Jonathan's Space Pages

NRL's Secret Satellites

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) played a key role in early US space programs. This included the launch of clusters of small military satellites; although much of the previously secret work under program POPPY and related projects is now declassified, parts are not. In particular, the mapping of specific satellites to US satellite catalog numbers remains confused.

I first attempted to publicly sort this out in my JBIS paper in 1997. A lot of information has been declassified since then, so it's time to take another pass at it.



Some NRL satellites (Naval Research Reviews, 1965)

A key dataset is a list of NRL satellites released by the Naval Center for Space Technology in 1995. Here I attempt to map the names in that list to other naming systems:


The early launches carried an APL Transit primary payload as well as NRL small satellites as secondary payload. The first launch with a cluster of satellites and no primary payload, in Jan 1962, was referred to as COMPOSITE 1. Although this nomenclature was not used for later launches by official sources, I adopt it for the later clusters. My 'NRL Composite' flights 2 to 8 were probably referred to as POPPY launches 1 to 7 by NRL, even though the payloads included more than just POPPY satellites.

The Surcal 150B payload does not appear in the NCST list, but is included here nevertheless.

After 1977, manufacture of the PARCAE satellites was outsourced to Martin Marietta and these satellites do not appear on the NCST list. They are included here since it is believed that NRL (as part of NRO Program C) managed the missions.

For notes on the cross-correlation of payloads and satellite catalog numbers, see the individual launch pages.

The situation for NRL satellites launched outside the period covered by the NCST list, i.e. in 1957-1959 and 1997-present, is simpler, without the proliferation of alternate names and uncertain identifications. They are tabulated in supplementary lists: [1997-present]

Table 1: NRL Satellites 1957-1959

NRL Group IDNRL Mission Name Satcat NameJCAT COSPARTypeLaunch
Test F Test Satellite F F000021957-F01 NRL 6" Vanguard TV3
Test G Test Satellite G F000041958-F01 NRL 6" Vanguard TV3BU
Test H Test Satellite H Vanguard I S00005 1958 Beta 2 NRL 6" Vanguard TV4
Group I FU2 X-ray/Environmental Satellite F00011 1958-F04 NRL 20" Vanguard TV5
Group I FU3 Lyman Alpha Satellite F00013 1958-F05 NRL 20" Vanguard SLV1
Group I FU1 X-ray Satellite F000151958-F06 NRL 20" Vanguard SLV2
Group II FU2Cloud Cover Satellite F000421958-U01 NRL 20" Vanguard SLV3
Group II FU1Cloud Cover Satellite Vanguard IIS000111959 Alpha 1 NRL 20" Vanguard SLV4
Group III FU1 Magnetometer Satellite F000561959-F01 NRL 14" Vanguard SLV5
Group IV Radiation Balance Satellite F000661959-F03 NRL 20" Vanguard SLV6
Group V Magne-Ray Satellite Vanguard IIIS000201959 Eta NRL 20" Vanguard SLV7

