Encyclopedia Astronautica



  • The only manned military space station to have ever flown, it served only to prove that manned stations provided no cost-effective substitute to unmanned military satellites. Derivatives of the design continue in service into the 21st Century as modules of the Salyut, Mir, and International Space Stations.



  • Communications satellite network.



  • Telecommunications satellite system, act as space repeaters capable of receiving transmissions from earth stations and retransmitting them to other earth stations in Canada. The antenna coverage of the satellite provides the capability of serving virtually all of Canada. Operating entity - Telesat Canada.


  • The successful US project to land a man on the moon.


  • Asia-Pacific communications.


  • Telecommunications satellite.


  • AsiaSat is a wholly owned subsidiary of Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd., a company listed on both the Hong Kong (SEHK: 1135HK) and New York (NYSE: SAT) stock exchanges. AsiaSat's two major shareholders are China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) and Société Européene des Satellites (SES), the operator of EuropeÌs premier ASTRA satellite system.


  • Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Meetings began in 1969 between Russian and American representatives on a joint manned space mission. Ambitious plans for use of Skylab or Salyut space stations were not approved. Instead it was decided to develop a universal docking system for space rescue. A working group was set up in October 1970 and in May 1972 the USA/USSR Agreement was signed with launch to take place in 1975. D Bushuev and G Lanin were the technical directors of the Soviet-designed EPAS docking system program. 1600 experiments were conducted in developing the system.


  • European TV broadcast.



  • The Applications Technology Satellite was a project with the purpose of improving other satellites, specifically to enhance the ability of existing and future satellites to provide weather, and communications data and air/sea navigation aids.


  • Upper atmosphere, auroral studies. Investigation of physical phenomena in the Earth's upper atmosphere at high latitudes and study of the nature of auroras.


  • Australian communications.


  • BONUM satellites provide domestic Russian television service for Media Most, a Moscow media enterprise.


  • Brazilian communications.


  • Medium-scale broadcasting satellites for experimental purposes and communications to Japanese home islands.


  • Japanese communications.


  • British Direct broadcasting system. Owner/operator: British Satellite Broadcasting Ltd,.


  • German V-2 with a 700-pound Army-JPL Wac Corporal.


  • The Energia-Buran Reusable Space System (MKS) had its origins in NPO Energia studies of 1974 to 1975 for a 'Space Rocket Complex Program'.




  • Zhongxing and Zhongwei (Chinastar) communications satellites were orbited by China Orient Telecommunications Satellite Company, part of the Chinese telecommunications ministry. A combination of indigenous and foreign satellites are used. Zhongxing 1 to 4 were apparently some of the earlier DFH-2 and DFH-3 satellites (although more than four reached geosynchronous orbit). Zhongxing 5 was the former Spacenet 1.



  • US domestic communications satellites.


  • Medium-capacity Communications Satellite for Experimental Purposes, a spin stabilized geostationary communications satellite.


  • Multipurpose communications.


  • DirecTV Incorporated began broadcast of satellite-to-home direct television services in mid-1994. Originally a subsidiary of Hughes Communications, the company faced as competitors the similar Primestar and USSB services, as well as older C-band satellite services and cable TV companies. By 2007 it had become the most successful American direct-broadcast television service.


  • The Discovery program was begun by NASA in the early 1990s as the planetary counterpart to the Explorer program.


  • Long-Duration Lunar Base (Russian abbreviation). Soon after the beginning of the L3 project studies work also began on a lunar base to follow the initial single cosmonaut lunar landing. These studies were undertaken by Korolev's OKB-1 with Chief Designer Vladimir Pavlovich Barmin's GSKB SpetsMash (State Union Design Bureau of Special Machine-Building) as principal subcontractor. The project was known to SpetsMash as the 'Long-term Lunar Base' (DLB) and to OKB-1 as 'Zvezda'. Consideration was given to using the same elements in expeditions to other planets. Under the DLB studies SpetsMash defined purposes of the base, the principles of its construction, phases of its deployment and composition of its scientific and support equipment.


  • The first CORONA photos in August 1960 convinced authorities that knowledge of cloud cover over Russia was necessary and could be obtained only via satellite. Since the civilian TIROS program could not yet meet the requirement, the Director, National Reconnaissance Office authorized an 'interim' effort - the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. The satellite series continued to be updated and served into the 21st Century.


  • DS ('Dnepropetrovsk Sputnik') were small satellites built by Yangel's OKB-586 / KB Yuzhnoye in the Ukraine for launch by the same KB's Kosmos launch vehicles. They were used for a wide range of military and scientific research and component proving tests.


  • Defense Satellite Communications System.


  • US communciation satellite project.


  • Simultaneous study of the Earth's inner and outer radiation belts, cosmic rays and upper atmosphere by two spacecraft in different orbits.


  • Various US electronic intelligence satellites, most of them from the Naval Research Laboratory, were orbited in the 1960's and still remain classified.


  • Naval forces monitoring. Determines position of enemy naval forces through detection and triangulation of their electromagnetic emissions (radio, radar, etc)


  • EUTELSAT regional geostationary telecommunication satellite for European countries. Operated by the EUTELSAT organization.


  • Series of satellites launched by Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the exploration of the space environment (micrometeoroids, charged particles, radiation, etc) from both earth orbital and heliocentric orbital locations.


  • Test satellite built by Surrey Satellite for the Chilean Air Force.


  • Television broadcast satellite.


  • Gemini was conceived as an 'upgraded Mercury' to test essential orbital manoeuvring, rendezvous, docking, lifting re-entry, and space walking techniques in the four years between the last Mercury flight and the first scheduled Apollo flight. If fulfilled this mission, and numerous variants that never reached production would have serviced manned space stations and taken Americans around and to the moon - at lower cost and earlier than Apollo.



  • In the early 1960's the Soviet military-political leadership formulated a requirement for a heavy rocket that could be used to launch large military payloads into space as well as act as a ballistic missile for nuclear warheads up to 100 MT in yield.


  • Through a series of purchases and mergers, General Telephone and Electronics (GTE) ended up with a consolidated constellation of geosynchronous communications satellites originally launched by itself and two other entities. Gstar was GTE's original planned fleet.



  • Domestic communications satellite network.


  • HORIZON was a 1959 US Army study to establish a military lunar outpost. According to the project plan, by the end of 1964, a total of 40 SATURN vehicles would have been launched to assemble the necessary spacecraft and infrastructure in low earth orbit. Cargo delivery to the moon would begin in January 1965 with the first manned landing by two men in April 1965. The build-up and construction phase continued until the outpost would be manned by a task force of 12 men in November 1966.



  • Hubble


  • Mobile communications satellite network.


  • Insat (Indian National Satellite System) was a multipurpose satellite system for telecommunications, broadcasting, meteorology and search and rescue services.


  • Intelsat operated the world's first commercial communications satellite. It has provided the scheduled transoceanic television and voice and data communications service ever since.


  • International cooperative satellites with a variety of missions, launched by Soviet boosters.


  • The Iridium system is a commercial communications network comprised of a constellation of 66 LEO spacecraft. The system uses L-Band to provide global communications services through portable handsets.



  • Finally completed in 2010 after a torturous 25-year development and production process, the International Space Station was originally conceived as the staging post for manned exploration of the solar systrem. Instead, it was seemed to be the death knell of manned spaceflight.


  • Japanese domestic communications satellite network.


  • Korean communications satellite network.


  • Earth Resources Technology Satellite.


  • Communications satellite leased to U.S. government.


  • After the N1-launched Zvezda project was cancelled, the new head of NPO Energia, Glushko, still considered the establishment of a moon base to be a primary goal for his country. While the Americans had achieved the first moon landing, it was known that all moon flights after Apollo 17 had been cancelled. There existed an opportunity, through establishment of a permanent moon base, to steal the lead in the space race once again. Furthermore, analysis of the results of the previous unmanned and manned indicated that the moon was suited for a variety of 'special investigations', and that a permanent lunar expeditionary complex (LEK) would be required to accomplish this.

Long March.

  • The amazing story of rocket development in China is given in the milestones below.


  • Soviet lunar probe series. Lunas were the first manmade objects to attain of escape velocity; to impact on the moon; to photograph the far side of the moon; to soft land on the moon; to retrieve and return lunar surface samples to the earth; and to deploy a lunar rover on the moon's surface.

Lunar L1.

  • The Soviet program to put a man on a circumlunar flight around the moon.

Lunar L3.

  • The Soviet program to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth.



  • Geostationary maritime communications satellites, which form part of INMARSAT's world-wide maritime communications satellite network. The program began as the experimental Maritime Orbital Test Satellite (Marots) in 1973, but was subsequently changed to an operational system resulting in a name change, a satellite redesign, and delayed development. Marecs is operated by ESA for Inmarsat.


  • Mariner spacecraft were built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for early exploration of the nearby planets. The Mariner series became the first spacecraft to return significant data on the surface and atmosphere conditions of Venus, Mars, and Mercury.


