Today I saw this picture:

enter image description here

Is this true? I have no idea how many satellites there are orbiting earth, but I do know that we have sent quite a few of them.

So, is it known how many satellites we have orbiting the earth right know? (I guess there must be some inactive ones)


Depends on how you count them. The answer above (1100) is probably in the right neighborhood for operational satellites. The number of dead satellites, debris objects and rocket bodies is far higher. If you have a Space-Track.org account, take a look under the "Boxscore" for the current count, broken down by country/organization of origin.

Today's totals:

Payloads:       3984
Rocket Bodies:  2005
Debris:        11193
Total:         17182

This is the total, as released by the US Air Force, and doesn't include a significant population which aren't publicly released for various reasons. It also doesn't include large swaths of the debris population which is either to small to reliably track, or hasn't been catalogued for various reasons. Depending on where you draw the line for the lower size bound, some estimates are as high as 100,000 objects.


According to this site, there are over 1100 operational satellites in Earth orbit. In addition to those and inactive satellites, there's a tremendous amount of "space junk" -- debris from launchers -- also in orbit around the Earth.

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    $\begingroup$ Just note that the drawings are absolutely not to scale. Earth is 12000km in diameter, satellites are at most 20m across when fully deployed. ISS is ~100m in size. $\endgroup$ – Juancho Sep 23 '14 at 13:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Juancho Here's a recent picture of Earth (December 2013) demonstrating what one would actually see. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Sep 23 '14 at 20:32

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