Table 2: NRL Satellites 1960 - 1996

NCST No. NSCT Name NRL Mission Name NRL PL Name NRO Name Cover nameSatcat NameRAE NameJCAT COSPARTypeLaunch
1 SR I Dyno SV2 GRAB 1 SR I SOLRAD 1 (GREB) SR 1S00046 1960 Eta 2 NRL 20"AB003
2 SR II Dyno SV1 GRAB SR I F00133 1960-F16 NRL 20" AB006
3 LOFTI I LOFTI - LOFTI I LOFTI 1 Lofti 1 A00085 1961 Eta NRL 20"AB007
4 SR III Dyno SV3 GRAB 2 SR III SOLRAD 3 A00100 1961 Omi NRL 20" AB008
5 SR IVA Dyno SV4 GRAB SR IVA F00192 1962-F02 NRL 20" AB010/NRL Composite 1
6 LOFTI IIA LOFTI IIA - LOFTI IIA F00193 1962-F02 NRL 20"
7 SURCAL I SURCAL I - SURCAL I F00196 1962-F02 NRL 20"
8 SR IVB Dyno SV5 GRAB SR IVB F00198 1962-F03 NRL 20" S111
9 SR V Dyno SV6 GRAB SR V Not launched NRL 20" Not launched
10 PL 120 POPPY 1A PL 120 Mission 7101A BLACK SPHERE S00502 1962 BetaTau 1NRL Str 20"NRL Composite 2
11 PL 121 POPPY 1B PL 121 Mission 7101B CALSPHERE 1A S00513 1962 BetaTau 5NRL Str 20"
12 SURCAL II SURCAL II - SURCAL II SURCAL 1A Surcal 1AS00508 1962 BetaTau 4SUR Box
13 CALSPHERE ICALSPHERE I - CALSPHERE 1ASURCAL 1 S00507 1962 BetaTau 3NRL 6"
14 SR VI POPPY 2A PL 110? Mission 7102A SR VI SOLRAD 6 SR 6A S00599 1963-021CNRL 24"NRL Composite 3
15 LOFTI IIB LOFTI IIB - Lofti IIB LOFTI 2A Lofti 2A S00601 1963-021BNRL 20"
16 PL 112 POPPY 2C PL 112 Mission 7102C FTV 1292 S00598 1963-021ENRL Str 20"
17 Dosimeter POPPY 2B PL 130? Mission 7102B Dosimeter Radose 112 Radose S00600 1963-021DNRL 24"
18 SURCAL III SURCAL III - SURCAL III SURCAL 1B Surcal 1B S00597 1963-021FSUR Box
19 SR VIIA POPPY 3B PL 124 Mission 7103B SR VIIA Solrad 7A SR 7A S00730 1964-001DNRL 24"NRL Composite 4
20 GGSE I POPPY 3C PL 134 Mission 7103C GGSE I GGSE 1 GGSE 1 S00728 1964-001BNRL Str 20"
21 PL 135 POPPY 3A PL 135 Mission 7103A - - - S00731 1964-001ENRL Str 20"
22 DRAGSPHERE IDRAGSPHERE I - Dragsphere I Calsphere 1Calsphere 1S00900 1964-063C14" sphereAB016
23 DRAGSPHERE IIDRAGSPHERE II - Dragsphere IICalsphere 2Calsphere 2S00902 1964-063E14" sphere
24 SR VIIB POPPY 4A PL 141 Mission 7104A SR VIIB SOLRAD 7B SR 7B S01291 1965-016DNRL 24"NRL Composite 5
25 PL 142 POPPY 4B PL 142 Mission 7104B - GREB 6 SR 6B S01271 1965-016ANRL 24"
26 GGSE II POPPY 4C PL 143 Mission 7104C GGSE 2 GGSE 2 GGSE 2 S01244 1965-016BNRL 24"
27 GGSE III POPPY 4D PL 144 Mission 7104D GGSE 3 GGSE 3 GGSE 3 S01292 1965-016CNRL 24"
28 SURCAL IV SURCAL IV - Surcal SURCAL 2 Surcal 2 S01310 1965-016GSUR Box
29 DODECAPOLE I DODECAPOLE I - Dodecapole IPORCUPINE 1Dodecapole 1S01272 1965-016HNRL 9"
30 TEMPSAT 1 TEMPSAT 1 - Tempsat 1 TEMPSAT 1 Tempsat 1 S01512 1965-065ENRL 14"AB020
31 LONG ROD LONG ROD - Long Rod NAVSPASUR ROD 1Surcal S015151965-065G60-m antenna
32 SURCAL V SURCAL V PL 150C? - SURCAL V PORCUPINE 2 Surcal S015771965-065JSUR Box
33 CALSPHERE II CALSPHERE II PL 158? - CALSPHERE CALSPHERE 4(A)Surcal S015201965-065HNRL 6"?
34 DODECAPOLE IIDODECAPOLE II - DODECAPOLE IIDODECAPOLE 2Dodecapole 2S015101965-065CNRL 9"?
35 Explorer 30 SR VIII PL 145 - SR VIII Explorer 30 Explorer 30 (IQSY)S017381965-093ANRL 24"S138R
36 PL 137 PL 137 PL 137 - OPS 0974 OPS 0974 [Atlas Agena D] A009091966-022B Unknown G26
37 PL 151 POPPY 5A PL 151 Mission 7105A OPS 5712 (P/L 152) [Thor Agena D]S028731967-053GNRL 24" NRL Composite 6
38 GGSE IV POPPY 5B PL 152? Mission 7105B GGSE IV GGSE 4 GGSE 4 S02828 1967-053C NRL Multiface
