For the first time ever, China has launched more rockets into orbit in a year than the U.S. In 2011, the Chinese sent 19 rockets into space. The U.S. sent just 18. Russia, the Walmart of space launches, fired off no fewer than 31 rockets.
…Beijing is not about to catch up to Washington in space. For starters, the U.S. government spends more money than any other country on space launches and spacecraft: nearly $50 billion, compared to just $25 billion or so for all other governments combined…Washington is projected to possess the biggest space arsenal for decades to come.
American launch organizations, which include NASA, the military and several private companies, had a perfect success rate last year. China lost one experimental satellite when a Long March rocket veered off course in August. Russia had the worst record, with four failed launches.
U.S. rockets on average carried more satellites per launch than their Chinese counterparts. Last year, the 18 U.S.-launched rockets placed 28 satellites into orbit. Nineteen Chinese launches placed just 21 sats. Russia’s 31 launches delivered 53 spacecraft.
Not to mention that all the American satellites last longer, but that isn’t the most interesting part for me. What is fascinating is the total amount of spacecraft up there. The report says that during the Cold War the U.S. had 400 satellites in orbit.
It’s not crazy to think that number has doubled or tripled since then. Plus, all the other countries (Japan, European Union) launching things these days. I bet the number is somewhere in the 1,000-2,000 range!
// Thx to Dave Schroeder, Photo via Jurvetson