There are currently more than 5,500 satellites in space. The majority of these are in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) between 200 and 2,000 km. Most of SpaceX's communications satellites are positioned at an altitude of around 550 km. With Starlink, the U.S. company wants to build a constellation that will make high-speed Internet available even in remote locations. An interactive map now shows how far coverage has progressed. And why there is an urgent need for clear rules on how to behave in space.
SpaceX is the world's leading satellite operator
To date, Falcon 9 rockets carrying around 60 Starlink satellites have been launched 65 times into space. Of these, 32 launches were this year alone. In total, the Starlink constellation comprises around 3,500 satellites, of which more than 2,600 are in operation (as of November 2022). SpaceX has approval to launch a total of 11,927 satellites by 2027, and applications have already been submitted for an additional 30,000. But already SpaceX is by far the leading satellite operator in the world.
On the website satellitemap.space you can see the current status of the constellation. Each point represents a satellite whose position can be tracked in real time. Clicking on an object provides further details, including the launch date, the satellite version or the current orbital altitude. For comparison, this also works with Oneweb and GPS satellites.
Clear rules are essential
As a closer look at the map shows, low-Earth orbit is becoming increasingly crowded. This is also shown by the Stuff in Space project. Not only Starlink satellites are listed here, but almost all man-made objects in orbit. A large part is so-called space debris: for example, burned-out rocket stages, non-functional satellites or debris created by collisions. It is clear that as the number of objects increases, so does the risk of collisions. So far, there is no legally binding obligation as to how and when satellites, for example, must be disposed of after their operating life. The fact that neither politics nor industry can avoid dealing with this is also shown by the numerous other planned constellations such as Kuiper (Amazon) or Iris2 (EU).