How Many Satellites Orbit The Earth? - Everyday Science

How Many Satellites Orbit the Earth?

How many satellites orbit the earth

There is no doubt that these artificial satellites are a huge technological and scientific advancement of human beings. But, could you tell how many satellites orbit the Earth?

These manmade satellites that are in orbit are used for several functions. For example, with the help of GPS, you can know your exact location or watch the TV channels of any country. You can also predict the time, collect scientific data. There also have military satellites and are used for military purposes.

In this article, we will reveal to you, how many satellites orbit the earth and their main characteristics. We also explain to you what they serve and some curious and interesting facts about these artificial satellites.

How many satellites orbit the earth?

All these artificial satellites that are launched are registered by a North American institution called Space Surveillance Network (SSN). It is a network of observatories that have been registered since 1957.

The SSN has registered any object that has been manufactured by man, with more than 10 cm in size and that is orbiting the planet Earth. Since its birth, it has registered a surprising number of more than 24,500 orbiting objects.  

How many satellites orbit the earth

How many satellites orbit the earth

The great part of them have been following an unstable orbit and finally ended up disintegrating or fragmenting when re-entering our atmosphere.

According to the latest data from NASA and the Online Satellite Calculations, there are currently about 3,500 artificial satellites in full operation. 

On the other hand, there are other 8,000 objects that right now are around the Earth. Among them are non-operational satellites and space junk. Now you know how many satellites there are in space.

It is fundamental to be able to keep track of and control the number and names of artificial satellites in orbit over our heads. But even more important is to have them minimally monitored, to know their orbits and trajectories. This allows detecting and/or predicting possible impacts between them or against the earth.

Also read: Saturn’s Ring are disappearing at alarming rate says NASA

Sputnik I: The First Artificial Satellite

The Space Surveillance Network (SSN) was created in November 1957 after the first satellite was put into orbit by the Soviet Union: Sputnik 1. This device orbited until it disintegrated on January 8, 1958, when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

how many satellites orbit the earth

Sputnik I: The First Artificial Satellite

It rotated around the planet at 32,000 km / h transmitting a permanent radio signal that, among other data, allowed knowing the density of ions in the ionosphere.

Over the years, space technology has been advancing exponentially. Nowadays, many satellites are placed in orbit for scientific, commercial, or military purposes. The total cost of orbiting a satellite has been falling progressively during the last years.

Also read: LiFi Vs WiFi and the Differences between them.

Which Country has more Satellites?

It might seem very simple, in theory, to know the number of satellites per country. But the realization is very different. But why does this happen?

It is really complicated to be able to know exactly how many artificial satellites each nation has. This is because all scientific, meteorological, or communications satellites are accounted for and registered.

But the same does not happen with spy and military satellites. Obviously many countries are reluctant to reveal how many satellites of this type they have in space. However, there are “official” figures in this regard.

By countries, the list with the number of space objects in orbit would be:

  • Russia: 1,420
  • United States: 1,049
  • Japan: 107
  • China: 98
  • France: 42
  • India: 40
  • United Kingdom: 26
  • Germany: 25
  • Canada: 24
  • Australia, Brazil, Italy, Indonesia, Sweden, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia: less than 10.

What are Satellites used for?

The artificial satellites that revolve around the Earth are currently very numerous. To launch a satellite into space, considerable technical and economic efforts are necessary.

So, why are so many efforts being faced? Why are such colossal expenses carried out? Does the turning of these devices in space have any purpose?

The answer is absolutely affirmative. In fact: the missions that develop artificial satellites on a daily basis are countless.

These missions refer to weather forecasts, astronomical and scientific data, reconnaissance activities (which are carried out by photographing military installations to discover the secrets of rival nations), television broadcasts, intercontinental communications, etc.

In summary, artificial satellites are excellent tools to help human progress.

Interesting Facts and Some Curiosities About Artificial Satellites:

Here are some of the interesting facts about these space machines:

  • The largest artificial satellites orbiting the Earth is the International Space Station – ISS
  • The oldest satellite that remains in operation is the Vanguard 1, which was launched on March 17, 1958. It is also the first satellite that used solar energy.
  • Some satellites can be very small, about 10 cm, and weigh 200 grams. They are known as nano, micro, or Pico satellites.
  • At present, several projects are underway to increase the useful life of artificial satellites through a kind of space workshop, which will repair and update them in orbit.
  • A consortium of 4 companies from Russia, the USA, Norway, and Ukraine called Sea Launch Co. LLC, is able to put several spacecraft into orbit each year for commercial purposes.

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