How many Earth Observation Satellites are there in space right now?

Ever wondered how many satellites are there in space? Find out here.

How many Earth Observation Satellites are there in space right now?
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How many Earth Observation Satellites are there in space right now?

Earth Observation satellites make up for more than one-third of the satellites currently operational in space right now.

As per the data released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), there are almost 2,000 satellites orbiting in space. Out of these 2000, almost 700 are primarily for Earth Observation (more specifically, Earth Sciences).

Earth Observation and Geospatial is a growing industry that has seen almost 10% growth over the previous year (2017). But what is surprising here is that this industry has explosively grown since 2014, when there were only about 200 active EO satellites.

This implies, there has been a compounded growth of over 250% in the last four years and the industry has performed exceedingly well.

The main reason behind this growth is the creation and launch of minimalistic and ultra functional CubeSats, which are miniature satellites that are mostly used in Earth Orbit.

These are lightweight (each not exceeding 1.5 kgs.) and have shorter lifespans compared to full-size satellites that are launched.

Currently, out of the 700 EO satellites, almost 250 are CubeSats.

Apart from these, there are microsatellites (microsats), small satellites, and larger satellites. Microsatellites weigh anything between 10kgs-100kgs, while small satellites range from 100kgs-500kgs.

Larger satellites weight above 500kgs.

Apart from the 250 CubeSats, there are almost 70 microsatellites, approximately 85 small satellites, and 204 large satellites. The remaining satellites are not sized but are mostly for military use by the USA and China.

These satellites have a multitude of uses ranging from infrared imaging, thermal imaging, optical imaging, radars, earth sciences, and much more. More and more uses of satellites are coming up every day.

Some satellites simply list Earth Observation as their purpose but it should be noted that most satellites have more than one function and use,

The data from Earth Observation Satellites is used by a variety of organisations and people including Governments, Agencies, Commercial Organisations, and even Military.

A majority (just over 50%) of these satellites are owned and controlled by the United States. China comes second, where it controls almost 18% of the satellites. After that, India, Japan, and Russia hold small but significant shares in the total satellites in orbit with just over and about 3% each.

At present, around 43 countries have claimed and listed themselves as having control over at least one EO satellite. This number has seen an improvement compared to the last 5-10 years.

The projected growth of Earth Observation satellites is not much in the short term, but in the long game- this industry and field of study are sure to grow at a steady pace.