There are 4,550 satellites orbiting around the Earth right now. They serve a variety of purposes including providing internet access, global positioning, and space observation. While some of these satellites are operated by government organizations, other satellites are owned by private organizations. Which companies and countries own the most of these satellites?
Data acquisition company Dewesoft analyzed data from the UCS Satellite Database, ESRI, and the Space Foundation to determine which companies and organizations were responsible for the most satellites orbiting space.
These are the ten companies that own the most satellites orbiting the Earth:
- SpaceX: 1,655
- OneWeb Satellites: 288
- Planet Labs Inc.: 188
- Chinese Ministry of National Defense: 129
- Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation: 125
- Spire Global Inc.: 121
- Swarm Technologies: 120
- U.S. Air Force: 87
- Iridium Communications Inc.: 75
- National Reconnaissance Office (NRO): 63
SpaceX owns the most satellites in space due to its Starlink initiative. The goal of Starlink is to give broadband internet access to people around the world. The decade-long project is estimated to cost at least $10 billion once completed and will consist of thousands of satellites. The beta internet service is currently available to 25 different countries around the globe.
OneWeb, the company that comes in second on the list, is based in England and has a similar goal as Starlink. They are aiming to create a satellite constellation that will provide broadband internet service to people all over the world. The first satellites were launched in February of 2019 and the company is planning on launching a total of 648 satellites as part of their first constellation.
Which country owns the most satellites?
The following are the top 20 countries that are responsible for the most satellites in orbit:
- United States: 2,804
- China: 467
- United Kingdom: 349
- Russia: 168
- Japan: 93
- India: 61
- Canada: 57
- Germany: 47
- Luxembourg: 40
- Argentina: 34
- France: 31
- Spain: 24
- Italy: 21
- Israel: 19
- South Korea: 18
- Brazil: 16
- Netherlands: 16
- Finland: 15
- Australia: 14
- Saudi Arabia: 13
The United States tops the list, primarily because SpaceX is headquartered in the country. Planet Labs, which owns 188 satellites and is third on the list of companies with the most satellites, is also based in the U.S. which helps contribute to the high number of satellites.
The second country on the list is China. The Chinese Ministry of National Defense is responsible for most of these satellites, accounting for 129 satellites. The China Academy of Space Technology operates 39 satellites and is the main spacecraft development and production facility in China.
There are generally four different types of orbits that satellites will be in:
- low Earth orbit (LEO): below an altitude of 2,000 km (1,200 mi) (about one-third of Earth’s radius).
- medium Earth orbit (MEO): between 2,000 km (1,243 mi) and 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above sea level.
- highly elliptical orbit (HEO): a highly elliptical orbit (HEO) is an elliptic orbit with high eccentricity, usually referring to one around Earth.
- geosynchronous orbit (GSO)/geostationary orbit (GEO): a circular orbit 35,786 kilometers (22,236 mi) above the Earth’ equator and following the direction of the Earth’s rotation. An object in such an orbit has an orbital period equal to the Earth’s rotational period (one sidereal day) and thus appears motionless, at a fixed position in the sky, to ground observers.
The majority of satellites in orbit are in LEO. These satellites are generally used for communications and remote sensing. 3,790 of the satellites on the list are in this orbit, as well as the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.
Infographic: Every Satellite Orbiting Earth and Who Owns Them
Data acquisition company Dewesoft published the infographic below: