50 Satellites You Need To Know: Earth Satellite List

Last Updated: Oct 9, 2019 @ 9:13 pm

Earth Satellite List

satellite feature

Today I’m going to show you the largest Earth satellite list ever created.

From weather forecasts to precise positioning:

Here’s our list of the 50 most iconic satellites put up in space.

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

TOC Open Data Satellites
TOC Commercial Satellites
TOC Weather satellites
TOC Geodesy Satellites
TOC Ocean Satellites

Open Data Satellites

1 Landsat

Landsat satellite
Landsat’s incredible long-lived legacy has archived Earth’s history for over 40 years. With countless applications, it even found the island Landsat in Canada.
Image Credit: NASA

2 Sentinel

Sentinel satellite
As part of the Copernicus Programme, Sentinel’s fleet of 6 missions is a game changer. Specifically, Sentinel-2 is a clear upgrade to Landsat, except that it’s missing the thermal band.
Image Credit: ESA

3 Terra

Terra satellite

As part of NASA’S multi-talented A-Train fleet, Terra is the jack-of-all-trades For example, ASTER models terrain, MODIS classifies land cover and MOPITT monitors air quality.

Image Credit: NASA

4 EnviSAT

envisat
Before losing contact in 2012, EnviSAT did it all. For instance, it studied the oceans, terrain and atmosphere. But now, it’s not operational. Because of its massive frame (8 tons), it is a candidate to be removed from orbit.
Image Credit: Airbus & Defense/ESA

5 Corona

corona satellite
The Corona satellite was a strategic, James Bond-style military satellite in the 1960s that spied on the Soviet Union. But now, archaeologists and other interest groups freely use these declassified images.
Image Credit: National Reconnaissance Office

6 Earth Observing-1 Mission (EO-1)

EO-1
The goal of Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) was to propel science and innovation through experimental instrumentation. For example, Hyperion produces 220 spectral bands which enabled us to better characterized minerals.
Image Credit: NASA

7 China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite (CBERS)

cbers
China and Brazil unite in a joint quintuple mission to monitor everything from agriculture, environment, water pollution and urban planning in their respective countries.
Image Credit: CBERS/INPE

8 Project for On-Board Autonomy (PROBA)

cubesat
PROBA is a micro, cube-looking satellite with 30-meter hyperspectral data. Using its dextrous viewing angles, the PROBA satellite produced the world-renowned global vegetation archive.
Image Credit: ESA

Commercial Satellites

9 Worldview

Worldview satellite
DigitalGlobe’s cutting-edge high resolution satellite is ridiculously crisp (31 cm). Worldview imagery is so sharp that you can almost see license plates. In fact, it’s the only commercial satellite that can deliver at this resolution.
Image courtesy © 2019 DigitalGlobe

10 PlanetScope (Dove)

dove satellite
Planetscope is low cost, light weight and low orbit from the company called Planet. This orchestra of micro satellites (nicknamed doves) orbit the Earth in concert scanning at 3-5 meter resolution images.
Image Credit: Planet

11 Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre (SPOT)

SPOT satellite
In 1986, France’s SPOT-1 satellite was cutting edge. Since then, it has captured Earth’s vegetation, elevation and even the Chernobyl disaster.
Image Credit: Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales CNES

12 RADARSAT

Radarsat
Radarsat-2 is Canada’s space radar monitoring mission. As part of the Radarsat Constellation Mission, 3 C-band satellites will hone in on the Great White North’s land mass.
Image Credit: © Canadian Space Agency

13 IKONOS

ikonos satellite
IKONOS was a satellite marvel in its time. In fact, it was the first commercial satellite that was granted a license in America. But IKONOS-1 never made it to space. IKONOS-2 did and was renamed IKONOS.
Image courtesy © 2019 DigitalGlobe

14 Quickbird

QuickBird
QuickBird is versatile and cost effective delivering optical imagery at 60cm. But in 2015, it was decommissioned and no longer serves the community.
Image courtesy © 2019 DigitalGlobe

15 ResourceSAT

resourcesat
Originally named IRS, ResourceSAT is an Indian polar-synchronous satellite. For ship surveillance, it’s equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) payload.
Image credit: ISRO

16 KOMPSAT

kompsat
Also known as Arirang, this optical satellite provides 1-meter resolution imagery. It’s rumored to monitor North Korean military activities. But it’s also available for commercial purposes.
Image copyright © Korean Aerospace Research Institute KARI

17 RapidEye

rapideye
RapidEye originated in Germany. Then, BlackBridge purchased it. Now, it’s owned by Planet. Despite several owners, this 5-satellite constellation provides 5-meter resolution anywhere at least daily.

