While the number of actual rocket launches undertaken this year is nothing special, 2013 has, in fact, had the greatest number of spacecraft launched in a single year – and the year is not over yet. According to the Flightglobal/Ascend SpaceTrak database 2013 has had 192 satellites and manned spacecraft launched on 74 launchers (Update: as at 9 December there had been 207 satellites launched on 77 launches). This is the greatest number of satellites launched in a single year. The previous high was in 1984, at the height of the “Cold War” when there were 176 satellites launched (most of which were military in nature) on 129 launches.
The reason is the onward rush of very small (often kit-built) nanosatellites and cubesats, tens of which can be fitted to a single launch and which are being built by many companies, universities and even schools around the world. Two launches this year in particular were noted for their great number of such spacecraft carried in addition to their main payloads. A single Minotaur 1 launch in November carried 29 satellites, while a Dnepr launch, also in November, carried 33 satellites (though one was a payload attached to the upper stage).
Comment by David Todd: And it can only get worse for this poor SpaceTrak database data entry clerk!