Launched Objects by Country
There are around 60,000 cataloged objects. Most of these satellites, rocket bodies, and debris were launched by the United States, Russia, and China.
Early Start in Space Exploration
Both the USSR (now Russia) and the US were pioneers in space exploration, starting with the Space Race during the Cold War. This early start gave them a significant technological and infrastructural advantage. They developed extensive space programs and have continued to maintain and expand their satellite capabilities. China, while a later entrant compared to the US and USSR, has rapidly developed its space program in recent decades.
Geopolitical and Military Interests
Satellites play a critical role in national security and defense. The US, Russia, and China use satellites for surveillance, intelligence, communication, and navigation to support their military and strategic interests. The presence of a large number of satellites is a reflection of their focus on maintaining and enhancing national security and global influence.
The US and USSR began developing ASAT capabilities during the Cold War as a part of their military and strategic competition. China also developed these capabilities more recently. These tests, especially during the earlier years, often resulted in the creation of space debris. The infamous 2007 Chinese ASAT test, for instance, generated a large amount of debris when China destroyed one of its own weather satellites.
Long-lasting Impact of Debris
Once created, space debris can remain in orbit for many years, even decades. The fragments from a single ASAT test can thus significantly and persistently inflate the number of objects in space attributed to a particular country. This debris continues to orbit the Earth and is tracked along with operational satellites.