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Spacecraft call signs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spacecraft call signs are radio call signs used for communication in manned spaceflight. These are not formalized or regulated to the same degree as other equivalent forms of transportation, like aircraft. The three nations currently launching manned space missions use different methods to identify the ground and space radio stations; the United States uses either the names given to the space vehicles or else the project name and mission number. Russia traditionally assigns code names as call signs to individual cosmonauts, more in the manner of aviator call signs, rather than to the spacecraft.

The only continuity in call signs for spacecraft has been the issuance of "ISS"-suffixed (or "-1SS", for its visual similarity) call signs by various countries in the Amateur Radio service as a citizen of their country has been assigned there. The first Amateur Radio call sign assigned to the International Space Station was NA1SS by the United States. OR4ISS (Belgium), GB1SS (UK),[1] DP0ISS (Germany), and RS0ISS (Russia) are examples of others, but are not all-inclusive of others also issued.

United States

In America's first manned space program Project Mercury, the astronauts named their individual spacecraft. These names each consisted of a significant word followed by the number 7 (representing the seven original astronauts) and were used as the call signs by the capsule communicators (CAPCOMs).

Flight Astronaut Call sign
Mercury-Redstone 3 Alan Shepard Freedom 7
Mercury-Redstone 4 Gus Grissom Liberty Bell 7
Mercury-Atlas 6 John Glenn Friendship 7
Mercury-Atlas 7 Scott Carpenter Aurora 7
Mercury-Atlas 8 Wally Schirra Sigma 7
Mercury-Atlas 9 Gordon Cooper Faith 7

In Project Gemini, the astronauts were not officially permitted to name their two-man spacecraft, which was identified by "Gemini" followed by the mission number (3 through 12). A notable exception was that Gus Grissom named his Gemini 3 spacecraft Molly Brown after the  Titanic survivor, as a joke based on his experience with his Liberty Bell 7 capsule sinking. This name was used as a call sign by CAPCOM L. Gordon Cooper, without NASA's approval.

Starting with the second flight Gemini 4, NASA used the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) to house the flight control center. The call sign for this facility was Houston. The Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center, the current flight control facility at JSC, also uses Houston as it's call sign.

The practice of using the mission number continued through the first two flights of the Project Apollo manned lunar landing program, Apollo 7 and Apollo 8. But all remaining Apollo missions included two manned spacecraft (Command/Service Module (CSM) and Lunar Module (LM)) on each flight, which required the use of separate call signs for each vehicle when they flew independently of each other. For this reason, NASA permitted the three-man crews to name both crafts for each of their missions, and these names were used as the call signs. A temporary exception to this was on the first Moon landing, Apollo 11: since the first Moon landing site was in the Sea of Tranquillity, the call sign Tranquillity Base was used while the LM was on the lunar surface. Before and after the independent flight of the LM, the mission number was used as the call sign. The Apollo call signs were:

Flight Command Module Lunar Module
Apollo 9 Gumdrop Spider
Apollo 10 Charlie Brown Snoopy
Apollo 11 Columbia Eagle
Apollo 12 Yankee Clipper Intrepid
Apollo 13 Odyssey Aquarius
Apollo 14 Kitty Hawk Antares
Apollo 15 Endeavour Falcon
Apollo 16 Casper Orion
Apollo 17 America Challenger

For project Skylab, the practice returned to using the mission name as the spacecraft call sign, since the Skylab station was always unmanned while the shuttle vehicle (an Apollo CSM) carried a crew to it or back to Earth.

The six Space Shuttle orbiters were given individual names (they also had letter-and-number callsigns) by NASA, which were used as the call signs: Enterprise (OV-101, which was not fitted for spaceflight), Columbia (OV-102), Challenger (OV-099), Discovery (OV-103), Atlantis (OV-104), and Endeavour (OV-105). Of these, Columbia, Challenger, and Endeavour had previously served as call-signs of Apollo spacecraft.

SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules use two calls signs. Dragon is used as a generic call sign, particularly if the capsule has not been named. The name of the spacecraft is also used as a call sign. The name and call sign of each Crew Dragon, as given by the crew of the spacecraft's initial mission, is:

Serial Name Named By
C206 Endeavour[2] Demo-2
C207 Resilience[3] Crew-1

Endeavour, which was named for the space shuttle Endeavour, had previously served as call signs for both an Apollo spacecraft and the spacecraft's nameshake shuttle.[4]

The call sign SpaceX is used by the Crew Operations and Resources Engineer (CORE) (the SpaceX equivalent of the CAPCOM in Houston) at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California.[5][6]

Russia (including the former Soviet Union)

The spacecraft of the Soviet Union were not individually named, nor are those of Russia today. Only the general type of spacecraft, for example, "Vostok," "Soyuz," or "Soyuz-T" is publicly announced after launch, usually followed by the number of the flight of that type of spacecraft. The Soviet and now Russian call signs are more nearly code words, and so are not disclosed before launch. Each is given to a particular cosmonaut who commands a spacecraft, generally staying as his or her designation from spacecraft to spacecraft. The other crew members use the same call sign with a number of their rank in the chain of command suffixed. Russian popular journalism refers to the crew by the plural of the call sign (for example, "the Fotons").

Kedr, meaning "cedar," was the call sign of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. It would have disclosed nothing to a listener concerning the momentousness of the flight. The rest of the call signs of the Vostok series were the names of birds. Pavel Popovich and Andriyan Nikolayev's call signs in their joint flight in Vostok-3 and Vostok-4, Sokol ("falcon") and Berkut ("golden eagle"), were widely popularized by soviet media. The call sign of the launch facility itself for Vostok was nearly a code word: Zarya, meaning "dawn".

Early Soyuz flights intent on practicing docking procedures were given call signs elaborating on the first few letters of an alphabet. Soyuz 4, which had the call sign Amur, docked with Soyuz 5, called Baikal - the names derived from a railway project of that era, intending to link those two geographical features. Soyuz 6 was given a call sign equivalent to "Antaeus," which referred to the largest aircraft of the era, the Antonov 22. Its mission in a group flight was to film the intended docking of Soyuz 7 (called Buran, which means "snowstorm") with Soyuz 8, called Granit ("granite") - standard Soviet military call signs. The equivalent for the letter A was Aktif, meaning "Active"; it would be inappropriate for the mission of Soyuz 6.

Later Soyuz flights to the Salyut space stations and Mir had less noteworthy call signs: Foton, meaning "photon", etc.

In contrast to the naming conventions applied by the Soviet Union and now Russia, most American space flights, with the exception of those of Project Gemini and early Apollo flights, have had their spacecraft officially named. Calls to ground facilities by radiotelephone use the name of the spacecraft (e.g., "The Eagle has landed") as the call sign.

International Space Station

The call sign of the International Space Station was Alpha, now Station.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "GB1SS for UK astronauts". Radio Society of Great Britain. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  2. ^ Clark, Stephen (23 May 2020). "Astronauts have a surprise name for their Crew Dragon spacecraft". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Clark, Stephen (23 May 2020). "Astronauts have a surprise name for their Crew Dragon spacecraft". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  5. ^ Astronauts Verify Communications
  6. ^ Crew Demo-2 | Launch
This page was last edited on 11 May 2021, at 17:10
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