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Guide to Use

February 10, 2007

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

W. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

         The Spacecraft and Satellite Dictionary contains more than 8,000 entries of satellites and spacecraft names, launch vehicle and launch sites, astronauts, cosmonauts, organizations, aerospace companies, abbreviation, acronyms, definitions, and designations. The Guide To Use describes the format for these alphabetized entries and explains the format used throughout the Spacecraft and Satellite Dictionary.


       Each entry is composed of an entry name or term and a description with relevant dates. An example is Argon

ARGON.....U.S. Army, satellite, imaging reconnaissance, LEO. Satellites to obtain geodetic information for accurate ICBM targeting, used Keyhole cameras. Also known as, DISCOVERER XX. First launch 1961/02/17.


 English is the language of use throughout this document unless otherwise noted. Endnotes are identified by superscripts (1), shown as “(1)” and are listed at the end of the Guide to Use.

Term or Name:


       The term or name is in bold print and consists of one of the following: abbreviation, acronym, name, location, concept, non-English term, Greek or Cyrillic alphabet. An alternate spelling of a name is included as a separate entry. Satellite names and acronyms are in all capital letters. In the above example, “ARGON” is the term. Satellite/spacecraft names and acronyms are in capital letters.

       Terms are arranged alphabetically, starting with Hindu-Arabic numbers, Roman letters and numbers, Greek letters, and finally Cyrillic letters. Where a term consists of more than a single word, the alphabetizing starts with the first word and works to the right, similar to an encyclopedia.

       If any term has more than one meaning, the Entry will be listed for each meaning.

Copernicus..... Nikolai (Copernicus), 1473-1543, astronomer, proposed heliocentric cosmology. See also Kopernik.

COPERNICUS..... U.S., satellite. See OAO 3.

       The alphabetization of the terms was performed on a PC using WordPerfect© software. The software uses ASCII to alphabetize the terms and may be in a slightly different order. Examples: For letters, the entry “aa” comes before “Aa”, which comes before “AA”,




       When numbers are included, the software sorts the numbers starting with the most left most digit, then the next, going from left to right. An example for numerical entries is:




       Some terms may use hyphens or periods. The reader should look at possible variations in the terms. The software alphabetizes in the following order: Endnote

RP 01....

RP 1....




       Some terms use Roman Numbers (I, II, III...) and some use Hindu-Arabic Numbers (1, 2, 3...), The literature may vary in their use. The software alphabetizes in the following order; letters, numbers. As an example;

Atlas I....

Atlas V....

Atlas 1....

       Other possible variations occur in the print and electronic media. The more common terms are used herein.


       Following the term is the description. The description is separated from the term by "....." The description provides information about the term. The description format is based on the 22 categories described listed below;


1 Aerospace Company

2 Astronaut

3 Celestial Objects

4 Concept

5 Cosmonaut

6 Country

7 Cyrillic alphabet

8 Greek alphabet

9 Chinese

10 Chinese Astronaut

11 Launch sites

12 Launch Vehicle

13 Miscellaneous

14 Name

15 non English terms

16 Orbit

17 Organization

18 Recovery Ship

19 Satellite/Spacecraft

20 Satellite/Spacecraft Bus

21 Satellite/spacecraft Launch Facility and

22 Tracking Stations and Ships.


1. Aerospace Company: Identifies the headquarter’s country, followed by the category "aerospace company", address, mergers or acquisitions. A company is a major commercial for profit, firm or entity doing business in the aerospace or satellite/spacecraft sector of an economy. Companies that have changed, merged, or gone out of business since 1957 are identified in the description. Not all companies are listed, particularly those determined as small, or not major players in the aerospace markets. Not included are partnerships. An example of an aerospace company is Arianespace.

Arianespace....Europe, aerospace company. Manufactures launch vehicles for the Ariane Launches. Address Boulevard de l'Europe, BP177, F-91006 Evry Cedex, France.


2. Astronaut: Starts with the country of citizenship, the category "astronaut", followed by launches into space starting from the oldest to most recent, including the spaceship/satellite, and dates of launch. The astronaut is listed by last name (family name) then the first names. At the end, are the words “First Launch”, followed by the date of the first orbital attempt of the astronaut. An astronaut is a human who flew into space on a U.S. launch vehicle. This is not a hard and fast rule and has the following exceptions;

a), Russian (Soviet) or former USSR citizens who flew on U.S. vehicles are considered cosmonauts. This distinction may change as politics change.

b) For a Chinese astronaut, several terms are used in the press and technical literature. Until a single term becomes standard, the term Chinese Astronaut will be used herein.