39 PL 153 POPPY 5C PL 153 Mission 7105C OPS 5712 (P/L 153) [Thor Agena D]S028741967-053HNRL Multiface
40 GGSE V POPPY 5D PL 154? Mission 7105D GGSE V GGSE 5 GGSE 5 S02834 1967-053D NRL Multiface
41 TIMATION I TIMATION I - Timation I TIMATION 1 Timation 1S02847 1967-053E Timation box
42 CALSPHERE III CALSPHERE III PL 159 - Calsphere SURCAL 159 [Thor Agena D]S028721967-053F20" sphere
43 CALSPHERE IV CALSPHERE IV PL160 - Calsphere OPS 5712 (P/L 160)Surcal S02826 1967-053A 16" sphere
- SURCAL VI? PL150B - SURCAL 150B Surcal (150B)S02909 1967-053J SUR box
44 Explorer 37 SR IX PL 155 - SR IX Explorer 37 Explorer 37 (SE-B)S031411968-017ASolar Exp.S160C
45 ORBIS CAL I ORBIS CAL I - Orbiscal 1 - - F00584 1968-F07OC Box STP P68-1
46 ORBIS CAL II ORBIS CAL II - Orbiscal 2 OV1-17A (ORBISCAL 2)OV1-17A (Orbiscal 2)S038261969-025D OC BoxSTP P69-1
47 PL 161 POPPY 6A PL 161 Mission 7106A OPS 7613 (P/L 3) [Thorad Agena D] S04259 1969-082D NRL MultifaceNRL Composite 7
48 PL 162 POPPY 6B PL 162 Mission 7106B OPS 7613 (P/L 4) [Thorad Agena D] S04237 1969-082E NRL Multiface
49 PL 163 POPPY 6C PL 163 Mission 7106C OPS 7613 (P/L 5) [Thorad Agena D] S04247 1969-082F NRL Multiface
50 PL 164 POPPY 6D PL 164 Mission 7106D OPS 7613 (P/L 6) [Thorad Agena D] S04295 1969-082G NRL Multiface
51 TIMATION II TIMATION II PL 169 - Timation 2 Timation 2 Timation 2 S04257 1969-082C Timation box
52 PL 176 PL 176 PL 176 ? OPS 7613 (P/L 1) [Thorad Agena D] S04256 1969-082B Unknown
53 TEMPSAT 2 Tempsat 2 PL 157C - Tempsat 2 Tempsat 2 Tempsat 2 S04168 1969-082H NRL 14"
54 CONE SOICAL Cone PL 149B - SOICAL (Cone) Soical Cone S04132 1969-082K Cone
55 CYLINDER SOICAL Cylinder PL 149A - SOICAL (Cylinder) Soical Cylinder S04166 1969-082J Cylinder
56 PL 170A PL 170A PL 170A - S70-3 Drag Sphere CALSPHERE 3 Calsphere 3 S04957 1971-012C 10" SphereSTP S70-3
57 PL 170B PL 170B PL 170B - S70-3 Drag Sphere CALSPHERE 4 Calsphere 4 S04958 1971-012D 10" Sphere
58 PL 170C PL 170C PL 170C - S70-3 Drag Sphere CALSPHERE 5 Calsphere 5 S04963 1971-012E 10" Sphere
59 Explorer 44 SR X PL 165 - SR X Explorer 44 (Solrad 10)Explorer 44 (SR10) S05317 1971-058A Solar Exp. S177C
60 PL 171 POPPY 7A PL 171 Mission 7107A OPS 7898 (P/L 1) [Thorad Agena D] S05678 1971-110A NRL MultifaceNRL Composite 8
61 PL 172 POPPY 7B PL 172 Mission 7107B OPS 7898 (P/L 2) [Thorad Agena D] S05680 1971-110C NRL Multiface
62 PL 173 POPPY 7C PL 173 Mission 7107C OPS 7898 (P/L 3) [Thorad Agena D] S05681 1971-110D NRL Multiface
63 PL 174 POPPY 7D PL 174 Mission 7107D OPS 7898 (P/L 4) [Thorad Agena D] S05682 1971-110E NRL Multiface
64 TIMATION III TIMATION III - NTS 1 OPS 7518 (NTS 1) NTS 1 (Timation 3) S07369 1974-054A NTS STP P73-3
65 SR 11A SR 11A PL 175 - Solrad 11A Solrad 11A Solrad 11A S08748 1976-023A SR11STP P74-1
66 SR 11B SR 11B PL 177 - Solrad 11B Solrad 11B Solrad 11B S08749 1976-023B SR11
67 MSD MSD - OPS 6431 OPS 6431 NOSS 1 S08818 1976-038A MSD NOSS 1
68 PL 181 PARCAE 1A PL 181 Mission 7108A? SSU 1 SSU 1 SSU 1 S08835 1976-038C SSU
69 PL 182 PARCAE 1B PL 182 Mission 7108B? SSU 2 SSU 2 SSU 2 S08884 1976-038J SSU
70 PL 183 PARCAE 1C PL 183 Mission 7108C? SSU 3 SSU 3 SSU 3 S08836 1976-038D SSU
71 NTS 2 NTS 2 - NTS 2 NTS 2 NTS 2 S10091 1977-053A NTS STP P76-4
72 MSD MSD - OPS 8781 OPS 8781 NOSS 2 S10502 1977-112A MSD NOSS 2
73 PL 191 PARCAE 2A PL 191 Mission 7109A? SS 1 SS 1 SSU 4 S10529 1977-112D SSU
