What Is the Biggest Satellite in Orbit?

What Is the Biggest Satellite in Orbit?

The title of the biggest satellite in orbit has been held by several spacecraft over the decades, each remarkable for their size, capabilities, and the technological advancements they represent. As of recent years, the International Space Station (ISS) holds the title for the largest man-made body in orbit around the Earth, though it is categorized as a space station. Among satellites, however, one of the most notably large is the TerreStar-1 communications satellite.

What Is the Biggest Satellite in Orbit?
What Is the Biggest Satellite in Orbit?

Overview of TerreStar-1

Launched in 2009, TerreStar-1 is one of the largest commercial telecommunications satellites ever placed in orbit. It was designed to provide mobile communications over North America, significantly enhancing connectivity across the continent.

Specifications of TerreStar-1:

  • Launch Mass: Approximately 6,910 kilograms (15,233 pounds), making it one of the heaviest commercial satellites at the time of its launch.
  • Dimensions: The satellite features a large deployable antenna that measures about 18 meters (approximately 59 feet) across when fully deployed.

Capabilities and Functionality

TerreStar-1's primary mission was to facilitate mobile communications, providing voice, data, and video services directly to standard mobile phones and other devices without the need for additional satellite hardware.

Key Features Include:

  • High Capacity: Its large size allows for substantial on-board power and capacity, supporting extensive communication networks.
  • Advanced Technology: Equipped with a sophisticated antenna system capable of targeting signals very precisely, which increases the efficiency and quality of communication.

Impact on Telecommunications

The deployment of TerreStar-1 represented a significant leap forward in satellite communications technology. It demonstrated the potential for new types of mobile services and laid the groundwork for future advancements in satellite communications.

Contributions to the Field:

  • Enhanced Mobile Reach: The satellite can provide coverage to remote and rural areas previously underserved by traditional mobile networks.
  • Innovation in Satellite Design: Set a new standard for satellite communications, particularly in the use of large deployable antennas.

Comparisons with Other Large Satellites

While TerreStar-1 is notable for its size, it is important to mention other significant satellites, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the geostationary satellites in the ViaSat and HughesNet fleets, which are also quite large and play crucial roles in their respective fields.

Hubble Space Telescope:

  • Size: Although not as heavy as TerreStar-1, Hubble has a length of 13.2 meters (43.5 feet) and a mass of about 11,110 kilograms (24,500 pounds).
  • Mission: Unlike TerreStar-1, which is focused on telecommunications, Hubble's mission is to gather important astronomical data.

ViaSat and HughesNet Satellites:

  • Purpose: These satellites provide broadband internet services across wide geographic areas, showcasing another critical use of large satellite technology.


The what is the biggest satellite question brings TerreStar-1 into focus not only as a marvel of modern engineering but also as a beacon of the vast capabilities that large satellites can offer. As technology progresses, the evolution of satellite dimensions and capabilities will undoubtedly continue to redefine the boundaries of what is possible in orbit around our planet. Whether for communication, research, or observation, the impact of these giant satellites remains profound and far-reaching.

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