Who is The Top Satellites Owner?

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Ivy Qin

10/2/20232 min read

SpaceX Owns Highest Number of Satellites

Per data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, SpaceX leads with the highest number of satellites, representing half of those in orbit. This includes an array of satellites, particularly from Elon Musk's Starlink, designed to bring internet access to rural regions. The implication of this is, how would telecom giants survive if Starlink can offer more reliable and accessible signals?

In 2021, the Space Race has evolved, with commercial players such as SpaceX, OneWeb, and Project Kuiper competing to deploy thousands of additional artificial satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) and beyond.

As of December 31, 2022, the total count of operational satellites stands at 6,718. Among these, the United States leads with 4,529 satellites, followed by Russia with 174 and China with 590. The rest fall into the "Other" category, totaling 1,425. When categorized by orbit, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) comprises the majority with 5,938 satellites, while Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) hosts 141, Elliptical has 59, and Geostationary Orbit (GEO) is home to 580 satellites.

Breaking down the numbers further, the United States accounts for a significant portion of these satellites with 4,529 in total. This includes 26 in the Civil sector, 3,996 in the Commercial sector, 260 in the Government sector, and 247 in the Military sector.

Picture: SpaceX Starlink Map

U.S. Leads While China is Increasing Its Investment in Space Program

The United States, with its unwavering commitment to space exploration, has allocated a staggering $62 billion towards space programs in 2022 alone, while China only spent around $12 billion.

This financial investment underscores the U.S.'s longstanding dedication to space research, development, and exploration, reinforcing its status as the foremost player in the global space arena.

Impact of Artificial Satellites

Currently, space debris doesn't pose a significant threat to our exploration endeavors. Its primary concern lies in its potential to endanger other satellites in orbit.

To safeguard against possible collisions and the ensuing risk of damage or destruction, satellites must proactively adjust their positions to evade incoming space debris. This necessitates a substantial number of collision avoidance maneuvers annually, including those executed by the International Space Station (ISS), which serves as a habitat for astronauts.

In essence, while space junk may not be an immediate impediment to our exploration efforts, the ongoing need for precautionary measures underscores the importance of diligently managing our orbital environment to ensure the safety and functionality of critical space assets.

There are predicted to be dramatic increases in space debris, radio frequency interference, orbital traffic and collisions, environmental fallout in the upper atmosphere or oceans after satellite decommissioning, and increasing global sky brightness.

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Source: Wiseras, Union of Concerned Scientist