74 PL 192 PARCAE 2B PL 192 Mission 7109B? SS 2 SS 2 SSU 5 S10544 1977-112E SSU
75 PL 193 PARCAE 2C PL 193 Mission 7109C? SS 3 SS 3 SSU 6 S10594 1977-112F SSU
MSD OPS 7245 OPS 7245 NOSS 3 S11720 1980-019A MSD NOSS 3
PARCAE 3A Mission 7110A? EP 1 EP 1 SSU S11731 1980-019C SSU
PARCAE 3B Mission 7110B? EP 2 EP 2 SSU S11732 1980-019DSSU
PARCAE 3C Mission 7110C? EP 3 EP 3 SSU S11745 1980-019GSSU
MSD OPS 3255 OPS 3255 F00858 1980-U01 MSD NOSS 4
PARCAE 4A Mission 7111A? F00859 1980-U01 SSU
PARCAE 4B Mission 7111B? F00860 1980-U01 SSU
PARCAE 4C Mission 7111C? F00861 1980-U01 SSU
76 LIPS I LIPS I - F00862 1980-U01 LIPS
MSD OPS 0252 OPS 0252 NOSS 4 S13791 1983-008AMSD NOSS 5
PARCAE 5A Mission 7112A? SSA SSA SSA S13844 1983-008ESSU
PARCAE 5B Mission 7112B? SSB SSB SSB S13845 1983-008FSSU
PARCAE 5C Mission 7112C? SSC SSC SSC S13874 1983-008HSSU
77 LIPS II LIPS II - SSD SSD SSD S13792 1983-008B LIPS
MSD OPS 6432 OPS 6432 NOSS 5 S14112 1983-056AMSD NOSS 6
PARCAE 6A Mission 7113A? GB 1 GB 1 GB1 S14143 1983-056CSSU
PARCAE 6B Mission 7113B? GB 2 GB 2 GB2 S14144 1983-056DSSU
PARCAE 6C Mission 7113C? GB 3 GB 3 GB3 S14180 1983-056GSSU
MSD OPS 8737 OPS 8737 NOSS 6 S14690 1984-012AMSD NOSS 7
PARCAE 7A Mission 7114A? JD 1 JD 1 JD 1 S14728 1984-012CSSU
PARCAE 7B Mission 7114B? JD 2 JD 2 JD 2 S14729 1984-012DSSU
PARCAE 7C Mission 7114C? JD 3 JD 3 JD 3 S14795 1984-012FSSU
MSD USA 15 USA 15 NOSS 7 (USA 15) S16591 1986-014AMSD NOSS 8
PARCAE 8A Mission 7115A? USA 16 USA 16 USA 16 S16624 1986-014ESSU
PARCAE 8B Mission 7115B? USA 17 USA 17 USA 17 S16625 1986-014FSSU
PARCAE 8C Mission 7115C? USA 18 USA 18 USA 18 S16631 1986-014HSSU
MSD USA 22 USA 22 NOSS 8 (USA 22) S17997 1987-043AMSD NOSS 9
PARCAE 9A Mission 7116A? USA 23 USA 23 USA 23 S18009 1987-043ESSU
PARCAE 9B Mission 7116B? USA 24 USA 24 USA 24 S18010 1987-043FSSU
PARCAE 9C Mission 7116C? USA 25 USA 25 USA 25 S18025 1987-043HSSU
78 LIPS III LIPS III - LIPS 3 LIPS 3 [NOSS 8 rocket] S17998 1987-043BPlume shield
79 LACE LACE - LACE LACE (USA 51) LACE S20496 1990-015A LACE Delta 192
80 TLD TLD - USA 59 USA 59 USA 59 A04850 1990-050ATLD Titan 4A K-4
PARCAE 10A? Mission 7117A? USA 60 USA 60 USA 60 S20682 1990-050BSSU
PARCAE 10B? Mission 7117B? USA 61 USA 61 USA 61 S20691 1990-050CSSU
PARCAE 10C? Mission 7117C? USA 62 USA 62 USA 62 S20692 1990-050DSSU
TLD - USA 72 USA 72 USA 72 A05059 1990-050ATLD Titan 4A K-8
PARCAE 11A? Mission 7118A? USA 74 USA 74 USA 74 S21799 1990-050CSSU
PARCAE 11B? Mission 7118B? USA 76 USA 76 USA 76 S21808 1990-050DSSU
PARCAE 11C? Mission 7118C? USA 77 USA 77 USA 77 S21809 1990-050ESSU
TLD - USA 72 USA 72 USA 72 F01157 1993-F03TLD Titan 4A K-11
PARCAE 12A? Mission 7119A? F01154 1993-F03SSU
PARCAE 12B? Mission 7119B? F01155 1993-F03SSU
PARCAE 12C? Mission 7119C? F01156 1993-F03SSU
81 Clementine DSPSE - Clementine Clementine 1 S22973 1994-004ADSPSE Titan 23G-11
82 Interstage ISA - ISA Star 37FM AKM S22987 1994-004CISA
SPARTAN-204 - Spartan 204 Spartan 204 S23470 1995-004BSpartan STS-63
TLD - USA 122 USA 122 A05785 1996-029DTLD Titan 4A K-22
PARCAE 13A? Mission 7120A? USA 119 USA 119 S23893 1996-029ASSU
PARCAE 13B? Mission 7120B? USA 120 USA 120 S23907 1996-029BSSU
PARCAE 13C? Mission 7120C? USA 121 USA 121 S23908 1996-029CSSU
TIPS Ralph USA 123 USA 123 S23936 1996-029ESSU
TIPS Norton USA 124 USA 124 S23937 1996-029FSSU

