The ISS weighs approximately 450 tons. What I was wondering is, what is the combined mass of all payloads we’ve put into orbit since the dawn of the space age? Is it more or less than the cargo capacity of a large container ship like the Emma Mærsk?
Sub-orbital payloads don’t count. I’m wondering about the total mass put into orbit and beyond in the case of space probes. For bonus credit, you could also tell me how much of it has fallen back to Earth due to orbital decay.
Wiki has a timeline of the number of launches per year. By eyeball, I estimate that there have been an average of ~70 launches per year since 1958, for a total of ~4000 launches. From this wiki page of different launch systems, I’d estimate the average payload to be ~5-10 tons. Multiplying the two, my very rough ballpark estimate is 20,000 tons. That’s just an order-of-magnitude sort of estimate, however.