       An example of this category is astronaut Thomas Akers.

Akers, Thomas....U.S., astronaut, STS-41, 1990/10/06, STS-49, 1992/05/07, STS-61, 1993/12/02, STS-79, 1996/09/16. First launch 1990/10/06.


3. Celestial Objects: A none human-made object in the solar system.


4. Concept:This category provides the basic concepts necessary to understand the functions of terms described herein. An example is “Thrust.”

Thrust..... The force generated by a rocket motor/engine that changes speed or direction of a vehicle. See Rocket Engine.


5. Cosmonaut: Starts with the country of citizenship, the category "cosmonaut,” followed by launches into space starting from the oldest to most recent, including satellite, and dates of launch. The cosmonaut is listed by last name (family name) then the first names. At the end are the words “First Launch,” followed by the date of the first orbital attempt of the cosmonaut. Used herein, a cosmonaut is a human who flew into space on a Russian (Soviet) (USSR)(CIS) launch vehicle with the following exception, non-USSR/Russian/CIS citizens who flew on Russian vehicles maybe considered astronauts. This distinction may change as politics change. An example of this category is cosmonaut Yuri Oussatchev.

Oussatchev, Yuri....Russia, cosmonaut, SOYUZ TM 18, 1975/05/24, SOYUZ TM 23, 1976/10/14. First launch 1975/05/24.


6. Country: Two different formats are used;

       - A) Is a description of a country that has placed a satellite in orbit,

               1) major space related organizations,

               2) launch sites,

3) launch vehicles,

               4) date format,

               5) currency, and

               6) first satellite launch with date and location.

       The following is an example for the country United States of America:

United States of America.....1) The United States (U.S. or US) of America (USA), has two major space and launch organizations, and six launch sites. The two organizations are for military operations the United States Air Force (USAF), and for civilian operations the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations (NASA). Also, several commercial operations exist and supported by many corporations.

2) The six launch sites are the Eastern Range, Western Range, Poker Flats Range, Wallops Island Facility, Cape San Blas Launch Operations, and the White Sands Missile Range.

3) Launch vehicles; Jupiter, Thor, Delta, Titan, Saturn, Atlas, STS, Pegasus.

4) Date Convention, Month, Day, Year.

5) currency, dollar $.

6) First satellite launched EXPLORER 1, Jupiter C, at Cape Canaveral 1958/01/31


- B) When a country or state or city is part of the description of a main entry, it refers to the sovereign state or group of states/countries;

1) responsible for the activity,

               2) the location of the organization and launch site,

               3) the ownership of satellite/spacecraft, and

               4) the citizenship of the astronaut or cosmonaut.

Where multiple countries are involved, the countries are listed or the organizations representing the countries are listed, e.g., Europe, ESA, USSR Endnote . The following is an example of the United States (U.S.) facility Atlantic Missile Range. (Now known as the Eastern Range).

Atlantic Missile Range.....U.S. launch facility, located at Cape Canaveral. Renamed Eastern Test Range (ETR) 1964/05/15 and later changed to the Eastern Range (ER). Bumper 8, First launch 1950/07/24.


7. Cyrillic alphabet: The Cyrillic alphabet category starts with words "Russia, alphabet letter,” followed by the number of the letter, followed by word "transliteration,” which is the equivalent Roman alphabet letter. The following is an example for Г:

Г.....Russia, alphabet letter #4, transliteration g.


Also, included are Cyrillic words in alphabetic order with definitions. The following is an example of the Russian satellite Я М А Л:

Я М А Л.....Russia, satellite, means YAMAL.


8. Greek alphabet: The Greek alphabet category starts with the uppercase and lowercase Greek letter, followed by the English word, the sequence of the letter in the Greek alphabet, and the words “Greek Alphabet.” The following is an example for the Greek Letter Β.

Β....Β, β, beta, 2, Greek Alphabet


When the Greek letter is a symbol for a concept, the format is the Greek letter, followed by a description of the concept. The following is the Greek letter is used for right ascension symbolized by the Ω.

Ω.....Keplerian element, right ascension of the ascending node, which gives the rotation of the orbit plane from a reference axis, "twist" of the orbit. Also known as the longitude of the ascending node.


