1. From Quartz, an interactive graphic of every active satellite orbiting earth – all 1200 of them (as at August 2014).
The graphic’s based on data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and lets you filter by age of satellite, launch country, purpose or primary user. You can also animate the satellites into their orbits, and see which are in low, medium or high orbit.
Hover over any of the dots and you’ll see a summary of the satellite’s owners, age, characteristics and purpose.
Interesting facts from the piece (and elsewhere) include:
- Most satellites have a lifespan of 5-10 years.
- The US has the most satellites in orbit – 495 – followed by Russia and China.
- The United Nations regulates satellites in orbit. I can recommend spending a bit of time exploring the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs and its Online Index of Objects Launched into Outer Space. See also the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems.
- The largest private satellite “constellation” is owned by Iridium. It’s Iridium’s satellites that NZ company SpiderTracks uses to provide aircraft owners with round-the-clock information on exactly where their aircraft are.
2. Over at satellitedebris.net you can see satellites using Google Earth, which taps databases from the US Space Intelligence Office (SIO), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (which is due to launch a new deep space climate observatory in January 2015), US Navy (due to launch a new satellite in January 2015) and others.
You start with an overview like this:
Use Google Earth’s controls to rotate the earth and zoom in to see satellites over a particular country at a particular time. In this case, New Zealand:
Click on any satellite to see its owners, age, characteristics and purpose.
If you’re interested in New Zealand participation in commercial and other space activities, you might want to check out the Kiwi Space Foundation website, which is an unfinished beast but seems to be keeping track of main players and media reports.
Also, RocketLab, founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, which plans to kick off its Electron “small, fast, & agile” satellite launch system in 2015.