China’s suspected surveillance balloon that was shot down by the U.S. military on Feb. 4 is spurring online claims that it is proof there are no satellites in space.
Examples of Facebook users sharing an image that says “Chinese Spy Satellite proves that there are no satellites in ‘space’” can be seen (here), (here) and (here).
China’s suspected spy balloon first passed into U.S. airspace on Jan. 28, according to Reuters reporting (here), (here). On Feb. 4, a U.S. military F-22 fighter jet from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia shot down the balloon about six nautical miles off the U.S. coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Reuters reported (here).
Photos of the balloon, including one that appears to be very similar to the photo in social media posts, can be seen (here). These do not prove that satellites don’t exist, however.
Satellites, which generally refers to machines launched into space that then orbit the earth or travel further into space (here), do exist and are mostly in the thermosphere, between 50 and 440 miles (80 and 700 km) above the Earth’s surface (here).
Reuters has previously debunked a claim that satellites are a myth (here). Dean Hirasawa, a communications consultant for the Satellite Industry Association (sia.org/about-sia/) told Reuters at the time that “proof of the existence of satellites goes all the way back to the days following the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite.”
The first artificial satellite was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union in October 1957, which had a radio transmitter that enabled people around the world to track it (here).
Heavens-Above, a nonprofit dedicated to help people track satellites, provides a live feed of satellites that are visible from any location on Earth (here).
Images and videos of satellites and spacecrafts launched into space can also be found on NASA’s Image and Video Library (here), (here).
Two NASA satellite launches from this year can be seen (here) and (here).
SpaceX also launched 52 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on September 24, 2022, and a video of the mission can be seen (here). Heavens-Above also shows the live movements of Starlink satellites (here) (www.starlink.com/).
Further, Global Positioning System (GPS) services are made possible through a constellation of satellites. According to the U.S. government, the “Space Force has been flying 31 operational GPS satellites for well over a decade” (www.gps.gov/systems/gps/space/). More information on how GPS works with satellite navigation can be found (here).
False. There is ample evidence to prove the existence of satellites, and the recent incident over a Chinese surveillance balloon in no way disproves their existence.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts (here).
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.