A Sampling of Satellites Currently Orbitting our Planet

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As a technology fan and lover of gadgets I also have an interest in satellites.  Satellites provide all sorts of signals/data that we use everyday, including television, telephone (and other voice services), GPS, weather, military, science, amateur radio (yes, us hams have actually put our own tiny sats in orbit), and others.

While there are a great many active and inactive satellites orbiting the earth, here is a list of some of the more interesting that are currently active and working hard.   Satellites generally have a lifetime of 5 to 20 years.

There are currently about 3,000 satellites orbiting the earth of which approximately 1,100 are active.  That's quite a large number but, given the size of the area in which they orbit, they would seem to be on a long lonely highway.  By the way, about 220,000 objects are tracked in space but there are many more too small to track or are unknown.

If you are interested in tracking satellites try this link.


Hubble Space Telescope:  This orbiting telescope has been in service for 22 years.




GOES-12:  Provides weather data for North America.  Launched in 2001




Galaxy-14:  This relay satellite provides television signals signals for mostly the east coast, including ESPN, Lifetime, Sci-Fi, CNN, A&E and The History Channel.




KH-13: A not-so-secret U.S. spy satellite.




GPS11RII:  One of many GPS satellites orbiting the earth.




LANDSAT 7:  This satellite is used primarily to map the Earth's surface.  It's data is used by many companies including Google.




International Space Station:  The ISS has been occupied for nearly 12 years.




QUAKESAT:  This experimental satellite is supposed to eventually help predict earthquakes.




HELIOS 2:  A military observation satellite used by France, Belgium, and Spain.




AMSAT: These are very small satellites put into orbit by Amateur Radio Operators. A typical size would be around 30" x 24".




Interestingly . . .

There is a constellation of 66 Iridium satellites providing voice and data coverage to the earth for phones, pagers, and other communications devices.

There are 30 satellites in orbit for GPS service of which 24 are required to be active and working at any given time.

There are (an estimated) several hundred military satellites in orbit though most are secret and I couldn't find a reasonalbe source for the actual number.  It is estimated that at any given time the U.S. needs three to four military satellites to be active - a number that seems very small to me.  But, these satellites can be repositioned as needed.

Please add any additional & interesting facts about satellites in the comments section.

erick99 posted Jun 27, 2012
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12 Comments
erick99
I did leave out one very important satellite that orbits the earth that most folks can see very clearly almost every day - the moon.
erick99 (rep: 17.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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erick99
It's been a very productive month for me in this section as this is my 20th Page for the month of June :)
erick99 (rep: 17.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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Jameson99
I am also a ham and I know that AMSAT has quite a few satellites in orbit for amateur radio operators to use to relay our signals. My call sign is KB3MGR and I am a General Class operator. I looked you up and saw that you are KE3PB and have an Advanced Class license, very impressive!
Jameson99 (rep: 19) posted Jun 27, 2012
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ancagavs
You have very interesting articles :) It seems that you really like the research.
ancagavs (rep: 15.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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Florida2Texas
So can these sattelities be seen through a telescope? I am dying to see more stuff through my new telescope than just the moon!
Florida2Texas (rep: 10.6k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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erick99
@florida2texas: The Space Station can be seen by the naked eye some of the time and certainly by a telescope though you'd want to use a low power or even a pair of binoculars. Use the tracking site link on the article to find when it would be overhead for your location.
erick99 (rep: 17.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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erick99
@ancagavs Yes, I do :)
erick99 (rep: 17.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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erick99
@acidbaby. If you pop in here I would be curious to hear how your field uses satellites. Do you use them for mapping & exploration, for example?
erick99 (rep: 17.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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MaryRolle
My God, you are a prolific writer. I am also a college professor but I doubt I could keep up with your production! lol
MaryRolle (rep: 23) posted Jun 27, 2012
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Zoey2011
Are there any that can actually shoot a laser beam?
Zoey2011 (rep: 30) posted Jun 27, 2012
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erick99
@zoey2011: I think it's very possible but I couldn't find a weapons satellite last night when I was researching this. I could find lots of supposition and artists renderings of what a laser-firing satellite would look like but nothing definitive. However, I am curious to and will keep looking.
erick99 (rep: 17.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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erick99
From Wikipedia (the best I could do): "As of 2012, there are no known operative orbital weapons systems.'
erick99 (rep: 17.3k) posted Jun 27, 2012
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