The numbers vary among estimates, but there are between 3,200 to 3,500 functioning artificial satellites in Earth orbit. Russia has the greatest number at around 1,437. The U.S. is second with 1,099 satellites in orbit.
Another definition of satellite is a manufactured vehicle intended to orbit the Earth. This definition makes our count much less because it includes only spacecraft and not debris that orbits the Earth. The Goddard Space Flight Center’s lists 3,215 satellites currently in orbit. Russia has the most satellites currently in orbit, with 1,437 satellites, followed by the U.S. with 1,099.
The most up-to-date data comes from CelesTrak which is funded by the Center for Space Standards and Innovation, located in Colorado Springs. As of writing there are over 13,000 satellites in orbit and over 24,500 satellites have decayed since 1957. Looking carefully at the data it appears that there are just under 3,500 satellites that are both functioning and in their correct orbit compared to nearly 10,000 that are classed as debris but haven’t yet decayed. So 75% of the satellites orbiting the Earth are junk!
The Space Surveillance Network has tracked a total of more than 24,500 objects in space. And of those, it’s currently watching about 8,000 objects currently in orbit. So, you could say that there are currently 8,000 satellites in space. Approximately 560 of those objects in space are actually operational satellites, and the rest are dead satellites, or pieces of space debris. The SSN tracks objects as small as about 10 centimeters in diameter (about the size of a basketball). So there are many objects even smaller out there.
The largest man-made satellite currently in orbit around the Earth is the International Space Station. Some satellites, called microsats, nanosats, or picosats, can be as small as 10 cm (3.937 inches) in diameter and 0.1 kg (0.22 pounds) in mass.
Satellites Of Countries
|Country||Year of first launch||First satellite||Payloads in orbit in 2010-2011|
|United States||1958||Explorer 1||1099|
|China||1970||Dong Fang Hong I||120|
|United Kingdom||1962||Ariel 1||29|
|Italy||1964||San Marco 1||17|
|Saudi Arabia||2000||Saudisat 1A||12|
|South Korea||1992||Kitsat A||12|
|United Arab Emirates||2000||Thuraya 1||3|
|Cyprus||2003||Hellas Sat 2||2|
|Greece||2003||Hellas Sat 2||2|
|Poland||1973||Intercosmos Copernicus 500||1|
|Bulgaria||1981||Intercosmos Bulgaria 1300||1|
When satellites reach the end of their mission, satellite operators have the option of de-orbiting the satellite, leaving the satellite in its current orbit or moving the satellite to a graveyard orbit. Historically, due to budgetary constraints at the beginning of satellite missions, satellites were rarely designed to be de-orbited. One example of this practice is the satellite Vanguard 1. Launched in 1958, Vanguard 1, the 4th manmade satellite put in Geocentric orbit, was still in orbit as of August 2009.
Instead of being de-orbited, most satellites are either left in their current orbit or moved to a graveyard orbit. As of 2002, the FCC now requires all geostationary satellites to commit to moving to a graveyard orbit at the end of their operational life prior to launch.