Complications - which launching state?
Things are confusing for payloads launched by one state on behalf
of another. The legal language of "launching state" is defined in
Article I of the Convention as either "(i) A State which launches or procures the
launching of a space object;" or "(ii) A State from whose territory
or facility a space object is launched".
Usually and traditionally it has been the payload owner country,
not the launching state country, which does the registration. The United
States occasionally registers payloads which it launched but which
belong to another country, but this is not done in any systematic way.
In these cases I have considered the payload to be a United States
payload unless it was subsequently re-registered by another state. 10 of
the French payloads belonged to ESRO, and several to EUTELSAT.
Until 1981 the
USA registered all INTELSAT payloads, since INTELSAT has its
headquarters in the USA. Since 1981, it has omitted all these payloads.
It can be seen that almost 10 percent of US payloads since 1980 are
unregistered. China also has a bad record, since it only began
registering launches a few years ago. Japan has a good
score but it recently missed a few launches. Since the first edition,
Canada and France
registered all of their missing satellites; this began an overall
improvement in compliance, as Spain and Korea registered
their outstanding satellites in 1996 and other countries followed.
Germany has also registered some of its outstanding satellites but not others
(it's also a bit odd that the second CRISTA-SPAS flight was registered by the USA
and not Germany). The US has registered a few of the Space Shuttle
flights it forgot earlier, but a couple of classified satellites remain
unacknowledged, and some of its registered satellites did not include orbital
data, or included orbital data which were manifestly spurious, in violation of
Article IV of the Convention.
There are a number of difficult and arguable cases. I recently
discovered that the UN and the European Center for Space Law have
indeed discussed this issue, see these links.
- Registrations of Hong Kong satellites
already launched prior to July 1997 were transferred from UK to China,
but these transfers are not reflected in Table 1.
- Registration of the UK satellite Marcopolo 1 (now Sirius 1) satellite bought by Sweden was transferred
to Sweden in 1999; this transfer is not reflected in Table 1, nor are other
in-orbit sales that resulted in change of registration.
- Ten unregistered Iridium satellites
launched in China and previously allocated by me to the USA have now
been registered by China.
- China also erroneously registered (ST/SG/SER.E/475) a satellite
launched in Nov 1974 that did not reach space because of a launch failure;
this has been omitted from the tabulated totals below, as has the nonexistent Celestis-04
payload erroneously registered by the US in ST/SG/SER.E/453.
- The two unregistered Latinsat spacecraft
launched in 2002, although ITU-registered as part of an Argentine
telecom network, are owned and operated by a US company, and have
therefore been reassigned to the US in this paper.
- Nigeria's NigComSat has been registered by China.
- The two Symphonie satellites were registered by both France and Germany. I have allocated
S-1 to Germany and S-2 to France to make the totals come out right.
- Some satellites have changed ownership
after launch (e.g. UK Marcopolo-1 became Sweden's Sirius W); in this table we consider
only registry at the beginning of the satellite's operational life and ignore later changes
of ownership and registration, since the focus of this report is on transparency of space launch activities
(and the existence or otherwise of a satellite) rather than subsequent operaitons.
The tradition that "launching state" is to be interpreted as "owner state"
is now being challenged by some states.
The UK has acknowledged
(ST/SG/SER.E/417) the existence of the Inmarsat satellites, but denies
it is the 'launching state' or 'state of registry' for the purposes of
the convention, despite the fact that it obviously should be. Since it was doing
the ITU filings for Intelsat (Bermuda) Ltd., it should be doing the UN
filings for them too. INMARSAT was an intergovernmental organization at the
time but unlike ESA did not establish its own registry. In earlier cases,
registrations for intergovernmental organizations were carried out by their
headquarters host state until a specific registry was established.
Similarly (A/AC.105/806), the Netherlands has denied `state of registry'
responsibility for satellites owned by the New Skies company located in that country.
Although the documents in question don't spell out who they think should
register those satellites, the implication seems to be that it should be the state
which carries out the launch services (itself potentially rather unclear to define - e.g. in the case
of Sea Launch missions).