  • Soviet Mars probes were intended to photograph Mars on flyby trajectories, followed by Mars orbit, landing, and Phobos reconnaisance missions. Essentially all of the series failed.

Mars Surveyor.

  • A series of lower-cost missions devoted to the mapping of Mars from Mars orbit. Designed to accomplish at less cost the mission assigned to the failed Mars Observer.


  • Malaysian communications satellite project.


  • Mercury was America's first man-in-space project. Setting the precedent for the later Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle programs, any capsule configuration proposed by the contractors was acceptable as long as it was the one NASA's Langley facility, and in particular, Max Faget, had developed. McDonnell, at that time a renegade contractor of innovative Navy fighters that had a history of problems in service, received the contract. The capsule had to be as small as possible to match the payload capability of America's first ICBM, the Atlas, which would be used for orbital missions. The resulting design was less than a third of the weight of the Russian Vostok spacecraft, and more limited as a result.


  • The Mir space station was the last remnant of the once mighty Soviet space programme. It was built to last only five years, and was to have been composed of modules launched by Proton and Buran/Energia launch vehicles. These modules were derived from those originally designed by Chelomei in the 1960's for the Almaz military station programme. As the Soviet Union collapsed Mir stayed in orbit, but the final modules were years late and could only be completed with American financial assistance. Kept flying over a decade beyond its rated life, Mir proved a source of pride to the Russian people and proved the ability of their cosmonauts and engineers to improvise and keep operations going despite all manner of challenges and mishaps.


  • First Soviet communications satellite network.


  • Communications satellites launched by the Mexican Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes. Coverage of the national territory with television, radio and telephony signals and data transmission. Later privatised and taken over by Satellites Mexicanos S.A. de C.V.


  • Engineering test for the launching of scientific satellites.


  • Canadian communications satellite.


  • Mu Space Engineering Satellites (launched on Japanes Mu series launch vehicles) pioneered new satellite technologies, including lunar flyby interplanetary injection, aerobraking, and large structure deployment.


  • Geosynchronous satellite network..

NASA Lifting Body.

  • NASA's Ames Research Center and Langley had promoted the idea of 'lifting bodies', rounded half-cones, for use as manned recoverable spacecraft. These provided lift for maneuver and recovery at an airfield after re-entry from orbit.


  • Military communications satellite network.


  • The Navaho intercontinental cruise missile project was begun just after World War II, at a time when the US Army Air Force considered ballistic missiles to be technically impractical. The Navaho required a large liquid propellant rocket engine to get its Mach 3 ramjet up to ignition speed. This engine, derived with German assistance from that of the V-2, provided the basis for the rockets that would later take Americans into space.


  • The Navstar GPS (Global Positioning System) program was a joint service effort directed by the United States Department of Defence. Navstar GPS is a space-based radio-positioning system nominally consisting of a 24-satellite constellation that provides navigation and timing information to military and civilian users worldwide. In addition to the satellites, the system consists of a worldwide satellite control network and GPS receiver units that acquire the satellite's signals and translate them into position information. Originally envisioned as primarily a military system, GPS was found to have a wide variety of civilian applications, many of them never conceived by the original system's designers.


  • Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application. NASA/AEC Project of the 1960's to develop Nuclear Thermal Propulsion.


  • Egypt's first communications satellite.


  • Communications satellite network.


  • Israeli indigenous satellite series. Launching organization: Israel Aircraft Industries, Ltd (IAI) and Israeli Space Agency (ISA). Function of first Offeqs: 1) Experimentation in generation of solar power; 2) Experimentation in transmission reception from space; 3) Verification of system's ability to withstand vacuum and weightless conditions; 4) Data collection on space environment conditions and Earth's magnetic field. Later models provided military optical and electronic reconnaissance services.


  • Naval radar satellite network.


  • Orbcomm was a commercial venture to provide global messaging services using a constellation of 26 low-Earth orbiting satellites.



  • Domestic communications satellite network.


  • Sixth-generation reconnaisance satellite. After returning multiple film capsules, the spacecraft is deorbited.


  • Amateur radio satellite network. For over a third of a century a series of OSCAR satellites have been launched in a variety of configurations and by many nations.


  • Indonesia's domestic communications satellite system. Palapas, stationed in geosynchronous orbit, provide voice circuits and television to the country's 6000+ inhabited islands.


  • Pan American Satellite, in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, was founded in 1984 as part of Alpha Lyracom. It orbited a series of communications satellites providing television broadcast to the US and Latin American markets. In 1996 it merged with Hughes Galaxy.


