Falcon 9 launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off March 18 carrying 60 Starlink satellites. NASA will be a part of a SpaceX investigation into an engine anomaly during that mission. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — Despite the coronavirus and the challenges that the pandemic has presented to the space industry, the number of satellite launched in 2020 has hit an all-time high with nearly 1,100 spacecraft delivered to orbit during the first 10 months of the year, an industry analyst said Nov. 10.

From Jan. 1 to Nov. 1, some 1,079 satellites have been launched worldwide, 1,029 of which were smallsats, Alexandre Najjar, senior consultant at Euroconsult said at the World Satellite Business Week Virtual Edition conference.

With seven weeks to go, the number of smallsats launched in 2020 has already shattered the previous record of 385 smallsats launched in 2019.

SpaceX  broadband Starlink satellites accounted for 773 of the 1,029 smallsats launched so far in 2020, he said.

Najjar said the 1,079 number does not include the Indian Space Research Organisation’s  Nov. 7 launch of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle carrying an Indian radar satellite and nine commercial smallsats. That launch, India’s first of 2020, had been slated for late 2019 but was delayed due in part to COVID-19. Likewise, pandemic-related restrictions idled European’s main launch site for much of the spring, effectively grounding Arianespace’s fleet from mid-March to mid-August.

“It was was a record year despite COVID,” said Najjar. “For the first time, we launched over 1,000 satellites.”

Counting the 10 satellites India launched over the weekend plus the GPS 3 satellite that SpaceX launched Nov. 5 and roughly a dozen satellites a Chinese Long March 6 launched Nov. 6, the number of satellites this year has surpassed 1,100 since Najjar closed out his count Nov. 1

Dozens more satellites are expected to launch before 2020 ends.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...