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First I was going to ask how many rocket bodies lay at the bottom of the ocean, but I simplified further.

Remember, this includes sounding rockets; anything passing the Kármán line.

I'm looking for a good guesstimate. I'm sure it's more than a thousand and less than a million, and guessing that it's probably about half-way between on a log scale (~31,600).

Food for thought; Gunter's Space Page has a map of launch sites worldwide http://space.skyrocket.de/directories/launchsites.htm Here's a screenshot at maximum zoom-out:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Jonathan McDowell has the numbers. planet4589.org/space/lvdb/index.html $\endgroup$ – pericynthion Nov 15 '17 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ @pericynthion I see a whole lot of data, but "the number" may take some effort to find. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 15 '17 at 9:44
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About 35,000-40,000, including sounding rockets.

Ordinarily I'd provide a hard source, but since you specifically asked for a guesstimate I'll just cite myself: My answer here claims ~5,000 orbital launches; unfortunately I failed to cite my source there and can't recall where I got that data -- I don't think I added up all the entries linked from Wikipedia's Timeline of Spaceflight article, but it's possible that I did.

Jonathan McDowell's list of suborbital space launches, updated 9/2017, includes this summary:

This database forms the background data for a comprehensive launch list of 70536 launches. The launches include 5704 orbital launch attempts, 28466 suborbital launches, and 36366 endoatmospheric flights

So this would be between 28466 and 34170 depending on how many of the orbital launch attempts reached space.

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  • $\begingroup$ space.skyrocket.de/directories/launchsites.htm $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 14 '17 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ That makes your initial estimate Quite Good Actually. Revising... $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Nov 15 '17 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ I added up all the launches in the Timeline of Spaceflight article and got: 5178 Full launch successes, 108 Partial failures, i.e. lower-than-expected orbit or failure of secondary mission, 394 Failures to reach orbit, and 249 Future scheduled missions. So ~5000 sounds right $\endgroup$ – Mark Omo Nov 15 '17 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ 70536 = 5704 (orbital launch attempts) + 28466 (suborbitals) + 36366 (endoatmospheric). If all of the 5704 orbital launch attempts blew up below the Kármán line, then 28466; if all of them reached space but failed to orbit, then 34170, and it's certainly somewhere in between. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Nov 17 '17 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSchröder I couldn't swear to "all", but the database includes many launches of e.g. Atlas, Polaris, and Minuteman, with annotations suggesting tests and military exercises, as well as Russian launchers such as UR-100N (aka SS-19 STILETTO). $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Nov 21 '17 at 2:06
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Scott Manley had re-tweeted about this.

The Economist's The space race is dominated by new contenders is paywalled, but here's the first bit, and the graphic.

enter image description here

Source: FAA; Jonathan McDowell/planet4589.org, Roscosmos, press reports; United Launch Alliance, Franc,e Italy, and European Space Agency (ESA)

Some 4,500 satellites circle Earth, providing communications services and navigational tools, monitoring weather, observing the universe, spying and doing more besides. Getting them there was once the business of the superpowers’ armed forces and space agencies. Now it is mostly done by companies and the governments of developing countries.

Print edition Oct 18th 2018

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