Giving credence to these objections,
I have reassigned those specific
satellites to the states which did actually launch them (on the grounds
that if they didn't want responsibility they should have made sure someone
else did). I note that Article II says "Where there are two or more
launching States in respect of any such space object, they shall jointly
determine which one of them shall register the object". This is apparently being
ignored. Further, Article VII says that states which are members of intergovernmental
organizations (IGOs) are meant to make sure that the IGO sets up its own registry
with the UN. This Article was also ignored in the cases of Intelsat and Inmarsat.
The state most affected by this change is France, which registers Ariane launches.
Several NSS and Inmarsat satellites spurned by the Netherlands and the UK were launched
on Ariane, but were (naturally) omitted from the very comprehensive French filings.
I'm adding them to the list of unregistered French satellites, but I welcome suggestions
for a more appropriate assignment consistent with Articles I, II and VII.
Complications - what is a satellite?
Some states register all their space objects, while others register only `payloads' -
objects which perform a useful function, as opposed to empty rocket stages and space debris.
In principle it would be nice if everyone registered all objects, since the purpose of the
convention is to prevent hiding of payloads, which could be done by concealing them as
apparently nonfunctional craft. However for the time being I am only including in this report
objects thought to be payloads.
Even here there is, of course, ambiguity. Of the circa 6500 satellites considered here,
52 are special cases in this respect:
- Payloads which completed more than one orbit of the Earth but were neither cataloged
by US tracking nor given an international designation. The single example so far is the
German EXPRESS satellite, launched by Japan in 1995. The evidence that EXPRESS completed
several orbits of the Earth is unequivocal (following the discovery of its impact in Ghana)
so it should have been registered. Other satellites, such as some Soviet FOBS payloads,
completed less than one orbit and are conventionally not included.
- Some spacecraft which started off as part of another payload, but continued to operate
as payloads in orbit after physically separating. Several of China's Shenzhou spacecraft
separated `orbital modules' (Guidao Cang) are suspected to fall in this category
(1999-61E, 2005-40E, 2008-47; 2005-40E is mentioned in a note in ST/SG/SER.E/500 and the
others are unregistered) while others (2001-01C, 2002-14C, 2002-61C, 2003-45G) are definitely known
to have been separate payloads. A similar case is the Genesis spacecraft - the main spacecraft, which
is registered, continued operating after separation of the sample
return capsule 2001-34D, which was separately cataloged in the US system but was not reported to the UN.
The impactor (Deep Impact) ejected from 2005-01A was not separately cataloged or registered despite being
a (briefly) active payload; it has not been included here but perhaps it should.
The Russian Kvant tug, Progress M-MIM2, Progress M-SO1 (1987-30C, 2009-60A and 2001-41) are also in this category.
The line between an active spacecraft which
manuevers extensively and a rocket stage which makes a couple of depletion burns is blurred;
I have also included the Dragon service module 2010-66K (attached to a Falcon 9 stage).
- Small supplementary payloads attached to rocket stages (US objects
1965-90A, 1966-02B, 1966-48B, 1966-90B, 1966-98B, 1967-07B, 1967-50B, 1978-26C, 1997-65B; French object 2002-21B,
Ukrainian objects 2010-28C and 2011-44H, and German 'Rubin' payloads on inert Russian objects 2000-039C, 2002-54C, 2008-21K, 2009-51F)
These clearly do belong in the table, but I mention them because of possible confusion.
- Other Rubin payloads were attached to objects which are already registered - e.g. 2005-043J
which is a rocket stage with the registered satellite Mozhaets-5 also attached to it. I have not
included this Rubin payload in the tables - it is hard to logically separate it from the case
a single satellite which carries an assortment of experiments provided by different countries.
- Another unclear case is that of supplementary attached payloads which are entirely inert,
such as the Celestis burial packages (US objects 1997-18B, 1998-07D). I have included these.
- Some dummy payloads (inert calibration objects, spacecraft mockups) that are sometimes counted
as payloads. (US 1988-08D, 2010-62J, 2010-62K). There are many comparable objects (e.g. the ESO calibration objects
released from Soviet Romb satellites) that are not registered as payloads, so practice is inconsistent
in this respect.
