On October 4, 1957, Russia launched a small metal ball into orbit around the Earth. Named Sputnik, this was the world's first artificial satellite, and it began a whole new era of beeping metallic monsters circling our planet. It is estimated that today there are more than 500 active satellites circling the Earth. If we include dead satellites, old rocket parts, and other space junk, it is estimated that there are about 8,000 objects currently in orbit around the Earth. The active satellites include communication satellites, spy satellites, weather satellites, and observation satellites such as space telescopes. Most people are familiar with the Hubble Space Telescope, but many people do not realize that it is not the only one. The Spitzer Space Telescope is currently in orbit studying the universe in infrared light. The Chandra X-ray Observatory observes the universe in X-rays, revealing details hidden in other wavelengths. The James Webb Space Telescope is currently under development. When launched, it will be as large as a tennis court and will be able to see much farther into the universe than has ever been possible before.

Earth Observing System Mission Insignia Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer Mission Insignia Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer Mission Insignia

Earth Observing
System (EOS)

Launch: June 27, 1982

Solar Anomalous and
Magnetospheric Particle
Explorer (SAMPEX)

Launch: July 3, 1992

Tropical Rainfall
Measuring Mission (TRMM)

Launch: November 11, 1997
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Mission Insignia GOES I - M Mission Insignia GOES N- Q Mission Insignia

Near Earth Asteroid
Rendezvous (NEAR)

Launch: February 17, 1996

GOES I - M

GOES I Launch: April 13, 1994
GOES M Launch: July 23, 2001

GOES N - Q

GOES N Launch: May 24, 2006
GOES P Launch: March 4, 2010
National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Mission Insignia Advanced Research Global Observation Satellite Mission Insignia Landsat-7 Mission Insignia

Submillimeter Wave
Astronomy Satellite (SSWAS)

Launch: December 5, 1998

Advanced Research and
Global Observation
Satellite (ARGOS)

Launch: February 23, 1999

Landsat-7

Launch: April 15, 1999
Van Allen Probes Mission Insignia Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer Mission Insignia Stardust Mission Insignia

Starshine

Launch: June 5, 1999

Far Ultraviolet
Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE)

Launch: June 24, 1999

Chandra

X-ray Observatory
Launch: July 23, 1999
EOS Terra Mission Insignia Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics Mission Insignia Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite Mission Insignia

EOS AM-1 TERRA

Launch: December 18, 1999

Thermosphere Ionosphere
Mesosphere Energetics
and Dynamics (TIMED)

Launch: December 7, 2001

Ice, Cloud, and Land
Elevation Satellite (ICESat)

Launch: January 13, 2003
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Mission Insignia Spitzer Space Telescope Mission Insignia Herschel Space Telescope Mission Insignia

Galaxy Evolution
Explorer (GALEX)

Launch: April 28, 2003

Spitzer
Space Telescope

Launch: August 25, 2003

Herschel
Space Telescope

Launch: May 14, 2009
EOS GLory Mission Insignia Van Allen Probes Mission Insignia Tracking and Data Relay Satellite K Mission Insignia

EOS Glory

Launch: March 4, 2011

Van Allen Probes

Launch: August 30, 2012

Tracking and Data
Relay Satellite (TDRS) K

Launch: January 31, 2013
Magnetic Multiscale Mission Insignia National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Mission Insignia GOES R Mission Insignia

Magnetospheric Multiscale
Satellite(MMS)

Scheduled Launch: October 2013

National Polar-orbiting
Operational Environmental
Satellite System (NPOESS)

Scheduled Launch: March 31, 2014

GOES-R

Scheduled Launch: October 2015
James Webb Space Telescope Mission Insignia James Webb Space Telescope Mission Insignia James Webb Telescope Near Infrared Camera Mission Insignia

James Webb
Space Telescope

Scheduled Launch: 2018

James Webb
Space Telescope

Scheduled Launch: 2018

James Webb
Near Infrared Camera

Scheduled Launch: 2018