17
$\begingroup$

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)

$\endgroup$

3 Answers 3

17
$\begingroup$

Depends on how you count them. Russell Borogove's answer of 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.

The totals on Sept. 23, 2014:

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.

$\endgroup$
9
$\begingroup$

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.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 13:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Juancho Here's a recent picture of Earth (December 2013) demonstrating what one would actually see. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 20:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @called2voyage Much better and regularly updated imagery here, allowing you to not see the very latest satellites: epic.gsfc.nasa.gov $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 21:04
3
$\begingroup$

August 2020:

Total number of operating satellites: 2,666

  • USA: 1,327 - China: 363 - Russia: 169 - Other: 807
  • LEO: 1,918 - MEO: 135 - Elliptical: 59 - GEO: 554

Total number of US satellites: 1,327

  • Civil: 30 - Commercial: 935 - Government: 170 - Military: 192

Source - https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/satellite-database

Total satellites launched - around 9,000 - from those, 1,317 are nanosatellites and 1,210 of them are CubeSats - https://www.nanosats.eu

Dead satellites in orbit - about 3,000

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.