9. Chinese: Chinese is more difficult because the basic construction of the written language is very different from that used in the Americas and European Continent. Each Chinese character represents a word or concept. The Chinese use more than 10,000 such characters. The Chinese entry starts with the English word, “China,” followed by the term in English followed by the Chinese. An example is “China Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center”

China Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center....China,


10. Chinese Astronaut: The description starts with the country of citizenship, the term "Yuhangyuan,” followed by launches into space starting from the oldest to most recent, including a name of the spaceship/satellite, and dates of a launch. The Chinese astronaut is listed by last name (family name) then the first names. At the end are the words “First Launch,” followed by the date of the first orbital attempt of the Chinese astronaut. A Chinese astronaut is a Chinese citizen who flew into space on a Chinese launch vehicle. This distinction may change as politics change.

Yang, Liwei.....China, Yuhangyuan, SHENZHOU 5, 2003/10/15. First launch 2003/10/15


11. Launch Sites: Are geographic locations where a spacecraft was launched into space, including the name, country, location, and description.

Kagoshima Space Center....Japan, space vehicle launch facility. ISAS Launch Site, scientific & technological satellites and rocket probes. Location 31.2o N, 131.1o E. Prefecture, location of the Tanegashima Space Center. Also called Uchinoura, is on the southern tip of Kyushu Island. Inaugurated in 1964 for the Lambda sounding rocket. First six satellites were launched from Kagoshima. Largest rockets launched are the Mu-series. Launch site for Kappa and Lambda sounding rockets, M and Mu launchers for low earth orbits. POC Kagoshima Space Center, Uchinoura, Kimotsuki-gum, Kagoshima 893-14, Japan.


12. Launch Vehicle: A launch vehicle is a vehicle (usually a rocket) capable of placing a spacecraft into space Endnote . The category starts with the country of ownership, the category "launch vehicle,” "Rocket Motor/Engine/Stage,” description and designations, payload capacity, orbit capability, and date of the first launch. Both the U.S. and Russia have established their own designations for launch vehicles and rocket motors/engines. Some manufactures have established special designations for their launch vehicles. See:

- DoD Designation

- Systems, project, AFP, WS, OS, RS, and

- Rocket Motors;

- Russia Spacecraft and Launch Vehicle Designation;

- Sheldon Name;

- Ariane;

- Atlas;

- Delta;

Currently, many different launch vehicles are in use, planned, or have been retired since 1957. Only those that actually attempted to reach space are included. A launch vehicle may include an aircraft as the zero or first stage Endnote . An example is the launch vehicle Atlas;

Atlas IIA....U.S., launch vehicle. An Atlas II + Centaur engines up rated, GTO 6760 lbs. (3070 kg). Stage 1, MA-5A engine. Stage 2, Centaur, 2 RL10A-3-3A engines. DoD designation SB-2 B. First launch 1992/06/10


The U.S. and NATO have also established designations for Russian (Soviet) launch vehicles.





Test Desig.



Article Number






Space Launch








T-3, R-7, R-7A


 8K78, 8K71, 8K74


Korolev DB


Soyuz U




The Rocket Motor/Stage provides the designation, manufacturer, propellants, and thrust, chamber pressure, and launch vehicles using it.

RL10A-4....U.S., launch vehicle motor, Pratt & Whitney. Thrust 41,000 lbf (185 kN), pressure 465 psi (32 bars), liquid propellant LOX/LH2


13. Miscellaneous: Consists of a description.

Janus....Saturn moon, one of 19. See Prometheus, Pandora, Atlas, Epimetheus, Janus, Mimas, Helene, Enceladus, Tethys, Calypso, Telesto, Dione, Pan, 1995-S4, Rhea, Titan, Hyperion, Laptus, Phoebe.


14. Name: Begins with the country of origin, and a description. Many names are derived from local culture, gods, objects, or famous persons. The name is in lowercase or the first letter is capitalized. This is to distinguish it from satellite names that are all uppercase letters. An example for Apollo is

Apollo.....Greece, god of Sun, light, wisdom, knowledge. Roman god of Sun, light.


15. Non-English terms: Starts with the language of the term(s), followed by the closest English definition. The language is usually identified by the country of origin. The following is an example the German word zündung

zündung.....German for ignition.


16. Orbit: Three different formats are used;

A) For definitions of orbits types, the format starts with brief description of the orbit. Throughout this document, the word orbit means the motion of one object around another, e.g., the Earth is in orbit around the Sun. Satellites orbit around the earth, Sun, or other celestial bodies in a number of different ways. The height of an orbit measured from the surface of the earth or other celestial body is known as altitude. Endnote The direction of rotation and shape of the orbit describe the path the satellite follows. An example is the Lagrange orbit.

Lagrange orbit....Orbit around the Lagrange point where the gravitational forces due to two or more bodies are balanced. Also known as the Libration point.


