Infographic on the history of space launches

From satellites, to probes, to capsules full of people—humans have launched more than 7000 objects into space. In a nifty infographic at Technology Review, Tommy McCall and Mike Orcutt illustrate reams of data, collected from hundreds of sources, to show how the character of launches has changed over time in different countries.

One of the first things you'll notice when you look at the graphic: The Soviet Union launched far more objects into space than anybody else. Why? According to Orcutt, it's partly because Soviet satellites were less robust. The U.S. didn't have to launch as many because we got more mileage out of the ones we did launch.

Via David Brin


  1. Do you take the total width or half the total width of the bars? Or is this one of those “compare the relative sizes and not the actual values” infographs?

    Looks like someone took an infograph and loaded it up into 8-bit mode.

    1. Government probably includes things like scientific research satellites and weather mapping stuff. Plus you have to think of all the systems like the ISS, MIR and others.
      Though i’m sure they put the GPS system under military because that was the first use of the system. 

      1. Kind of like how the US nuclear arsenal is part of the Department of Energy.  You know, just in case we ever need a TON of power concentrated in one spot, very quickly.

  2. Bermuda has more launches (17) than South Korea (12).  Surely that’s more about geography than anything else, but it still made me laugh.

  3. The first thing I noticed was that Soviet data set is shaped vaguely like a Soyuz capsule and America’s is shaped like a Space Shuttle. Sorta. If you squint.


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