellites orbiting Earth. The 2,804 satellites that are owned or operated by an entity from the U.S. make up more than half of the total amount of space satellites that are currently in orbit. Through our analysis, we found that 75 different countries have at least one satellite orbiting Earth.
The 30 Countries With the Most Satellites Orbiting Earth
- United States: 2,804
- China: 467
- United Kingdom: 349
- Russia: 168
- Japan: 93
- India: 61
- Canada: 57
- Germany: 47
- Luxembourg: 40
- Argentina: 34
- France: 31
- Spain: 24
- Italy: 21
- Israel: 19
- South Korea: 18
- Brazil: 16
- Netherlands: 16
- Finland: 15
- Australia: 14
- Saudi Arabia: 13
- Taiwan: 13
- United Arab Emirates: 13
- Switzerland: 13
- Singapore: 11
- Turkey: 9
- Indonesia: 8
- Norway: 8
- Mexico: 8
- Thailand: 7
- Kazakhstan: 6
How Many Satellites Are in Orbit Around Earth?
Earth has 4,550 satellites in orbit, as of Sept. 1, 2021.
There are four types of orbits around Earth that you will find satellites in:
- low Earth orbit (LEO),
- medium Earth orbit (MEO),
- highly elliptical orbit (HEO), and
- geosynchronous orbit (GSO)/geostationary orbit (GEO).
More than 3,000 satellites are in low Earth orbit (LEO), which is where you will find satellites commonly used for communications and remote sensing satellite systems. This is where SpaceX Starlink satellites can be found, as well as the Internal Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope. The geosynchronous orbit (GSO)/geostationary orbit (GEO) has the second most satellites with 565, which are used for telecommunications and Earth observation. Satellites in GSO and GEO have orbital speeds that match Earth’s rotation; GEO objects orbit the equator, which gives them the appearance of being in a fixed position. The medium Earth orbit (MEO) contains 139 satellites and is used for navigation systems, such as GPS. The highly elliptical orbit (HEO) has 56 satellites that are used for communications, satellite radio, remote sensing, and other applications. This orbit differs from the others because it has an oblong shape and one end is much closer to Earth than the other.
The total number of satellites around Earth will keep increasing as SpaceX and other companies and entities continually launch satellites into orbit. SpaceX even has a goal of sending 42,000 satellites into space over the course of the next two decades!
What Purpose Do the Satellites Orbiting Earth Serve?
The satellites orbiting Earth serve many purposes. More than half of Earth satellites are meant for communications, including things like television, telephones, radio, Internet, and military applications. Most of these communications satellites can be found in geostationary orbit. Other uses for the thousands of satellites in the sky include Earth and space observation, Earth and space science, technology development and demonstrations, as well as navigation and global positioning. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of the 4,550 satellites that serve these main purposes:
- Communications: 63%
- Earth observation: 22.1%
- Technology development: 7.8%
- Navigation/global positioning: 3.6%
- Technology demonstration: 0.77%
- Earth science: 0.44%
- Space observation: 0.22%
- Space science: 2.3%
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