For much of the 20th century, the Soviet Union and the United States competed in the Cold War space race to outdo each other in space flight and rocket technology. Now another race is taking place, this time commercially, as publicly traded and private companies send more satellites into low Earth orbit. (It is the country with the most military satellites.)
As commercial communications satellites have been launched into orbit since the early 1960sthe orbital communications services industry really began to take off in the 1990s.
Today, several large companies operate constellations of satellites that can provide data on a global scale, including satellite internet, GPS, telephone service that works anywhere, and earth observations useful for weather monitoring, mining, forestry and agriculture.
To determine the companies with the most satellites, 24/7 Wall St. looked at data compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit organization. Companies are ranked by the number of operational satellites in orbit as of January 1, 2022 that are at least partially used for commercial purposes.
An example of the services these companies provide, or aim to provide, is the Planet Labs plan. The San Francisco-based company’s end goal is to provide daily high-resolution images of any area of the planet’s surface. Planet Labs operated 188 satellites at the start of 2022, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The expense and expertise required to launch sophisticated communications satellites means that the largest satellite operator’s club (based on the number of satellites in orbit) is small and insular.
London-based OneWeb, the second-largest satellite company based on satellite count, works with SpaceX to deliver its satellites into orbit, even though SpaceX’s Starlink is OneWeb’s main competitor for high-speed internet via satellite. Last year, SpaceX, which owns the world’s largest constellation of satellites, acquired Swarm Technologies, an Internet of Things satellite communications provider, as a wholly owned subsidiary. (These are Elon Musk’s businesses.)
In 2016, the Luxembourg company SES launched a tender to buy O3b Networks, which strives to provide high-speed Internet access to underdeveloped regions of the world, in a $730 million deal. O3b Networks later became O3b mPOWER, one of the services offered by SES. Earlier this year, San Francisco-based Spire Global began using satellite dishes made by Ontario-based Kepler Communications.
It is the company with the most satellites in orbit
Click here to see our detailed methodology