GCAT: General Catalog of Artificial Space Objects

Jonathan C. McDowell

II. Launch Sites

The Space Launch Origins Catalog

GCAT Release 1.5.5 (2024 May 5) | Data Update 2024 Jun 19


Launch Origin

Each rocket launch in the General Catalog has an associated launch origin. The `launch origin' generalizes the concept of a launch site, because nothing is ever simple. It consists of:

If the Platform is a ship on a research cruise and the launch point is not a regular (reused) point, the Launch Site (and the Ascent Site) is the expedition code. Ascent Points for airplanes and ships near an existing launch site and under its range authority, may be grouped together either under that launch site or a special related ocean-specific launch site. For example, we distinguish between the Cape Canaveral land-based pads at site CC and the air and sea launches off the Cape coast at site ETR (Eastern Test Range); this makes the LPs for site CC geographically compact, which can be helpful for display.

Associated with each Launch (or Ascent) Site is an implicit LP with the same name as the Site, for launches where we know the Site but not the particular pad.

The association of LPs with Sites is usually obvious for the land based pads at major launch sites. However for remaining LPs it is somewhat arbitrary and I have not been terribly consistent.

Launch Sites database

The information needed to describe the existence, time-dependent nomenclature, and location of a launch site and its launch pads is similar to that needed for an organization. The database has two files, one for the Sites and one for the individual LPs. The format is almost the same for each file.

For example White Sands Army Launch Area 2 has LP entries with org code values ALA2 (1958-1960) and LC36 (1960-). Each LP entry has UCode ALA2 and Site value WS. The Site value corresponds to an LS entry which also has Site value WS, tying the launch pad to its launch site.

As another example, the LP org code value LC2 is not unique; Site code PF and Site code CC each have an LP with org code LC2. Internally in software searches are made by concatenating the Site and LP codes, e.g. "CC LC2".

In other respects the Sites and LP databases are identical in structure with the Orgs one. The Sites records are:

Launch Points database

The Launch Points records are: