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 about satellites
- 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.
If you’re interested in New Zealand participation in commercial and other space activities, you might want to check out RocketLab, which has kicked off its Electron “small, fast, & agile” satellite launch system. Also the New Zealand Space Agency, Centre for Space Technology and KiwiSpace.