Aerospace & Defense

This Is the Company With the Most Satellites in Orbit

The U.S. government has done a great deal to provide aid and weapons to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. The cost of this aid has stretched into the billions of dollars. One private sector company provides a particularly helpful service to Ukraine and its military.

Elon Musk gave out hundreds of Starlink receivers, which are part of his effort to build a broadband system that will work around the world. The Starlink system, in part built on thousands of satellites, provided Ukraine internet connectivity in a way traditional systems could not. As the receivers were delivered, the Ukraine minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted, “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”

Satellites have been launched into orbit since the early 1960s. Some are launched for military purposes. Others are sent up by private industry for many reasons, including services as widely used as weather forecasts.

To determine the company with the most satellites, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit organization. Companies were ranked by the number of operational satellites in orbit as of Jan. 1, 2022, that are at least partially being used for commercial purposes.

One example of the services these companies provide, or aim to provide, is Planet Labs’s plan. The San Francisco-based company’s eventual goal is to provide daily, high-resolution images of any area on the planet’s surface. Planet Labs operated 188 satellites as of the start of 2022, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The expense and expertise required to launch sophisticated communications satellites mean the club of the biggest satellite operators (based on the number of working satellites in orbit) is small and insular.

The company with the most satellites in orbit is SpaceX. Here are the details:

  • Active satellites in orbit as of 1/1/2022: 1,815
  • Country of operator: United States
  • Oldest operational satellite: Starlink-24 (launched 5/24/2019)
  • Newest operational satellite: Starlink-3235 (launched 12/18/2021)

Space transport company SpaceX, founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, has taken a strong lead in the satellite space race with its Starlink satellite internet network. In addition to its many customers, SpaceX will use its rockets to deploy satellites for its primary competitor in satellite internet service, OneWeb. Last year, SpaceX acquired Swarm Technologies, a provider of Internet of Things communications, as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

In determining the company with the satellites, only satellites that are owned and operated by a single company were considered. Government and multi-government agencies with commercial satellites were not considered. Additional data on the home country of the satellites’ operator, oldest and newest operational satellites, as well as launch dates, also came from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Note that oldest and newest active satellites were determined by launch date and that, in many cases, companies launched multiple satellites on the date noted. We did not consider any satellites launched in 2022.

Click here to see all the companies with the most satellites in orbit.

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