Only a decade into the Cold War, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite into orbit. The event caused alarm in the United States, as the newly demonstrated technological capabilities of its No. 1 geopolitical foe had profound security implications. In response, the U.S. launched its own satellite and created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, the following year.
In the decades since, maintaining a presence in outer space has only grown more strategically important. Today, there are over 4,800 artificial satellites orbiting the Earth, and hundreds of them have been launched expressly for military purposes. While dozens of countries have deployed military satellites, the United States has a reported 231, by far the most. Here is a look at some popular commercial products invented by the military.
Military satellites have a wide range of uses. These include, but are not limited to, communications, reconnaissance, weather tracking, and navigation. Using data compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit organization, 24/7 Wall St. identified the countries with the most military satellites.
While there are limits to the uses of military satellites – including an internationally recognized ban on the installation of weapons of mass destruction – their use continues to expand rapidly. More than one in every four military satellites in orbit were launched in 2019 or later. Here is a look at 12 new weapons the U.S. is adding to its arsenal.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the military presence a given country has beyond Earth’s atmosphere is partially a reflection of its military spending. Generally, the more satellites a country has in orbit, the larger its defense budget.
Click here to see the country with the most military satellites
Click here to see our detailed methodology
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