How Many Satellites Are in Space? The Spike in Numbers Continues

July 11, 2023 | 3:01 pm
Stephen Young
Senior Washington Representative

At the end of 2022, countries had a total of 6,718 active satellites orbiting the planet, an increase of nearly 2,000 satellites in just one year. The bar chart below lays out the massive expansion in space assets that started in 2020 and has only kept going, increasing by an average of almost 30% in each of the last three years.

a bar chart showing the increase in operating satellites between 2006-2022

The vast majority of the increase is due to SpaceX’s Starlink network, which offers broadband, satellite-based internet services. SpaceX now regularly launches more than 50 satellites at a time on its Falcon 9 reusable rocket, an amazing achievement.

And, with launches happening as frequently as every week, the Starlink network now has more than 4,000 satellites in orbit. (The database shows 3,394 at the end of 2022.) In addition, SpaceX is seeking to vastly expand that network, with plans for an additional 30,000 satellites. However, in December 2022 the US Federal Communications Commission granted the company permission to operate only an additional 7,500 second generation satellites, at least for now.

Moreover, while SpaceX may be the first with a massive constellation of satellites, it is far from the only company with plans for a huge network. Indeed, our colleague Jonathan McDowell tracks these projects, and his database shows 17 potential mega-networks that could—at least theoretically—deploy over 400,000 satellites!

As always, thanks to Teri Grimwood for tracking the 28 pieces of data for each of the 6,800 satellites in our database. In this latest round since the last update in April 2022, she added over 1,300 satellites and deleted 137 that are no longer active. You can see the totals, with some breakdowns by country, orbit and mission on our satellite database webpage.

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