We all marvel at the amazing images that we see coming from our satellites whether it is a view from space of a major hurricane or a great look at a huge sinkhole that almost looks like a perfect circle from space. Other than the fact that they exist most people have no idea either how many satellites they are or what their intended purposes are. We thought it would present the following 10 facts about satellites that most people we talk to do not know.
- There are 928 operating satellites as of April 2010. You would think with such a large number that they would eventually crash into each other (some actually do), but that is something we rarely ever hear about.
- The USA or U.S. companies own 437 of the 928 operating satellites. That’s 47.1% of the satellites (actually I’m guessing that most Americans would assume we own even more of them).
- The country that owns the second highest number of satellites is Russia with 95. The U.S. owns 4X more than the next closest country. China is in third place with 58 satellites. It’s not surprising that the 3 most recognized super powers and first to really explore space are leading the rest of the World. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues and for how long.
- The rest of the breakdown in satellite ownership varies pretty wildly. There are over 115 countries that own at least a part of one of the 928 satellites in various orbits around the earth.
- The majority of satellites are LEO (low earth orbits). This means that they range from 80 kilometers to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth. The actual percentage is 48.4% of all satellites that are in LEO.
- There are 381 satellites that are in Geosynchronous orbits (GEO) which is 36,000 kilometers or more above Earth. That accounts for another 41.1% of the satellites.
- The remaining satellites (10.5%) are either in elliptical orbit (meaning their orbit is elliptical shaped) or they are in medium earth orbits (MEO) which simple means greater than 2,000 kilometers but less than 36,000 kilometers above Earth.
- What does it cost to launch and build a satellite? Well, the answer of course is completely dependent on the function of the satellite but experts say the costs start at about $10 million and range up to $200 million.
- The largest satellite TV provider (DirecTV) now has 18 million subscribers (a huge increase over the 320,000 they had in their first year of operation back in 1994). That’s pretty large when the U.S. Census bureau estimates that there are currently 129 million households in America (more than 10% of American households have DirecTV).
- In terms of the use of the satellites 48.9% of all satellites are used for commercial purposes (satellite radio, satellite TV, satellite internet, etc.). While 25.1% are used for military purposes. The rest are for various Governmental/Civilian functions. Given the expense, it’s surprising that so many of them have commercial uses.
As you can see there are really a lot more satellites than most people realize and they have quite a few different and important uses. This is another example of the World finding many great ways to leverage a technology. Of course if you are a conspiracy theorist, it’s all just a great way for everyone to spy on each other.