B) Orbital components describe parts of the orbit.


C) When the orbit is part of the description, it means the final orbit of the spacecraft. The spacecraft may take days or years to reach its final orbit. Intervening or temporary orbits are not given. Orbital elements are not given as they may change during the spacecrafts life. An example of a geosynchronous orbit (GEO) is

AQILA.....China, satellite, communications, GEO. Launched at Xichang by CZ-3B. First launch 1997/08/19.


17. Organization: Identifies the country where the headquarters is located, followed by "organization,” a brief description, and address. An organization is a functional entity involved in space activity not elsewhere defined. It includes government, public, and private organizations, but excludes Aerospace Companies. An example is the 45th Space Wing.

45th Space Wing.....U.S., Air Force. Organization that overseas USAF operations at Cape Canaveral, FL, and manages the Eastern Range. Part of the U.S. Space Command, which owns and operates the Space Surveillance Network (SSN), Space Control Center, Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, CO. Tracks over 8000 manmade objects in orbit. Part of the 14th Air Force.


18. Recovery Ship: Identifies the country of ownership/registration, official designation, the category "recovery ship,” and description, satellite recovery missions from oldest to most recent. A recovery ship is a ship capable of recovering satellites/spacecrafts that have re-entered the atmosphere. The designation of the special category “Prime Recovery Ship” indicates that the ship had the mission of actually recovering the astronauts. An example is USS Guadalcanal LPH 7:

Guadalcanal LPH 7.....USS Guadalcanal LPH 7, recovery ship, part of the fleet, which recovered or was on duty and capable of recovering the following: APOLLO 8. Prime recovery ship for GEMINI 10, APOLLO 9.


19. Spacecraft/Satellite: All satellite/spacecraft names are in uppercase letters, followed by country of ownership, the category "satellite,” type of satellite, final orbit, description, and the date of the First launch. Satellite or spacecraft, what is the difference? The technical definition of the word, "satellite," is any attendant body revolving about another (primary) body. In the solar system, a second body or moon that revolves about a planet, is considered a satellite. An artificial object revolving about a cosmic body, such as a spacecraft orbiting about the Earth is also considered a satellite. The use of the word, "satellite," may lead to some confusion because of the two variations in definition. The word, "satellite," used herein, is any Homo sapiens made object placed in orbit(3) around the Earth, moon, planet, Sun, or galaxy, unless otherwise noted. The word “spacecraft,” “spaceflight,” “space vehicles,” “space ships,” and “space probes” used herein, means Homo sapiens made objects placed into space (3). Therefore, all satellites are spacecraft but not all spacecraft are satellites. Artificial satellite and artificial spacecraft, have similar meanings. The types of satellites/spacecrafts are classified by the function performed, e.g., communications, earth observation. An example is the AURORA 7 manned spacecraft.

AURORA 7....U.S., satellite, manned spacecraft MERCURY, MA-7. First launch 1962/05/24.


A listing of all satellites launched is alphabetized by popular name and launch date and located in the Appendix. Satellite listings by international designation or catalog number are available on the internet or in books.

At least four types of satellite designations are used. The first is the "International Designation"; the second is the "Catalog Number"; and the third is "popular name" and the fourth is "special designation.” The first two designations identify all satellites placed in orbit since 1957, including nose cones, rocket motors, other parts, and any other space debris that is detected from Earth. Two criteria must be met in order to receive an International or Catalog Number designation: The object must reach space (i.e., 50 to 62 miles or 80 to 100 km above the earth)(3) and, the object must obtain orbital speed or greater (i.e., 17,500 mph or 30,000 km per hour) Endnote and remain in orbit for 90 minutes, or make one revolution around the earth.


I) International Designation: By international agreement, and introduced by the U.N. Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), each object launched into space is assigned a unique designation. The International Designation has two forms. Between 1957 and 1962, each satellite was identified by the year of launch (using the Gregorian Calender), a Greek alphabet letter (indicating the order of launches that year), and a Hindu/Arabic number (identifying the object(s) of the specific launch) Endnote . If the Greek alphabet was used up in any given year (only 24 characters), a Roman letter was added in front of the Greek name Endnote .

Starting on 1963/01/01, the International Designation was changed to the year (using the Gregorian Calender), followed by a 3-digit Hindu/Arabic number (indicating the order of the launches that year), followed by a Roman letter(s) (identifying the object(s) of the specific launch) Endnote . In 1996, pre-1963 satellites numbered under the older designation that existed between 1958 and 1962, were updated to the designation that started in 1963. As a result, satellites launched between 1957 and 1962 may have two designations Endnote . In the following example, the format is COSPAR, Satellite Name, Launch Date.