18 Pleiades

pleiades
Pleiades consists of 2 nimble satellites operating in the same orbit. With incredible detail (2-meter), it can scan the Earth in any direction
Image Courtesy of ESA/Airbus & Defense

19 CartoSAT

cartosat
The Indian cartography series of commercial satellites collect land information with multispectral, panchromatic and stereo mapping capabilities.
Image Copyright © ISRO

20 GeoEye

geoeye-1
Google’s high-resolution (1.65-meter) imaging satellite is so sharp that ecologists have used it to track animal population. There’s no coincidence that it’s also used in Google Maps.
Image courtesy © 2017 DigitalGlobe

21 Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC)

dmc
DMC masters disaster monitoring with its highly responsive, humanitarian constellation. It consists of AISAT-1, BilSAT, NigeriaSAT, UK-DMC, Beijing-1, Deimos-1 and NigeriaSAT.

22 SkySat

skysat
SkySat is the type of gadget James Bond uses to spy on super-villains. In fact, it’s the first and only capable of capturing video footage at sub-meter resolution.
Copyright © SkyBox Imaging. All rights reserved.

Weather Satellites

23 Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM)

TRMM satellite
TRMM examines at cloud structure and precipitation mostly at the equator. Because of TRMM, scientists can better predict global energy balances, water cycles and El Niño.
Image Credit: NASA

24 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)

GOES satellite
GOES knows weather. Since 1975, this geostationary squad of satellites are unsung heroes in forecasting our planet’s weather.
Image Credit: NASA;

25 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Satellite (NOAA)

NOAA-19 satellite
NOAA satellites enable us to get a complete view of weather and environmental conditions around the world each day.
Image Credit: NASA

26 METEOSAT

meteosat
Meteosat is the geostationary observer in Europe and Africa. By beaming images of Europe’s weather every 15 minutes, it’s ideal for weather forecasting.
Image Credit: ESA

27 Aqua

Aqua satellite
Aqua is NASA’s multi-purpose satellite. Not only does it tap into Earth’s water cycle by measuring relative humidity (AIRS/AMSU), but it estimates cloud height (CERES) and energy flux (AMSR-E).
Image Credit: NASA

28 Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO)

calipso
Using laser technology and a special sensor for cirrus cloud, CALIPSO graphs the vertical profiles of cloud structure.
Image Credit: NASA

29 Television Infrared Observation Satellites (TIROS)

tiros
In the 1960s, TIROS was instrumental in sending early storm warnings. Specifically, this low-Earth orbiting satellite was built for televising infrared weather observations.
Image Credit: NASA

30 CloudSAT

cloudsat
With its head in the clouds, this satellite profiles their vertical billowing formation with radar. It’s key for understanding the atmospheric and hydrological cycles because the influence clouds have on weather and climate.
Image Credit: NASA

31 Aura

Aura satellite
Aura is NASA’s satellite dedicated to uncovering air quality and climate health. For example, its 4 instruments (HIRDLS, MLS, OMI & TES) measure trace gases, temperature, and aerosols in the upper atmosphere.
Image Credit: NASA

32 Suomi

suomi
Suomi orbits the poles for the purpose of weather forecasting, land and ocean studies. Throughout history, it’s captured views of monstrous tornadoes and supercells.
Image Credit: Copyright © NOAA

33 Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES)

poes
NOAA’s polar-orbiting meteorological satellite has taken some of the mystery out of atmospheric phenomena with high spatial and temporal resolution images.
Image Credit: NOAA

34 Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP)

smap
SMAP is equipped with a pair of active and passive sensors to measure fine-scale global soil moisture. Due to a sensor malfunction, it’s all passive similar to SMOS.
Image Credit: NASA

35 SciSAT

scisat
SciSAT creeps through the shadows of Earth. Only on the dark side of Earth, it can record the depletion of ozone. That’s why it’s nicknamed the nightcrawler satellite.
Image Credit: Canadian Space Agency

36 ACRIMSAT

acrimsat
The solar-monitoring ACRIMSAT performed experimental studies for solar irradiance. In fact, it recorded a 0.1% reduction in solar intensity caused by the Venus shadow in 2004.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

