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Spacecraft and Satellite Dictionary

Abridged Version


       By the end of 2006, the nations of the world had launched more than 4,470 rockets, placing more than 6,800 spacecraft in orbit since 1957. This was accomplished by deploying a variety of launch vehicles from a number of launch sites; placing spacecraft manufactured by various organizations in many different orbits; performing numerous missions; all of which have multiple names and designations. As space becomes more important, the number and types of spacecraft and launch vehicles will experience an explosive growth in this millennium.

       The Spacecraft and Satellite Dictionary is a database, listing in alphabetical order, more than 8,100 names and designations with explanations and descriptions of the following;

       1) spacecraft, satellites, space probes, interplanetary probes, space ships;

       2) astronauts, cosmonauts, yuhangyuans;

       3) launch vehicles, stages, missiles, rockets, engines, motors, propellants, navigation, guidance systems;

       4) launch sites, landing sites, space ports;

       5) companies and organizations (private, government, non profit);

       6) orbits, trajectories, flight paths;

       7) relevant mathematical equations;

       8) designations, names, international names, acronyms, abbreviations, missions.

Also, included is a complete listing of all 6,800 spacecraft launches between 1957 and 2006 in alphabetical order.

       Identifying the spacecraft, their mission, and country of ownership is essential to the understanding of the conquest of space.

       Ironies abound when spacecraft names are chosen. Early in the history of space exploration, the country that launched a spacecraft, selected the spacecraft name, and owned the spacecraft as well as the launch vehicle and the launch site. Today, this is no longer the situation. Multiple international organizations may build a multi-mission spacecraft, launched with one country’s launch vehicle, from another country’s launch site. The spacecraft may be owned by multiple international organizations during its lifetime. The orbits may vary over many years, and parts of the spacecraft may separate and travel to other celestial bodies. Some spacecraft are launched more than once, while others never make it into orbit. An entire series of spacecraft may have the same name, while a single spacecraft may have multiple names during its lifetime.

       Duplicate names are beginning to appear, creating confusion. Some names may describe a spacecraft's function, while others have absolutely no relation to the spacecraft’s function or mission. Missions vary from the very simple to the very complex.

       Many of today's launch vehicles started life as ICBM's in the late 1950's, while others are new, and just entering service. To add to the complexity, some launch vehicles have the same name as a spacecraft, while other launch vehicles may have several names or multiple designations.

       A spacecraft orbit can be as simple as a low Earth orbit, or as complex as a multi-planet rendezvous lasting decades. An orbit’s name may actually describe the orbit, while another orbit is named after those who discovered the orbit.

       A comprehensive listing of spacecraft, satellites and launch vehicles have previously not been available. The Spacecraft and Satellite Dictionary offers:

- Future developers of spacecraft, satellites, and launch vehicles with the information to prevent duplicate or confusing names;

- Valuable information to those monitoring and reporting on space activities;

- The general public, hobbyists, and collectors with a centralized listing of names and places which are key to understanding the conquest of space; and

- The historian with a database of information previously not available.


Additions, changes, and corrections are welcomed.  Please send  to

Revised 2009/03/05

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