2000-004L, JASON 1, 2000/02/12


ii) Catalog Number: The Catalog Number was established and is maintained by the U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) (formally known as the North American Air Defense Command [NORAD]). This system sequentially numbers each Homo sapien made satellite in space capable of being detected Endnote . If a satellite breaks up or separates, or improved detection equipment or methods are used, the newly identified pieces of the satellites are added to the list in sequential order. If a satellite explodes, all the pieces are numbered and tracked. One occasionally sees a jump in the numbering system versus launch dates because of these phenomena Endnote . The Catalog Number will not be used herein.

iii) Popular Name: Between 1957 and 2006, more than 27,000 satellites have been identified, but only fractions have popular names, e.g., COSMOS 2195. Every artificial satellite placed in orbit is given a designation, but, not every satellite is given a popular name. The country/organization/company that owns the satellite may choose to give that satellite a popular name Endnote . Most satellites fall into the unnamed category. Satellites assigned a popular name usually contains equipment to perform a function that the country considers important once the satellite is in space Endnote . A nose cone or spent rocket motor is generally useless and is not given a name, with a few exceptions Endnote .

The Popular Name can be categorized as follows: an abbreviation, descriptive acronym, descriptive name, identifying name, or identifier.

                       A)    The abbreviation usually consists of the first letter of each word used to describe the satellite’s function, e.g.,



                       B)    The descriptive acronym is one or more letters from the words that make up the name, e.g.,




                       C)    The descriptive name includes all words that describe the function and/or ownership. An identifying name may or may not describe the satellite’s function, e.g.,



                       D)    An identifying name may allude to the function or mission, often taken from mythology, plant, or celestial body, that in some way relates to the satellite’s function, e.g.,



                       E)    An identifier is a series of alphanumeric characters used to designate the satellite, e.g.,

11F632, 5A, A-1.


Creativity and culture play an important role in determining popular names. The popular name may also be the mission name, which itself may be one of the above categories Endnote . A satellite may have its popular name changed after the launch Endnote . Satellites may use the same name as a launch vehicle. It may be the same launch vehicle that placed the satellite in orbit or it may have the same name by coincidence Endnote .

To add to the complexity of understanding satellite names, some newer satellites have two or more popular names for different parts of the same satellite. Endnote

Therefore, it is possible for a satellite/spacecraft to have several designations Endnote .

The satellite's popular name is used herein unless otherwise noted. The word, "satellite/spacecraft," used herein only pertains to an object that was given a popular name Endnote . The names of satellite/spacecraft launched into space are capitalized.

An example of the Satellite/Spacecraft whose name is OREL is

OREL....France, satellite, scientific. Study upper atmosphere, also known as AUREOLE. Launched at Plesetsk by a SL-8 into a HEO. First launch 1971/12/27.


iv) Special designations: Many organizations may assign special designations to satellites for their own particular use. Examples include the U.S. DoD, and Russia. See:

- DoD Designation

- Satellite

- Systems, project, AFP, WS, OS, RS

- Satellite Designation, LR, SR, LSR.

- Russia Spacecraft and Launch Vehicle Designation.

- Sheldon Name.

- USA Satellite Designation.

An example is

GLOBAL POSITIONING SATELLITE.... U.S. Air Force, satellite, navigation. Known as, GPS NAVSTAR, DoD designation for GPS IIF, is NS-7E. DoD System Management Code is 834L. Endnote


v) Exceptions: Exceptions exist for every rule! Suborbital Flights for manned space programs are included in the Spacecraft and Satellite Dictionary Endnote . Suborbital Flights of unmanned objects including sounding rockets and ballistic missile launches are not included. Objects that are launched but do not reach space may or may not be given a designation. The International Designation and Catalog Number policies are inconsistent on this issue Endnote . If a launch attempt did not place the satellite in orbit, the payload is not considered a satellite and does not appear under International Designation or Catalog Number Designations Endnote . The spacecraft popular name is included whether the launch attempt was or was not successful.

Spacecraft designations may change once the object is in orbit. Objects that are assembled in space may receive the International Designation and Catalog Number of the 1st item of the assembly Endnote .

An object that is launched and while in space, separates into multiple objects, receives separate designations for each object. For International Designations, Roman Letters are added for each object in alphabetical order. The designations are assigned as the objects separate from the main object. This may take place over a few minutes or a few years. Included are multi-satellite launches (one launch vehicle with multiple satellites), spacecraft launched from spacecraft, and explosions. Each identifiable piece is assigned an International Designation and Catalog number Endnote . An object that is launched into orbit more than once, receives a new designation each time it is placed in orbit Endnote . See tables of satellite launches.


