Annual number of objects launched into space
What you should know about this indicator
- Objects are defined here as satellites, probes, landers, crewed spacecrafts, and space station flight elements launched into Earth orbit or beyond.
- This data is based on national registers of launches submitted to the UN by participating nations. According to UN estimates, the data captures around 88% of all objects launched.
- When an object is marked by the source as launched by a country on behalf of another one, we’ve attributed the launch to the latter country.
- When a launch is made jointly by several countries, it is recorded in each of these countries' time series but only once in the 'World' series.
Since 1962, the United Nations has maintained a Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space. Originally established as a mechanism to aid the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in its discussions on the political, legal and technical issues concerning outer space, the evolution of international space law resulted in space object registration becoming a means of identifying which States' bear international responsibility and liability for space objects.
Following multi-year discussion among States, the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space entered into force in 1976. States and international intergovernmental organizations that agree to abide by the Convention are required to establish their own national registries and provide information on their space objects to the Secretary-General for inclusion in the United Nations Register. Responsibility for maintenance of the Register was delegated by the Secretary-General to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. As required under the treaty, UNOOSA publicly disseminates the information provided as United Nations documents, which are available through its website and through the United Nations Official Document System.
To date approximately 88% of all satellites, probes, landers, crewed spacecraft and space station flight elements launched into Earth orbit or beyond have been registered with the Secretary-General.
[Text from United Nations Space Objects Register website]
Sources and Processing
This data is based on the following sources
How we process data at Our World in Data
All data and visualizations on Our World in Data rely on data sourced from one or several original data providers. Preparing this original data involves several processing steps. Depending on the data, this can include standardizing country names and world region definitions, converting units, calculating derived indicators such as per capita measures, as well as adding or adapting metadata such as the name or the description given to an indicator.
At the link below you can find a detailed description of the structure of our data pipeline, including links to all the code used to prepare data across Our World in Data.
Notes on our processing step for this indicator
To prepare this data:
- We aggregate object launches listed in the source’s online index by country and year.
- When an object is marked by the source as launched by a country on behalf of another one, we attribute the launch to the latter country.
- When a launch is made jointly by several countries, it is recorded in each of these countries' time series.
- We calculate the total number of launches globally. This is available as “World” in the data. When a launch is made jointly by several countries, it is only recorded once in the “World” series.
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