There are a number of places you can find details about currently operational satellites, and a few sources for past values. Is there a reliable source that has the dates of each launch and how many satellites each launch launched?

Currently the only method of getting this information I can think of is by getting TLE file for each object and fining the launch date and part, but this seems a little cumbersome. Any suggestions/references would be an ideal answer.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In another answer Erik mentions a terrific resource for this type of data. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Dec 18 '14 at 19:54

What you want is the Satellite Catalog or "SATCAT" file. The original public source for this is the Satellite Situation Report (SSR) published daily on Space-Track (http://www.space-track.org - free registration required).

This file contains a record for every catalogued object which includes the launch date, launch site, object name, etc.

Here's a typical record:

1957-001B 2 CIS 96.1 65.0 945 227 N/A SPUTNIK 1 Launched (10/04/1957) Decayed [01/03/1958]

Breaking it down...

1957-001B - International Designator, 1957 is the launch year, 001 indicates that this was the first launch of that year and B indicates it was the 2nd piece from that launch (A was the upper stage, which also achieved orbit)

2 - The object catalog number, aka NORAD id

CIS - Responsible country or organization, in this case the Commonwealth of Independent States, AKA Soviet Union. Space-Track has a key for these abbreviations

96.1 - Orbital period in minutes

65.0 - Orbital inclination in degrees

945 - Apogee altitude in Km

227 - Perigee altitude in Km

N/A - This position would hold the RADAR Cross Section (RCS) in m^2, but it's not available for this object

SPUTNIK 1 - Object common name

Launched (10/04/1957) - UTC launch date

Decayed [01/03/1958] - UTC decay date

I just noticed that the SSR doesn't have the launch site in it - I guess that's only in a separate SATCAT data product, which isn't available for general users on Space-Track. The information is available via the site, but not as a file.

Several of these fields may not be available for every object (inclination, period, apogee, perigee, RCS) but the launch date and international designator is always there.

A few other things about the SATCAT...

SATCAT records for an object aren't static - they are updated as orbits change or decay. So the current inclination, apogee, perigee tell you where it is now, but not where it's been. You would need the SATCAT or TLE history of the object to understand that.

Debris objects can be correlated to the original object via piece component of the international designator. This is also true for objects deployed from other objects.

Objects which don't remain in earth orbit have a note to that effect in place of the orbit shape/orientation parameters. Here an example:

1969-059A 4039 US CIRCUMLUNAR N/A APOLLO 11 CM (COLUMBIA) Launched (07/16/1969) Decayed [07/24/1969]


The SATCAT on the Celes Trak site was last updated yesterday and does not require registration to use. It allows you to search for satellites by name, by their International Designator code or by NORAD designation. You may use the year(s) in the International Designator blank to search by time period.

Here is a typical entry:
International Designator: 1971-093A
NORAD Catalog Number: 05580
Name: PROSPERO (BLACK ARROW) [satellite (launch vehicle)]
Source: UK [country or organization]
Launch Date: 1971-10-28
Launch Site: WOMRA [Australia]
Decay Date: [blank, still in orbit]
Status: ? [unknown]
TLE [link to latest TLE]

Other status codes are:
+ Operational
- Nonoperational
P Partially Operational
B Backup/Standby
S Spare
X Extended Mission
D Decayed


Another site for satellite launch data is the one maintained by the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna, based on data submitted to the committee by member states. You are allowed to search for any one or more of the following parameters:

Designation (International Designator or Name)
Date of Launch (will accept full date, month/year or year)
Place of Launch (Launch Facility)
Launch Vehicle
Geostationary Satellites (includes functional status)
Nuclear Power Sources
UN Registration
Status of Space Objects (Presently in Space and Location Status)
Manned Spaceflight (either Spacecraft or Space Station)
Satellite Constellations

A query for PROSPERO includes the following under 'Function of Spacecraft':

To test in space equipment for future satellites and to conduct a scientific experiment to measure the incidence of micro-meteoroids. Launch time 0409 GMT, injection point 13.7 deg S, 137.9 deg E. Anticipated life 100 years.

Satellite entries also include links to relevant websites, if available.


Jonathan's Space Report and his Launch Log are also great resources for analysis. Example entry from the Launch Log:

2014-069     2014 Oct 30 0142:52        2014-069A      Meridian No. 17L               Meridian No. 17L          S40296   Soyuz-2-1A             76058-  174/102 GIK-1    LC43/4                  S    nasaspaceflight.com

Indicating that the 69th launch of 2014, launched on October 30 at 01:42:52 UTC had COSPAR ID 2014-069A, primary payload "Meridian No. 17L", with the same original name for the payload. The launch was successful and was assigned SATCAT ID 40296. It flew on a Soyuz-2-1A rocket with serial number 76058-174/102 from the Plesetsk launch site (code GIK-1), pad number LC43/4. The source for the information was nasaspaceflight.com.

The nice thing about the Launch Log is that it's readily parsed with UNIX tools such as awk and cut.


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