20. Spacecraft/Satellite Bus: Identifies the country of ownership, company or organization of ownership, category "satellite bus,” and description. A satellite/spacecraft bus is that part of the satellite containing the structural frame, systems for housekeeping, telemetry, tracking, satellite controls, communications, system status monitoring, position keeping, attitude control, thermal control, and electrical power. It excludes the mission payload. An example is the LS-400:

LS-400.....U.S., satellite bus, Space Systems/Loral. LEO.


21. Spacecraft/Satellite Vehicle launch facility: Identifies the country of ownership or location, category "launch facility,” and description. A launch facility is a facility (land, sea, air, spacecraft, planet, moon, asteroid) that has or is capable of launching a satellite/spacecraft into space, and at a minimum, reaching Earth Orbit. Included are those facilities located on Earth and the Moon. As launch facilities are established on other planets, they will also be included. With the introduction of air launch and sea launch capabilities, many locations on earth become capable of launching satellites into space. A listing of all the Space Vehicle Launch Facility/Sites is available in the appendix. An example is the Joint Long Range Proving Ground:

Joint Long Range Proving Ground....U.S., space vehicle launch facility. JLRPG, Forerunner to Patrick Air Force Base, which is part of the Eastern Range.


22. Tracking station and ships. Identifies country of ownership/location, official designation, description, and address. Facilities included are land and sea facilities capable of tracking satellites or spacecraft. An example is the USS Vanguard T. AGM 19.

USS Vanguard T. AGM 19..... U.S., Tracking ship for the following manned Flights: APOLLO 7, A POLLO 9, APOLLO 10, APOLLO 11, APOLLO 13, APOLLO 14, APOLLO 15, APOLLO 16, APOLLO 17, SKYLAB 1, SKYLAB 2, SKYLAB 3, APOLLO-SOYUZ. See tracking ships.

First Launch/occurrence:

       The first launch/occurrence is the first time for an event, e.g., launching of a satellite. If an event has occurred more than once, e.g., multiple satellites launched as part of the same series, the first date the event occurred is identified as "First launch" followed by the date. The launch or event may or may not have been successful. The first occurrence also identifies when an organization was created or renamed. An example of this category is the satellite BBXRT that was first launched on 1990/12/02.

BBXRT....U.S., satellite, telescope. BROAD BAND X-RAY TELESCOPE on board the STS. A x-ray telescope. Launched at KSC on STS-35 into a LEO. First launch 1990/12/02.


       The date used herein is based on the Gregorian calender, ISO format year/month/day (year/mm/dd). The month and day use two digits where the year is four digits. Some countries use Roman numbers for months or days, and some use Roman/Cyrillic alphabet abbreviations for a month.

       Some dates have a month and/or day "00", e.g., 1996/00/00. This nomenclature means that the month or day is unknown but the event occurred sometime during the year 1996. For future events, the same nomenclature is also used, e.g., 2008/03/00 means the event is planned for the third month of the year 2008. For satellites, if no date is given then the satellite was not launched as of 2006/12/31 and no estimated date was available.

       The Gregorian calender is not used by everyone. As an aid, the following are date conversions for other calenders and are keyed to the Gregorian Calendar 2001/01/01 or January 1, 2001:

- Julian Calender - December 19, 2000;

- Islamic Calender - 5 Shawwal 1421;

- Hebrew Calender - 6 Teveth 5761;

- Chinese Calender - Cycle 78, year 17 (Geng-Chen), month 12 (Ji-Chou), day 7 (Ji-Zi);

- Persian (Jalali) Calender - 12 Day 1379.

       - Japan Emperor Date - Endnote (YY/MM/DD) 13/01/01

       The date of the event is based upon Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), also known as Universal Time Coordinate, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), or Universal Time (UT or UT1), which is the local time at zero degrees (0o) longitude at the Greenwich Observatory, England. UTC is also known as Zulu. This may affect the reported date of an event. Endnote Russia often uses DMV (Moscow standard time) for launch times.


       Mathematical entries consist of a title of the equation, the equation, and a description of the terms used in the equation in a table format. The term’s units are shown between brackets [ ]. When actual numerical values are shown, both SI and English Engineering Units (FPS) will be used.

Title of Equation


Description of terms [units].

An example is:

Newton's law of universal gravitation

Fg = (GM1M2)/R2

Fg = force due to gravity,

 = [kgm/s2] or [N-m2/kg2]

G = universal gravitational constant, [m3/kgs2] or [N-m2/kg2]

M1, M2 = masses of the two bodies, [kg]

R = distance between the two bodies, [m]


Both the English Engineering (EE) units (also known as foot, pound, second or FPS) and the System International d’unités (SI) or the metric system (also known as meter, kilogram, second or MKS) are provided.


Figures used in the entries include in the caption the figure number and description.


When translating a word from another language to English, or vice versa, it is not uncommon to have multiple spellings. This is especially true when translating between languages that are based on different alphabets, e.g., Roman, Cyrillic, Greek, Chinese, Japanese. Multiple variations of the word or phrase are listed.

Inclusion/Exclusions Criteria:

The criteria for including an item:

- Spacecraft/Satellite launched into orbit, starting in 1957.

- Attempts to launch a spacecraft/satellite into orbit.

- Humans flown into orbit.

- Manned suborbital flights into space.

- Spacecraft/satellites funded or built but not yet launched.

- Funded programs to build and launch a satellite into orbit.

- Launch vehicles used above.

- Rocket motors/engines used above.

- Fuel/propellant used above.

- Launch sites used above

- Ships used above to monitor, track, or recover payloads.

- Orbits used above.

- Major organizations involved in these activities.

- Planets and moons in the solar system.

- Significant non-English terms used above.

- Significant historical items leading to the conquest of space.

- Countries involved in the above.

The criteria for excluding an item:

- Names, descriptions, and acronyms of satellite components.

- Parts of launch facilities, ground stations, manufacturing plants.

- Regional or district offices.

- Satellite orbital elements.

Guide to Use - End Notes:

1. Some sources list a rocket engine number as RD-0233. Others may list it as RD-233.

2. Country ownership may change over time due to corporate mergers or divestitures, market forces, or political changes. Complications arise for satellites when the satellite is built in country "A", launched in country "B", with a launch vehicle built in country "C", from components from country "D", and the satellite/space vehicle is owned by country "E". An example is INTELSAT 706, built by Loral, a U.S., aerospace company, launched by the European built Ariane, launched from Kourou, French Guiana, for Intelsat located in the U.S., but with international membership. The country designation for the INTELSAT 706 satellite is the U.S.

3. Space: The USAF defines space as beginning at 80 km (about 50 miles)(240,000 ft) above the Earth. The IAF defines space as beginning at 100 km (62 miles)(329,000 ft) above the Earth. Definition for space on other planets has not been determined.

4. The U.S. Pegasus launch vehicle uses a B-52 or a modified Lockheed L-1011 aircraft as its “first stage”.

5. It is common for a communications satellite to be initially placed into a low earth orbit (LEO) for checkout, then geostationary transfer orbit, and finally into a geostationary orbit (GEO). The communications satellite may also be transferred from one position over the equator, known as a station, to another position over the equator, known as a change of station, during its life. Because of the increasing danger of space debris in popular orbits around Earth (e.g. GEO, LEO), it is becoming more common to move the satellite, who's function is not longer desired, to a less popular orbit in order to reduce the probability of collision. It is also becoming more common to remove the satellite from orbit through a controlled de-orbit into the atmosphere. The de-orbit procedure was used on the spacecraft, GALILEO. The GALILEO spacecraft was sent into Jupiter’s atmosphere and destroyed, to prevent the spacecraft from impacting Europa and contaminating the moon.

6. Some sub-orbital launches, Scout, and Blue Scout launches exceeded either the 90 minutes in space or 17,500 mph (30,000 km per hour) but did not received designations because their intent was not to go into orbit.

7. VANGUARD 1's international designation is 1958 BETA 2. This means the VANGUARD 1 was the second successful launch of a satellite(s) placed in orbit in 1958, (BETA being the second letter in the Greek alphabet). The "2" means the satellite was the second satellite placed in orbit by that launch vehicle that day. BETA 1 was probably the VANGUARD's launch vehicle last stage motor or nose cone.

8. 1961 A-EPSILON 1, indicates it was the 29th launch that year and is also known as DISCOVERER 34.

9. The 1963-008B designation indicates the object was launched in 1963, was the 8th launch of the year, and was the second object launched by that launch vehicle. The object is also known as LUNA 4.

10. The DISCOVERER 34 example is also known as 1961-029A.

11.Number 22028 is also EUTELSAT 2 F4.

12. 1959 ALPHA 1 (NORAD 11), known as VANGUARD 2, was also launched with 1959 ALPHA 4 (NORAD 14934).