- Large parts of the International Space Station which were carried into orbit as Shuttle cargo
and transferred to the Station using the robot arm. Although never separately fully free flying,
it makes some sense to consider these as payloads. They have been treated a bit inconsistently -
a few are included in the US satellite catalog and given international designations by WDC/R&S
but most are not; the pressurized modules are registered with
the UN but most of the unpressurized truss elements are not. The MPLM cargo modules which were returned on the same
mission they were launched are never registered. In one case a pair of relatively minor payload
elements, the ELC-1 and ELC-2 experiment carriers, were registered as a single `payload' called 'Attached Payload
Accommodation Equipment' for reasons which are unclear (the ESP spares carriers were
not registered) Russia registered the Progress delivery vehicle
for Pirs and mentioned the module itself in comments; this is not really a separate registration
of the Pirs module but I'm counting it as one since the necessary information is provided; but the more
cryptic information provided for the Poisk module doesn't count.
Here I summarize the situation (partial
international designations in parentheses are those of the Shuttle which
launched the element and indicate that the payload did not get a designation).
|Payload element||Int'l Desig.||UN Registered||Mass (tonnes)|
|FGB (Zarya) ||1998-67A || SER.E/614 ||20 |
|NOD1 (Unity) +PMA1/PMA2 || 1998-069F || SER.E/418 || 12 |
|SM (Zvezda) ||2000-37A || SER.E/384 ||21 |
|LAB1 (Destiny)|| 2001-006B || SER.E/392 || 14 |
|Canadarm-2 || [2001-016] ||SER.E/489 || 2 |
|AL1 (Quest) || [2001-028] ||SER.E/614 || 6 |
|SO1 (Pirs) ||[2001-041] ||SER.E/405 || 4 |
|NOD2 (Harmony)|| [2007-050] ||SER.E/614 || 14 |
|COL1 (Columbus)|| [2008-005] ||SER.E/591 || 12 |
|JLM (Kibo ELM-PS)|| [2008-009] ||SER.E/556 || 9 |
|JPM (Kibo PM)|| [2008-027] ||SER.E/556 || 15 |
|JEM-EF (Kibo EF)|| [2009-038] ||SER.E/629 || 4 |
|MIM2 (Poisk) ||[2009-060] ||(SER.E/593?) || 7 |
|NOD3 (Tranquility)|| [2010-004] ||SER.E/614 || 15 |
|MIM1 (Rassvet) ||[2010-019] || SER.E/626 || 10 |
|PMM (Leonardo)|| [2011-008] || - || 12 |
|ITS Z1 || [2000-062] || - || 9 |
|PMA-3 || [2000-062] || - || 2 |
|ITS P6 || [2000-078] || - || 12 |
|ITS S0 || [2002-018] || - || 11 |
|MBS || [2002-028] || SER.E/489 || 2 |
|ITS S1 || [2002-047] || - || 13 |
|ITS P1 || [2002-052] || - || 12 |
|ITS P3/P4 || [2006-036] || - || 16 |
|ITS P5 || [2006-055] || - || 2 |
|ITS S3/S4 || [2007-024] || - || 16 |
|ITS S5 || [2007-035] || - || 2 |
|ITS S6 || [2009-012] || - || 14 |
|ELC-1 || [2009-062] ||SER.E/615|| 6 |
|ELC-2 || [2009-062] ||SER.E/615 (with ELC-1)|| 6 |
|ELC-4 || [2011-008] ||-|| 6 |
|ELC-3 || [2011-020] ||-|| 6 |
|AMS-2 || [2011-020] ||-|| 7 |
- Payloads which failed to separate from other payloads. The USSR registered Kosmos-1916, Kosmos-1917 and Kosmos-1918
(1988-09A, launched on the same rocket) as separate entries, although the satellites failed to physically separate
from each other.
- Non-functional objects from a launch in which the payload did not reach orbit,
but some objects did. I've included these so that the launches are counted. (US 1971-91A, Soviet 1985-53A,
- Objects believed from other sources to be inert rocket stages or other non-payload
objects, but registered as payloads
with the UN - probably in error (US objects 1963-41B, 1964-01A, 1964-68D, 1965-33D, 1965-108A, 1967-53B,
- When a spacecraft lands on Earth and then takes off again later (e.g. Shuttle) it is registered anew.
What about when it lands on the Moon and then takes off again? To date, this has not been considered
a new launch. That will get less obvious when we have launches from worlds with atmospheres like Mars.