Table 3: NRL Satellites 1996-2019

NRL Mission Name Satcat NameJCAT COSPARTypeLaunch
STEX STEX S25489 1998-055A Taurus 3
ATEX ATEX S25615 1998-055C Tether
Starshine Starshine S25769 1999-030B STS-96
Starshine 3 Starshine 3 S26929 2001-043A LM-001
Starshine 2 Starshine 2 S26996 2001-054B STS-108
NRL POTV USA 189 S29242 2006-024C Delta 316
ANDE-MAA ANDE MAA SPHERE 1 S29663 2006-055F STS-116
ANDE-FCAL ANDE FCAL SPHERE 2 S29667 2006-055J
ANDE-PS ANDE POLLUX SPHERE S35693 2009-038E STS-127
ANDE-AS ANDE CASTOR SPHERE S35694 2009-038F
QbX-1 QbX-1 S37249 2010-066F Cubesat SpX-C1
QbX-2 QbX-2 S37245 2010-066B Cubesat
Tacsat-4 Tacsat-4 S37818 2011-052A Minotaur IV-5
SpinSat SpinSat S40314 1998-067FL SpX-4/Cyclops
CHEFSat CHEFSat S43044 2017-071H Cubesat OA-8
CHEFSat 2 CHEFSat 2 S44044 2018-092E Cubesat NG-10
TEPCE TEPCE 1/2 S44346 2019-036H Cubesat/Tether STP-2

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