13. Japan launched four satellites on 1985/08/18, but only one had a popular name, PLANET A. The other three satellites are considered items, objects, debris, junk, "flotsam and jetsam", nose cones, spent upper stage motors, wastes, pieces of the original satellite, loose parts, etc.

14. In the United States, the numerical designation generally follows the format: Arabic numbers for satellites and Roman numbers for launch vehicles

15. The satellite IRAQ-1 is the spent 3rd stage of the Al-Anba rocket.

16. VOYAGER is both an identifying name for VOYAGER 1 and 2, and the mission name of the program used by JPL.

17. The ECS name was changed to AYAME, and NODE 1 name was changed to UNITY.

18. Both satellites and the launch vehicle’s popular names are the same, Kosmos. However not every KOSMOS satellite was launched by a Kosmos launch vehicle. In the caseof PEGASUS, the satellite of that name was launched by a Saturn. The launch vehicle, Pegasus, launched ORBCOMM satellites.

19. HORIZON 1, a Japanese communications satellite, 2003-044A, is also named GALAXY 13. The C band payload is referred to as GALXY 13, while th Ku band payload is referred to as HORIZON 1.

20. Using the historical numbering and the latest changes, the VANGUARD 2 (popular name) satellite that was launched on 1959/02/17, is designated as 1959 A1 or 1959 ALPHA 1 or 1959 á1 (international designation 1958-1962) or 1959 001A (international designation renumbered in 1996) or 11 or NORAD 11 (catalog number). Russia also uses several satellite designations for their satellites. As an example, the Design Bureau name is YANTAR-2K, the Ministry of Defense name is FENIKS, and the series serial number is 11F624.

21. On 1976/12/07, the Peoples Republic of China launched three satellites, 1976-117A, 117B, and 117C. The 1976-117A satellite’s name (popular name) is MAO 7. The other two satellites, 117B, and 117C do not have names.

22. GPS 2R-12, is also known as NAVSTAR 55, USA 178, and 2004-023A, launched on 2004/06/23, ETR, LEO, Delta 2,

23. The U.S. X-15 was flown to over 100 km altitude on 1963/7/19 and 1963/8/22, entering space in sub-orbital Flight, but did not nor was it built to enter into Earth orbit. It is considered a spacecraft but not a satellite.

24. NASA considers the STS-051L CHALLENGER a manned spaceflight even though it never reached space.

25. The MERCURY Redstone 4 launched with Astronaut Virgil Grissom on 1961/07/21 as a sub-orbital flight, and the CLUSTER Satellite launch by the Ariane 5 on 1996/06/04 that exploded shortly after launch did not receive International Designation or a Catalog Number.

26. Some components for the MIR received separate International Designations and Catalog Numbers. The KVANT (1) Astrophysics Laboratory was launched attached to the Service Module and the complete assembly were assigned the Number 1987-030A. The Service Module separated from the KVANT and was attached to the MIR. The Service Module was assigned the number 1987-030C. However, the STS Shuttle placed the shuttle’s MIR docking module in space. The combined assembly was assigned the number 1995-061A. The docking module was transferred to the MIR, but did not receive a separate designations. This appears to be the case for the ISS as well.

27. On 1998/08/02, a Pegasus launch vehicle, placed eight ORBCOMM satellites in orbit. They were assigned International Designations 1998046A through 1998-046H.

28.The vehicle, ENDEAVOUR, OV-105, which is part of the of the U.S. Space Transportation System, receives a new International Designation and a new Catalog number each time it is launched into orbit. Endeavour was launched on 1998/12/04 and was assigned the number 1998069A. When ENDEAVOUR was launched on 2000/02/11 it was assigned the number 2000-010A.

29. The Emperor Date is based upon the reign of the Emperor, and is resets to 0 each time a new emperor is installed. Japan has had two emperors to date during the space age. To obtain the Gregorian calender date during the 1st emperors reign (1925 to 1988}, add 1925 to the emperor year. To obtain the Gregorian calender date during the 2nd emperors reign, (1988 to present) add 1988 to year. The month and day use the Year of the Emperor’s reign, Gregorian calender Month, Gregorian calender Day. The Gregorian calender date of 2001/1/1, converts to the Emperor Date of 13/1/1.

30. If a satellite is launched from Vandenberg AFB, U.S., and local time is 10 PM (2200 hours, Pacific Standard Time) on January 29 (1/29), the reported satellite launch date UTC will be 0600 hours, January 30 (1/30) since that is the local time at zero degrees (0o) longitude at the Greenwich Observatory, England.

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Revised 2007/02/11