GCAT: General Catalog of Artificial Space Objects

Jonathan C. McDowell


Launch Service Codes

The Launch Service codes are provided in the Groups column of the launch lists, for orbital launches only.

I apologize for the overloading of the Groups column with totally different meanings in the orbital and suborbital cases. This denormalization was done purely for reasons of compact formatting in my internal representation.

The launch service code encodes the type of launch service (govt., fully commercial etc.) and customer (govt./commercial). To be used for statistical analysis of commercial launch activity. The intent here is to capture some nuance around 'commercial launches' - is the money really coming from commercial activity or is it just more government space investment with a different contracting model? The launch service code is of the form

where LST is the launch service type and CT is the satellite customer type, as listed below.

The LST codes (launch service types) are:
LST CodeLaunch Service TypeDefault CT
GGovernment rocketG
CGCommercial rocket operated on behalf of govt.G
COCommercially operated government-developed rocketC
CXCommercial rocket and payload but end customer is govtC
CFully commercial rocketC

The CT codes (satellite customer types) are

CT codeCustomer type
GGovernment (of the rocket operator's country)
OGOther government (foreign to the rocket operator)

We distinguish between the government of the rocket operator's country and other governments. For example, Thor Delta is a US rocket so if it carries a US govt payload that's CT = G, but if it carries a Canadian govt payload that's CT = OG. Special cases include ESA/Arianespace rockets, where ESA, the EU, and individual ESA member state governments all count as 'G'; for Rocket Lab both US and NZ count as 'G'.

If the CT is the default CT for that LST, it can be omitted. Up to two different CTs can apply to a different launch.

Example 1: G - Government rocket with govt payload

Example 2: CG/OG+C - Commercial rocket operated on behalf of govt, carrying payload(s) for another govt and commercial payload(s).