Aerospace & Defense

This Is the Largest Satellite Circling Earth

A Chinese rocket tumbled out of control and fell through the Earth’s atmosphere somewhere over the Indian Ocean this past weekend. The 23-ton Chinese rocket “Long March-5B” had launched part of a space station into orbit. The catastrophe was not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. Approximately 3,500 satellites are orbiting the Earth now. Some have decaying orbits and also will pierce the atmosphere in the next few years. Some are fairly small and will burn up on reentry. Others may have pieces that hit the ground.

The largest satellite circling the Earth is safe from such a fate. It is actively operated and usually carries humans.

The International Space Station was assembled in pieces between 1998 and 2011. It weighs almost 925,000 tons. It orbits the Earth at 17,100 miles per hour and completely circles the globe every 93 minutes.

The International Space Station is jointed operated by the United States and Russia. It can hold as many as seven people. The cost to assemble the satellite was well over $150 billion. So far, 242 individuals from 19 countries have visited the International Space Station.

According to NASA:

  • On-orbit software monitors approximately 350,000 sensors, ensuring station and crew health and safety.
  • The space station has an internal pressurized volume equal that of a Boeing 747.
  • More than 50 computers control the systems on the space station.

Click here to read about the 26 biggest milestones in the space race.