COPY OF THE TEXT OF A NEWS RELEASE ISSUED 31 DECEMBER 1962 BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES-NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Beginning on January 1, the international system for designating satellites and space probes for scientific purposes will be changed; as of the new year, Arabic numerals will supplant Greek letters in the satellite designation system.
Prior to January 1, satellites were named in the order of the letters of the Greek alphabet, beginning anew each year: the first satellite launched (Sputnik I) was 1957 Alpha, the first 1958 satellite (Explorer I) was 1958 Alpha, the second (Vanguard I) was 1958 Beta, and so on. The first satellite or space probe in 1963 will be 1963-1, the second will be 1963-2, etc. The numbering will also begin anew each year; for example, the fifth space vehicle in 1964 will be 1964-5.
Usually the launching of a satellite places more than one object in orbit. Sometimes two or more satellites are carried into space where they are separated and ejected into separate orbits. Moreover, the burned-out rocket casing also goes into orbit. The new system provides that the suffix A will identify the main satellite or space probe (i.e., the one carrying the principal scientific payload), and that B, C, etc., as needed, will be used first for any subsidiary scientific payloads in separate orbits, and then for inert components. Thus, under the old system the navigation satellite, Transit II-A, its piggyback companion, Greb, and the spent rocket which injected them into orbit, were called 1960 Eta 1, 1960 Eta 2, and 1960 Eta 3, respectively. If the new scheme had been in effect, they would have been called 1960-7A, 1960-7B, 1960-7C, respectively.
The new system was agreed upon by all national members of the Committee on Space Research (including both satellite-launching nations) at its meeting in Washington, May 1962. The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) was established by the International Council of Scientific Unions to facilitate international cooperation in space research. U.S. membership in COSPAR is effectuated through the National Academy of Sciences.
In the United States, the new system will be adopted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense. It will also be used in registering U.S. satellites and space probes with the United Nations.