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Visualized: Which Countries are Dominating Space?

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Visualized: Which Countries are Dominating Space?

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Visualized: Which Countries are Dominating Space

Believe it or not, there is a lot of stuff in space. In fact, our atmosphere is filled with more than 11,000 objects that have been launched since the foray into space began.

The Space Race started during the Cold War, and early on the Soviet Union dominated when it came to the amount of devices and objects launched into our atmosphere. But a few years ago, the U.S. took back that title with Elon Musk’s SpaceX helping lead the charge.

This visual, using data from Our World in Data, breaks down the amount of objects launched into space by country over time.

What Gets Launched Into Space?

What are the objects being sent into our atmosphere and why are they so important? Here’s a look at just a few:

  • Satellites
  • Crewed spacecraft
  • Probes
  • Space station flight equipment

Probes and landers like the Mars Rover, for example, have helped scientists explore other planets. Satellites provide us with everyday necessities like cell phone service, far reaching television signals, satellite imagery, and GPS.

As of late 2021, there were around 4,852 operational satellites in orbit2,944 belonging to the United States. Here’s a quick look at what the U.S. uses its satellites for:

  • Commercial: 2,516
  • Military: 230
  • Government: 168
  • Civil: 30

Many satellites in orbit, however, are no longer functional. In fact, there is a lot of junk in space—according to NASA, there are over 27,000 pieces of space debris in orbit.

The Space Race, by Country

The venture into outer space began during the Cold War when the USSR launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1 in 1957. After this, the U.S. and Soviet Union entered a definitive competition between technological advancements and scientific exploration into space—an extension of the battle between political ideologies.

Few countries have come close in matching either the U.S. or Russia so far. Here’s a look at the cumulative number of objects different countries have launched into orbit and beyond.

RankCountry Cumulative Number of Objects Launched into Space
#1🇺🇸 United States5,534
#2🇷🇺 Russia3,611
#3🇨🇳 China 731
#4🇬🇧 UK 515
#5🇯🇵 Japan 300
#6🇫🇷 France130
#7🇮🇳 India 127
#8🇩🇪 Germany 114
#9🇨🇦 Canada 82
#10🇱🇺 Luxembourg53
#11🇮🇹 Italy52
#12🇰🇷 South Korea43
#13🇧🇷 Brazil 39
#14🇦🇺 Australia 36
#15🇧🇪 Belgium36
#16🇮🇱 Israel 30
#17🇪🇸 Spain29
#18🇺🇾 Uruguay 23
#19🇮🇩 Indonesia21
#20🇦🇷 Argentina20
#21🇸🇪 Sweden19
#22🇲🇽 Mexico18
#23🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia17
#24🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates17
#25🇹🇼 Taiwan17
#26🇫🇮 Finland 17
#27🇹🇷 Turkey16
#28🇨🇭 Switzerland15
#29🇹🇭 Thailand14
#30🇳🇿 New Zealand14
#31🇳🇴 Norway14
#32🇳🇱 Netherlands13
#33🇩🇰 Denmark12
#34🇪🇬 Egypt9
#35🇰🇿 Kazakhstan9
#36🇲🇾 Malaysia 9
#37🇱🇹 Lithuania9
#38🇺🇦 Ukraine8
#39🇵🇱 Poland8
#40🇻🇳 Vietnam7
#41🇵🇭 Philippines7
#42🇨🇿 Czechia7
#43🇩🇿 Algeria 6
#44🇮🇷 Iran 6
#45🇵🇰 Pakistan6
#46🇳🇬 Nigeria 5
#47🇿🇦 South Africa 5
#48🇭🇺 Hungary 5
#49🇻🇪 Venezuela4
#50🇵🇪 Peru 4
#51🇨🇱 Chile 4
#52🇲🇦 Morocco3
#53🇦🇿 Azerbaijan3
#54🇬🇷 Greece3
#55🇪🇪 Estonia3
#56🇧🇾 Belarus3
#57🇧🇬 Bulgaria3
#58🇦🇹 Austria3
#59🇨🇴 Colombia2
#60🇪🇨 Ecuador 2
#61🇰🇵 North Korea2
#62🇧🇩 Bangladesh2
#63🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea2
#64🇸🇰 Slovakia 2
#65🇸🇮 Slovenia2
#66🇬🇭 Ghana 1
#67🇪🇹 Ethiopia1
#68🇰🇪 Kenya 1
#69🇷🇼 Rwanda 1
#70🇦🇴 Angola 1
#71🇬🇹 Guatemala1
#72🇨🇷 Costa Rica1
#73🇧🇴 Bolivia1
#74🇵🇾 Paraguay1
#75🇲🇳 Mongolia1
#76🇹🇲 Turkmenistan1
#77🇯🇴 Jordan1
#78🇶🇦 Qatar 1
#79🇱🇰 Sri Lanka 1
#80🇳🇵 Nepal 1
#81🇧🇹 Bhutan 1
#82🇱🇦 Laos1
#83🇱🇻 Latvia1
#84🇷🇴 Romania1
#85🇲🇨 Monaco1
#86🇵🇹 Portugal1

One important disclaimer here is that not all of these countries have orbital launch capabilities, meaning that although the satellite in space may belong to a certain country, that doesn’t mean that it was launched by said country. For example, the UK’s first launch in 1971 was out of Australia and France’s first launch took place in Algeria in 1965.