  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pioneer series were the first US probes sent towards the moon. Later Pioneers explored the heliocentric space environment and were the first spacecraft to reach the outer planets and to escape from the solar system.


  • Investigation of ultra-high-energy cosmic particles.


  • Ranger was originally to be a program of five unmanned lunar crasher spacecraft, intended to quickly obtain information on the lunar surface. The scientific objective would be to acquire and transmit a number of images of the lunar surface prior to impact, and to obtain data from a survivable package incorporating a lunar seismometer. The resulting spacecraft was much too ambitious for its period. After five consecutive failures, a simpler, picture-return-only spacecraft made three successful flights, returning the first closeup pictures of the lunar surface years behind schedule.



  • Zenit-derived satellites used for earth resources studies as part of the 'Resurs' and 'Gektor-Priroda' project. Investigation of the natural resources of the earth in the interests of various branches of the national economy of the USSR and international cooperation.


  • Soviet military nuclear-reactor powered radar naval reconnaissance satellite network.


  • SAC (Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas) was a series of Argentine satellites devoted to proving and developing Argentinan space technology.


  • The world's first space station, developed in one year by the Soviet Union on the basis of Chelomei's Almaz station, in an attempt to upstage the American Skylab after the loss of the moon landing race to the Americans.

Salyut 6.

  • Mishin was authorised in December 1973 to build an improved design DOS-5 version of the Salyut station using Almaz facilities. Mishin's bureau borrowed the two docking port configuration of Chelomei's Almaz OPS-2 This station's second docking port would allow rotation of crews and resupply/refueling using unmanned Progress spacecraft.

Salyut 7.

  • Due to cancellation of the Almaz military station, and delays in the Mir project, the decision was taken in the late 1970's to fly the back-up to DOS-5 / Salyut 6. This was launched as Salyut 7 in 1982. The opportunity was still taken to fly 'guest cosmonauts' from friendly countries on short visits to the stations, although emphasis was placed on military experiments. Salyut 7 was able to conduct significant military experiments thanks to the greatly increased volume and payload of the TKS modules diverted from the Almaz programme that docked with the station.


  • Series of communications satellites started by RCA Americom in 1975 and continued by GE when it took over RCA.


  • Satellite Business Systems communications network.


  • Communications satellite network operated by Sino Satellite Communications Company of Shanghai for communications services in China.


  • Geosynchronous communications satellite network.


  • Technology test satellite series of varying configurations.


  • First and only US space station to date. Project began life as Apollo Orbital Workshop - outfitting of an S-IVB stage with docking adapter with equipment launched by several subsequent S-1B launches. Curtailment of the Apollo moon landings meant that surplus Saturn V's were available, so the pre-equipped, five times heavier, and much more capable Skylab resulted.


  • Military communications satellite network.

Small Explorer.

  • A series of relatively low-cost satellites launched by NASA for solar and astronomical studies.


  • The Soyuz spacecraft was designed in 1962 for rendezvous and docking operations in near earth orbit, leading to piloted circumlunar flight. Versions remained in production into the 21st Century as a space station ferry, resupply craft, and lifeboat. After the retirement of the American space shuttle in 2011, it became the only means for regular human access to space.


  • European/American joint project provided the Spacelab pressurized module that remained attached to space shuttle and permitted conduct of a range of experiments.


  • Systeme Probatoire pour l'Observation de la Terre - French remote sensing satellite network.


  • Singapore/Taiwan communications satellite network operated by Singapore Telecom and Chunghwa Telecom of Taiwan.


  • The small STEDI (Student Explorer Demonstration Initiative) program was also known as the University Explorer (UNEX) series. First launch was the HETE astronomy satellite built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This was followed by SNOE, the Student Nitric Oxide Explorer, built by the University of Colorado.


  • Space Test Experiment Program; series of USAF technology test satellites.


  • Military store-dump communications satellite network. The commercial version of GRU Strela-3 military store-dump satellite are designated Gonets-D1. They were to be deployed in a constellation of 12 satellites (2 planes of 6) between 1996 and 1998. Each satellite has a single simultaneous earth-space and space-earth channel. On-board storage is 12 Mbits of data, with a transmission rate of 2.4 kbit/sec. Two preproduction test spacecraft of slightly different configuration called 'Gonets-D' were flown.


  • The Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle) was conceived originally as a completely reusable system that would provide cheap, routine access to space and replace all American and civilian military launch vehicles. Crippled by technological overreach, political compromise, and budget limitations, it instead ended up costing more than the expendable rockets it was to have replaced. STS sucked the money out of all other NASA projects for half a century. The military abandoned its use after the Challenger shuttle explosion in the 1980's.


