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How Many Satellites Are in Space

The numbers vary among estimates, but there are between 3,200 to 3,500 functioning artificial satellites in Earth orbit. Russia has the greatest number at around 1,437. The U.S. is second with 1,099 satellites in orbit.

Another definition of satellite is a manufactured vehicle intended to orbit the Earth. This definition makes our count much less because it includes only spacecraft and not debris that orbits the Earth. The Goddard Space Flight Center's lists 3,215 satellites currently in orbit. Russia has the most satellites currently in orbit, with 1,437 satellites, followed by the U.S. with 1,099.

The most up-to-date data comes from CelesTrak which is funded by the Center for Space Standards and Innovation, located in Colorado Springs. As of writing there are over 13,000 satellites in orbit and over 24,500 satellites have decayed since 1957. Looking carefully at the data it appears that there are just under 3,500 satellites that are both functioning and in their correct orbit compared to nearly 10,000 that are classed as debris but haven't yet decayed. So 75% of the satellites orbiting the Earth are junk!

The Space Surveillance Network has tracked a total of more than 24,500 objects in space. And of those, it’s currently watching about 8,000 objects currently in orbit. So, you could say that there are currently 8,000 satellites in space. Approximately 560 of those objects in space are actually operational satellites, and the rest are dead satellites, or pieces of space debris. The SSN tracks objects as small as about 10 centimeters in diameter (about the size of a basketball). So there are many objects even smaller out there.

The largest man-made satellite currently in orbit around the Earth is the International Space Station. Some satellites, called microsats, nanosats, or picosats, can be as small as 10 cm (3.937 inches) in diameter and 0.1 kg (0.22 pounds) in mass.

Satellites Of Countries

Country Year of first launch First satellite Payloads in orbit in 2010-2011
Soviet Union
(Russia)
1957
(1992)
Sputnik 1
(Cosmos 2175)
1437
United States 1958 Explorer 1 1099
Japan 1970 Ōsumi 127
China 1970 Dong Fang Hong I 120
France 1965 Astérix 49
India 1975 Aryabhata 45
Germany 1969 Azur 42
Canada 1962 Alouette 1 32
United Kingdom 1962 Ariel 1 29
Italy 1964 San Marco 1 17
Luxembourg 1988 Astra 1A 15
Saudi Arabia 2000 Saudisat 1A 12
South Korea 1992 Kitsat A 12
Australia 1967 WRESAT 11
Brazil 1985 Brasilsat A1 11
Sweden 1986 Viking 11
Indonesia 1976 Palapa A1 10
Argentina 1990 Lusat 10
Israel 1988 Ofeq 1 10
Taiwan 1999 ROCSAT-1 9
Spain 1974 Intasat 9
Mexico 1985 Morelos 1 7
Thailand 1993 Thaicom 1 6
Ukraine 1995 Sich-1 6
Hungary 2012 MaSat-1 5
Pakistan 1990 Badr-1 5
Netherlands 1974 ANS 5
Czechoslovakia 1978 Magion 1 5
Turkey 1994 Turksat 1B 5
Nigeria 2003 Nigeriasat 1 4
Iran 2005 Sina-1 4
Denmark 1999 Ørsted 4
Malaysia 1996 MEASAT 4
Norway 1997 Thor 2 3
United Arab Emirates 2000 Thuraya 1 3
Egypt 1998 Nilesat 101 3
Singapore 1998 ST-1 3
South Africa 1999 SUNSAT 2
Chile 1998 FASat-Bravo 2
Cyprus 2003 Hellas Sat 2 2
Vietnam 2008 Vinasat-1 2
Philippines 1997 Mabuhay 1 2
Mauritius 2007 Rascom-QAF 1 2
Kazakhstan 2006 KazSat 1 2
Greece 2003 Hellas Sat 2 2
Morocco 2001 Maroc-Tubsat 1
Poland 1973 Intercosmos Copernicus 500 1
Poland 2012 PW-Sat 1
Colombia 2007 Libertad 1 1
Bulgaria 1981 Intercosmos Bulgaria 1300 1
Algeria 2002 Alsat 1 1
Switzerland 2009 SwissCube-1 1
Romania 2012 Goliat 1
Portugal 1993 PoSAT-1 1
Venezuela 2008 Venesat-1 1

When satellites reach the end of their mission, satellite operators have the option of de-orbiting the satellite, leaving the satellite in its current orbit or moving the satellite to a graveyard orbit. Historically, due to budgetary constraints at the beginning of satellite missions, satellites were rarely designed to be de-orbited. One example of this practice is the satellite Vanguard 1. Launched in 1958, Vanguard 1, the 4th manmade satellite put in Geocentric orbit, was still in orbit as of August 2009.

Instead of being de-orbited, most satellites are either left in their current orbit or moved to a graveyard orbit. As of 2002, the FCC now requires all geostationary satellites to commit to moving to a graveyard orbit at the end of their operational life prior to launch.

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