In total, around 86 countries have attempted some kind of entry into space. However, as of 2022, only 11 countries have the ability to send objects into space using their own launch vehicles, and only three—the U.S., Russia, and China—have ever launched people into outer space.

The Future of Space

With corporations beginning to take the lead in this new frontier, the landscape of space launches is changing. In 2019 Starlink, a constellation of satellites which provides 36 countries with internet access, was launched. With over 2,200 Starlink satellites in the sky and counting, SpaceX’s ultimate goal is global internet coverage; China is planning a similar venture.

Beyond useful satellites and scientific exploration, other potential space industries are emerging.

As one example, the business of commercial space tourism is no longer a futuristic concept. In late 2021, famous billionaire and founder of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson flew briefly into space on a private flight. Jeff Bezos, having founded Blue Origin, followed shortly after.

Today, both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration for passenger space travel. However, if you want to be launched into space, it will cost you around $250,000-$500,000.

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Maps

Visualized: Which Coastal Cities are Sinking the Fastest?

Many major coastal cities are experiencing local land subsidence where underground soil and rock collapse, causing the surface above to sink.

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A cropped map and ranking of the fastest sinking coastal cities in the world by local land subsidence.

Which Coastal Cities Are Sinking the Fastest?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

With sea levels rising, there is cause for concern about the livability of major coastal cities—often huge centers of trade and commerce, and homes to millions of people.

But an overlooked area is how coastal cities are themselves sinking—a phenomenon called relative local land subsidence (RLLS)—which occurs when underground materials, such as soil, rock, or even man-made structures, compact or collapse, causing the surface above to sink.

This can exacerbate the effects of rising sea levels (currently averaged at 3.7 mm/year), and is a useful metric to track for coastal communities.

Creator Planet Anomaly, looks at the top 10 cities ranked by the peak subsidence velocity. This graphic is based on a paper published by Nature Sustainability, which used satellite data to track land subsidence changes in 48 high-population coastal cities located within 50 kilometers of the coastline. Their data collection spanned six years from 2014 to 2020.

ℹ️ Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) utilizes two images taken at different times, which are then compared to create an interferogram. This interferogram illustrates changes in land motion relative to a reference point in the satellite’s line-of-sight over time. By analyzing a series of these interferograms, researchers can estimate the long-term velocity of the ground’s surface for each city.

In that time period, they found that 44 of the cities they studied—many of them massively populated, developed megacities, built on flat, low-lying river deltas—had areas sinking faster than sea levels were rising.

The 10 Fastest Sinking Coastal Cities

One of the top cities on the list is Tianjin, China with a population of more than 14 million people, which has areas of the city experiencing peak RLLS velocities of 43 mm a year between 2014–2020. The median velocity is much lower, at 6 mm/year, which means some areas are sinking much faster than the overall metropolitan area.

Tianjin is bordered by Beijing municipality to the northwest and the Bohai Gulf to the east. In June 2023, large cracks appeared on Tianjin’s streets, caused by underground land collapses, a byproduct of extensive geothermal drilling, according to the local government.

RankCityCountryPeak Velocity
(mm/year)
Median Velocity
(mm/year)
1Tianjin🇨🇳 China436
2Ho Chi Minh City🇻🇳 Vietnam4316
3Chittagong🇧🇩 Bangladesh3712
4Yangon🇲🇲 Myanmar314
5Jakarta🇮🇩 Indonesia265
6Ahmedabad🇮🇳 India235
7Istanbul🇹🇷 Turkey196
8Houston🇺🇸 U.S.173
9Lagos🇳🇬 Nigeria172
10Manila🇵🇭 Philippines172

Ho Chi Minh City (population 9 million) in Vietnam also faces similar RLLS rates as Tianjin though its median velocity is much higher at 16 mm/year.

Chittagong, Bangladesh, Yangon, Myanmar, and Jakarta, Indonesia, round out the top five fastest sinking coastal cities by relative land subsidence. They all face a similar web of contributing factors as the authors of the paper note below:

“Many of these fast-subsiding coastal cities are rapidly expanding megacities, where anthropogenic factors, such as high demands for groundwater extraction and loading from densely constructed building structures, contribute to local land subsidence.” — Tay, C., Lindsey, E.O., Chin, S.T. et al.

In fact, Indonesia has ambitious plans to relocate its sinking capital, Jakarta, to another island, a move that could cost the Indonesian government more than $120 billion. This comes after the forecast that one-third of Jakarta could be submerged as early as 2050. Aside from the regular flooding, Jakarta is also extremely prone to earthquakes.

Why Measure Local Land Subsidence?

The researchers of this report argue that local land subsidence is largely underestimated in relative sea level rise assessments and is crucial for the sustainable development of coastal areas.

The data they’ve collected—peak velocity versus median velocity—also allows them to identify specific areas and neighborhoods in cities that are undergoing rapid subsidence and thus facing a greater exposure to coastal hazards.

In New York, for example, their results suggested that subsidence is only localized west of Breezy Point and “should not be extrapolated eastward along the coast” of Long Island.

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