Since Sputnik 1 launched the space age in 1957, thousands of satellites have orbited Earth. Though many have fallen back to Earth, these 10 operational satellites continue to make impacts in orbit. They are icons of technology, science, and exploration.
Note: Click on each satellite name to view the satellite(s) in immersive 3D detail.
- International Space Station - Assembled over the last two decades, this football field-sized structure orbits in LEO, hosting international astronauts conducting microgravity experiments.
- Hubble Space Telescope - The legendary Hubble orbits in LEO, sending back astonishing deep space images that have revolutionized astronomy.
- GPS Satellites - The 31 GPS satellites in medium Earth orbit provide positioning, navigation, and timing data to billions of users worldwide.
- Iridium Satellites - The 66 satellites of the Iridium constellation in low Earth orbit enable global satellite phone connectivity from pole to pole.
- GOES Satellites - These advanced weather satellites in geostationary orbit have monitored Western Hemisphere weather since the 1970s, tracking storms and improving forecasts.
- TDRS Satellites - The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network in geostationary orbit provides constant communication links between Earth and spacecraft like the ISS.
- Sirius FM Satellites - In elliptical geosynchronous orbit, these radio satellites broadcast Sirius XM’s commercial-free music to millions of subscribers across North America.
- Planet Labs Satellites - Planet operates a fleet of small Earth observation satellites in low Sun-synchronous orbits, imaging all of Earth’s landmass daily.
- INMARSAT Satellites - Located in geostationary orbit over the equator, these communications satellites provide mobile and emergency services to ships, planes and handheld devices.
- Tianlian Satellites - China’s six Tianlian data relay satellites in geostationary orbit transmit commands and data between the ground and China’s manned spacecraft.
These 10 modern satellite systems showcase cutting-edge space technology with real-world impacts. Their capabilities for observation, communication, navigation and more continue the iconic satellite legacy stretching back to humanity’s earliest space achievements.