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The astronomical name , engl. International Designator , or COSPAR ID for short , also called NSSDCA ID in the USA , is the catalog number of every spacecraft in orbit that is reported to COSPAR. The term spacecraft is used very broadly, so that all " space debris" objects that arise from the launch of a rocket and have their own orbit are also taken into account. In this way, all spacecraft - regardless of their size and origin - should be clearly recorded with their orbital data so that they can be filtered out as disturbance variables from astronomical observation data and possible collisions with satellites and spacecraft can be predicted. During the Cold War , the existing national (mostly military) designation systems were not sufficient for this. For reasons of irrelevance for astronomical observations, no designation was given for suborbital / ballistic flights. For the sake of reporting on failed launch but these were later in the lists drawn according to the scheme year - F consecutive number added.

First system 1957–1963

In the astronomical tradition ( stars , comets and asteroids ) from 1957 onwards, every first sighting (corresponding to a rocket launch) was designated with the year and a Greek letter . If several objects were to be distinguished, they were given a numerical index according to their size.

From 1961, due to the number of sightings, the 24 letters were no longer sufficient, which is why a second was introduced.

Current system since 1963

From 1963, the current designation scheme year - serial number (two or three-digit) alphabetical (Latin) index was used .

The index is assigned according to the apparent importance of the object. Since operator names are now available for practically all payloads, the indices A and the following are usually the payloads, only then do rocket stages and separated parts follow. The catalog contains approx. 6500 entries (as of 2008).

The names of the old system were subsequently converted into names of the new system.


Another designation scheme for artificial satellites is the five-digit satellite catalog number .


  1. The classical Greek alphabet consists of only 24 letters.

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