The search for MH370: Companies that operate more than 1,000 satellites in space

1. According to the Satellite Industry Association's 2013 industry update, there are more than 1,000 operating satellites as of the end of 2012. More than half of these are communications satellites, and more than a third are commercial communications satellites. Military surveillance satellites comprise just 8 per cent of the total, behind the 9 per cent each for space science, and research and development.

2. The global satellite industry's revenue in 2012 totalled US$189.5 billion, with 60 per cent of the revenue coming from satellite services.

3. Satellite services are divided into four categories: consumer, fixed and mobile satellite services, and remote sensing/imaging services. Consumer refers to television, radio and broadband services. Fixed satellite includes transponder agreements and managed network services. Mobile satellite refers to mobile data and mobile voice services. Remote sensing and imaging include the kind of high resolution images that have been used in the hunt for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

4. Intelsat (International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium) is the oldest and biggest commercial satellite services provider. Founded in 1964 as a public-private consortium by the telecommunication agencies of 18 countries, it is now a fully private company. It owns and operates more than 54 satellites as well as their ground control stations and is based in Luxembourg.

5. DigitalGlobe, based in Colorado, has been in the public eye in the past week, thanks to its Tomnod crowdsourcing platform and the recent revelation that its satellite images prompted the Australian government to start searching the southern Indian Ocean for possible wreckage.

The company, which supplies satellite images to the United States government, was characterised in a 2012 Wired magazine report as a spy satellite company. It also supplies images for applications such as Google Earth.

Sources: Satellite Industry Association (,,