In catalogs, review papers and databases describing or tabulating artificial satellites, space launches and other astronautical events, it is often necessary or useful to report the country of origin, owner organization, and/or manufacturer of the object of interest. This can be problematic as there is no standard way to refer to a particular organization. Organizations or parts of organizations are frequently sold, merge, or otherwise change their names, potentially concealing continuity in design of their spacecraft.
For my purposes, an `organization' can be any named and spacetime-localized entity including
In this paper I present a scheme - the `Org Code' - for referring to space organizations and a database of such organizations. The scheme and associated database were developed to address this problem for the General Catalog of Artifical Space Objects (GCASO, McDowell 2020 in prep.), but I hope it will be found generally useful as no other comparable public dataset exists.
The organizations database generally includes only owner/operator and prime contractors for already-launched spacecraft, stages, stage main propulsion engines, etc., not subsystem level contractors, data analysis organizations, nor (with some exceptions) organizations involved only in missions whose launch is not yet imminent.
Although most documents describe satellite ownership and manufacture at the level of a headquarters parent agency or corporation (NASA, Boeing, Roskosmos, JAXA), I find it more illuminating to follow events at the level of a single operating location - an agency center like NASA-Goddard, or a factory/design organization like McDonnell Douglas/Huntingdon Beach (now Boeing). I assign a short alphanumeric code, the Org Code, to each such operating location.
Below: map showing geographic distribution of all organizations in the database (click for larger version)
For example, let us consider the Palo Alto, California location of Ford Aerospace. I assign this the UCode FORDA, with a series of phases:
|Philco Western Development Labs (WDL)
|Aeronutronic Ford, WDL
|1975 - 1976 Dec
|Ford Aerospace/Palo Alto
|1976 Dec - 1990 Oct
|Space Systems Loral
|1990 Oct - 2012 Nov
|2012 Nov - 2017 Oct
|2017 Oct -2019 Mar
|Maxar Space Solutions
|2019 Mar - present
In the organization database each code is paired with a UCode, so that all the codes with a common UCode can be identified. This allows us to understand that there is a historical connection between satellites built by SSL and those whose manufacturer was PHFP.
So, all the 1300 series communications satellites were built by (Ucode) FORDA, but each one can also be tagged with the specific name of the company as it existed at the time of the satellite's launch.
Note that countries can have phases too - the Czech republic is CSSR (1940-1990), CSFR (1990-1993) and CZ (1993-present), sharing the ucode CZ. Note that for countries extant in the early 21st century, the ucode is usually the Internet TLD, e.g. CN like .cn for Zhongguo (China), although the usual single-letter abbreviations have been used for European Union countries e.g. D for Deutschland (Germany), F for France etc. Most two-letter ucodes are countries but there are a few exceptions (LM for Lockheed Martin, for example).
|Org Code for organization in a particular phase (time period)
|`unified' Org Code for organization across all time periods
|OrgCode for organzation's host state.
|Organization roles: a slash-separated set of types.
|Organization class: A, B, C, or D (Nonprofit, commercial, civil or defence)
|Calendar date of phase start - e.g. when the org was founded
|Calendar date of phase end - e.g. when the org was closed or renamed
|Short name of organization (ASCII, host language)
|Full name of organization (ASCII, host language)
|Approximate location (e.g. city)
|Longitude of location, deg E
|Latitude of location, deg N
|Error in lon/lat, deg
|OrgCode of organization of which this org is a part
|Short name of organization (ASCII, English)
|Full name of organization (ASCII, English)
|Full name of organization (Unicode, host language)
The way these columns are used is explained in more detail in the following subsection. First I present a diagram illustrating how the database entries relate the different organizations to one another:
This indicates the role of the organization, e.g. a payload operator, a launch agency, etc. The current database is somewhat patchy in data quality for this field, and I do not recommend relying on data in this column with the exception of the special values CY, IGO and AP which indicate entries with a status equivalent to a nation-state.
An entry can have multiple values of Type which are separated by a slash character, e.g. LV/E indicating the organization has both LV and E roles. Alternativley, an entry may have no Type value present at all.
Additional roles are reserved for the related Launch Sites database and are noted in the table below.
The full list of roles is:
|States and similar entities
|Country (i.e. nation-state or autonomous region). Not always the same as the ISO3166 code even when the latter exists.
|Intergovernmental organization. Treated as equivalent to a country for the purposes of tabulations of launches by country etc.
|Astronomical Polity: e.g. Luna, Mars. Used for the 'country' field for locations that are not on Earth and therefore don't have a country.
|Launch vehicle manufacturer
|Meteorological rocket launch agency or manufacturer
|Suborbital payload operator
|Parent organization of another entry
|Launch origin or destination
|Suborbital target area
The same classes are used in the satellite payload database to mark indvidual satellites - usually the class of the satellite is the same as the class of the owner organization, but not always.
Null values are indicated by a dash. Null TStart means the start date of the organization is unknown; Null Stop means that the organization is still in operation, or assumed to be so.
For the Organizations database the error field is not filled but is usually 0.1 deg.
Note that in a few cases, an Org is noted as having more than one parent (two Org Codes separated by a solidus, e.g. MOTI/TMI). In these cases the Org is an equal joint venture of the two parents. However in practice in my software I ignore the second parent.
We can use the mask field to look at the geographic distribution of various types of organization:
Launch vehicle and stage prime contractors:
For contemporary satellites and rockets, organizations were largely identified from mission press kits and web sites. For historical missions, archival sources, Aviation Week, Flight International, and Jane's All the World's Aircraft (and Jane's Spaceflight Directory) were useful.