  • Japanese domestic business communications satellite network




  • French direct broadcasting communications satellite network


  • Television, business communications satellite networ for Nordic countries. High power telecommunications satellites provided both direct TV broadcasting and data communications.


  • Communications satellite network


  • Network of communications satellites, operated by AT&T Skynet, later Loral Skynet, Bedminster.


  • Geosynchronous communications satellite network


  • Thai commercial communications satellite network operated by the Shinawatra Satellite Public Company.

Thor Comsat.

  • The Thor communication satellites are orbited by Telenor of Norway and provide television services to Scandinavia. Thor 1 satellite was originally orbited by British Satellite Broadcasting as Marcopolo 2. It was purchased on orbit in 1992 from BSB.


  • Thuraya was founded in the UAE in 1997 by a consortium of leading national telecommunications operators and international investment houses. The concept was to offer cost-effective satellite-based mobile telephone services to Europe, the Middle East, North and Central Africa, and Central and South Asia. The new aspect was the use of dynamic dual mode handsets.


  • TIROS spacecraft were the beginning of a long series of polar-orbiting meteorological satellites. TIROS was followed by the TOS (TIROS Operational System) series, and then the ITOS (Improved TIROS) series, and later the NOAA series. TIROS spacecraft were developed by GSFC and managed by ESSA (Environmental Science Services Administration). The objective was to establish a global weather satellite system.


  • Uosat Microbus-class payload built by Surrey Satellite for the Thai Microsatellite Company of Bangkok. Conducted a dual Earth observation and data communications mission.


  • Spin-stabilized Transit satellites were developed by the US Navy into the first operational navigation satellite system, for use by ballistic missile submarines and surface vessels. Early Transits carried a variety of piggy-back payloads, many still classified. Transit was also known as the Navy Navigation Satellite (NNS). Transit provided continuous navigation satellite service from 1964, initially for Polaris submarines and later for civilian use.


  • Russian ELINT satellite network


  • Small experimental store and forward communications satellite series.


  • Communications satellites launched to support Turkish domestic communications and television, orbited by the Ministry of Posts and Communications of the Republic of Turkey.


  • West German communications satellite network


  • US Navy communications satellite network; Ultra High Frequency Follow On.


  • Relatively unsuccessful program to launch the United States first artifical satellite of the earth.


  • Russian series of spacecraft that explored the planet Venus. Venera spacecraft made the first soft landings on the surface of Venus and returned the first images from the surface.


  • The Voskhods were adaptations of the single place Vostok spacecraft meant to conduct flights with up to three crew and for space walks in advance of US Gemini program. Work on the 3KV and 3KD versions of the basic Vostok spacecraft began with the decree issued on 13 April 1964. In order to accommodate more than one crew, the seats were mounted perpendicular to the Vostok ejection seat position, so the crew had to crane their necks to read instruments, still mounted in their original orientation. The Elburs soft landing system replaced the ejection seat and allowed the crew to stay in the capsule. It consisted of probes that dangled from the parachute lines. Contact with the earth triggered a solid rocket engine in the parachute which resulted in a zero velocity landing.


  • World's first manned spacecraft, it was later developed into the Voskhod, and numerous versions of Zenit recoverable reconnaisance, materials, and biological research satellites which remained in service into the 21st Century.


  • The satellites, act as space repeaters capable of receiving transmissions from earth stations and retransmitting them to other earth stations in Canada. The antenna coverage of the satellite provides the capability of serving virtually all of Canada.


  • The WorldSpace project, led by Ethiopian-born Noah Samara, was intended to empower the developing world by providing improved access to information. Its three satellites, Afristar, Asiastar, and Ameristar, were to broadcast digital radio to less developed countries. Small hand-held radios could pick up the 24 to 96 radio channels available on the three L-band beams broadcast by each satellite. On-board processing allows variable bit rates to provide audio quality ranging from monophonic to CD digital. Broadcasters would send their programs to the satellite with a small X-band ground station.


  • X-15 rocket-powered manned aircraft project set records for altitude and speed, and reached the edge of space.



  • The X-Prize competition was an attempt to promote commercial civilian spaceflight in a manner similar to the prizes handed out in the early days of aviation. Ten million dollars was to go to the first team to fly a vehicle capable of launching three people into space (defined as an altitude of 100 km in a suborbital trajectory), twice in a two-week period. The vehicle had to be 90% reusable by dry mass. For purposes of the two flights, the competition accepted flight by one person and ballast equivalent to two others at 90 kg per passenger. The flights had to be completed before the end of 2005.

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