37 Megha-Tropique

megha trophique
Megha-Trophique will cruise the tropics to better understand the global water cycle. As part of the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX), it aims to study climate change.
Image Credit: ESA

Geodesy Satellites

38 Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)

GPS satellite
When you enable location on your smartphone, you’re tapping into GNSS. Every day, our GPS receivers leverage the 35-satellite system to pinpoint our exact position on Earth.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

39 Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM)

SRTM mission
SRTM sculpted a 30-meter terrain model of Earth using two radar antennas and interferometry. Onboard the space shuttle Endeavour, it only needed 11 days to collect the necessary data.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

40 Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)

GRACE satellite
This satellite tag team chases each other in the same orbit. By measuring each other’s tiny shifts, they know where gravity pull is stronger on Earth.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

41 Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE)

goce satellite
GOCE specializes in measuring Earth’s gravity field and ocean behavior with unprecedented detail. By using highly sensitive gradiometers and accelerometers, it accomplishes this feat.
Image Courtesy of ESA/Airbus & Defense

42 Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS)

magnetospheric satellite
MMS specializes in the magnetosphere. In a tetrahedral formation, it consists of four identical space crafts. In unison, they map the interaction between the sun and Earth’s magnetic field.
Image Credit: NASA

43 Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS)

alos
ALOS-1 sculpted the world’s most precise elevation model at 5-meter resolution. Now, ALOS-2 has several upgrades such as L-band PALSAR radar and stereo mapping (PRISM).
Image Credit: JAXA

44 TerraSAR (TanDEM-X)

terrasar
TerraSAR and TanDEM-X are twin German satellites. In tandem, they carved out the unrivalled WorldDEM using X-band radar. Now, we use it for disasters, earthquakes and the environment.
Image Courtesy of Airbus & Defense

45 Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA)

mars global surveyor
MOLA is the reigning monarch of Mars. By scanning the topography, this interplanetary mission has found ancient river beds weaving through the Martian surface.
Image Credit: NASA

Satellites for Oceans

46 Joint Altimetry Satellite Oceanography Network (JASON)

jason satellite
JASON’s altimeter is responsible for mapping ocean floor bathymetry. This upgraded version of TOPEX/Poseidon monitors rising sea levels, which is a by-product of climate change.
Image Credit: NASA

47 SeaStar (Orbview-2)

Seawifs
Biologists uses SeaStar to quantify color change from chlorophyll produced by marine plants. Like Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWIFS), it’s key for ocean biology.
Image Credit: NASA

48 QuickSCAT

quickscat
Surfers choose QuickSCAT because it’s purpose is to measure sea winds and direction. But only for ice-free oceans does its scatterometer work for.
Image Credit: NASA

49 Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS)

SMOS satellite
SMOS weighs in on soil moisture and ocean salinity through its coarse passive instrumentation. Overall, it enhances our knowledge of both land and ocean processes.
Image Credit: ESA

50 IceSAT

icesat
Ice Sat has made over 904 million measurements of the Earth’s surface. In fact, it was the first space-borne laser altimeter (GLAS) to capture everything from forest heights to ice thickness.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Conclusion

There are hundreds of remote sensing uses and applications that are being tied into the world we live in.

For example, we best understand weather, navigation, gravity, climate change and the magnetosphere from space.

As we launch each meticulously-planned space mission, we can cover that much more ground.

What Earth satellite did we miss?

Let us know with a comment below.

Additional Resources

13 Comments

  1. Probably you can add 1 or 2 Soviet / Russian ones. And you have Corona, but not Key Hole or other defense programs?

  2. Which of the many satellites, can show me images like the LiDAR images I found, where they discovered 4400-year-old villages for example?

    Meaning which one is used for land and or water discovering purposes. I like to find something like that too in my or any area, who knows what else is still somewhere hiding beneath my feet. How can I do it anyway, what do I need to find something special, or what about finding treasures of gold and silver or stuff like that, perhaps some caves? Anything would be great to discover and finally, how much is stuff like that to buy such laser measuring devices I mean. Can I afford it if not can I join somebody to be able to use it can I get paid for it maybe? I like to know any and all of this questions if anybody has and can and will respond to me?

  3. Nice list… but there is no ice-cream flying around! The GRACE satellites are called TOM & Jerry 😉

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