This is the Nation With the Most Military Satellites, After The United States

Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion has been fairly remarkable, aided by satellite imagery from private companies. Ukraine requested at the beginning of the conflict, and began receiving shortly after, imagery from commercial satellite operators. In fact, the May installment of the U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, valued at $1.2 billion, includes funding for commercial satellite imagery services.

This highlights the importance that military satellites have become in modern warfare, enabling countries to enhance their defense capabilities, surveillance, communication, and intelligence gathering. Globally, a few nations maintain an overwhelming presence in the space domain, predominantly the United States, Russia, and China. Generally speaking, more military satellites greatly improve a country’s capabilities across the world, providing secure global communications and surveillance networks.

To determine the countries with the most military satellites, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the UCS Satellite Database from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science organization. Countries are ranked by the number of satellites in orbit as of Jan. 1, 2023 that are at least partially being used for military purposes. Countries with the same number of military satellites are listed in alphabetical order. Additional data about the total number of satellites a country has and which military agencies operate the most military satellites came from the UCS. We only considered satellites that are owned and operated by a single country. Data on each country’s military expenditure from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database.

Some of the strongest armies on the planet are backed by some of the best infrastructure and satellites. However, satellites are not cheap, and therefore countries with greater military expenditures tend to have more satellites in orbit. Notably, some of the top names on this list – Russia, China, and the United States – have some of the highest military budgets and strongest militaries. (These are the countries with the strongest military might.)

The United States stands as a global leader in military satellite operations. With its well-established space program and extensive infrastructure, the U.S. operates an impressive fleet of military satellites, at well over 200. The U.S. Air Force alone operates more satellites than NASA. (Here is how the world’s top military spenders compare to the U.S.)

Russia is another nation at the top of this list with a rich history in space exploration. The successor of the Soviet Union, Russia continues to maintain a strong presence in satellite operations that began with the first ever satellite launched, Sputnik. The country possesses a diverse range of satellites, including reconnaissance and communication satellites. 

The United States and Russia are only a couple of the countries leading the charge in satellite technology and operation.

Here is a look at the countries with the most military satellites.

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