From the beginning of time, humans have looked up at the heavens and wondered what lay beyond the world that we know. We have learned much about the universe and our place within it, but much more remains to be explored. The origins of astronomy, historic attempts of early rocketry, satellites, human visits to the Moon and in the future to Mars, the ongoing journeys into deep space, are a constant challenge and source of fascination for any astrophilatelists.

ASTROPHILATELY records historical events of Astronomy, Stratospheric Flights; Rocket Mail; Space Research Programmes; Manned Space flights; Telecommunication; and Space Exploration, thus leaving a postal tribute to the newest and most thrilling era of mankind.

Rocketry is essential to escape the Earth’s gravity and reach outer space. Towards the end of the 19th century Tsiolkovsky, a Russian, proposed the use of rockets to achieve space flight and Goddard, in the USA, worked on rockets to achieve high altitudes and develop liquid-fuel rockets. The importance of astronomy and the precursors of rocket technology are recorded using stamps, cancellations, meters essays and proofs.

Man’s attempt to reach the upper layers of the atmosphere cost lives. Flights in stratospheric balloons and the rocket plane trials of the first decades of the 20th Century were necessary to ensure the survival of future astronauts, who reached even greater heights.

On February 2, 1931, Schmiedl conducted the world’s first rocket mail experiment in Austria, leading to a flurry of activity on rocket mail systems being developed around the world. Rocket mail from the flights, as well as other flown items and rocket vignettes are used to commemorate their achievements.

Powerful rockets, called V-2, reached for the first time space and were used in the World War II. At the end of the War, Von Braun moved to the USA to become a top NASA official, leading them into Space and to conquer the Moon with his Saturn V rockets.

The Space Age started in 1957, when the USSR launched their first satellite, Sputnik 1, into Space. This was a turning point for so many developments in the West. In 1960, huge US passive communications satellite Echo I was the first artificial satellite visible to the naked eye. Before long other improved telecommunication satellites linked the whole planet.

On 12th April 1961, Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth. Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space piloting Vostok 6 in 1963. Within a decade, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon. Soon dozens of countries started their own space projects. Philatelic items are linked to precursors on early rocketry, satellites, and manned and unmanned space flights.


ASTROPHILATELY is not thematic philately, i.e. a collection mainly elaborated upon using illustrations of the stamps, cancellations or other philatelic items depicting the theme, or with a variable thematic sense, freely chosen by the owner. Such open-minded scripts, could never record faithfully the actual events involved in the space research.

Precise rules for different classes of exhibiting exist, promulgated by the Federation Internationale de Philatelie (FIP), and one of them specifically for ASTROPHILATELY.

To discern clearly what is and what is not ASTROPHILATELY, it is essential to read the General Regulations of F.I.P. for the Evaluation of Competitive Exhibits at F.I.P. Exhibitions (GREV), and importantly the Special Regulations for the Evaluation Astrophilately (SREV), and the attached Guidelines for Judging Astrophilately Exhibits.

What can I collect?

The great success of today’s astronautics only became possible because of the earlier studies of early astronomers and inventors who paved the way for future space conquerors. How can we now send probes to the planets of the Solar System, without the early theories and laws of: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, etc? It would be remiss, if we did not fully commemorate them and their scientific theories with appropriate philatelic items.

The early rockets experiments are an integral requirement of some Astrophilatelic collection. Since rocketry and ballistics are needed, in order to overcome the Earth’s gravity and reach outer Space. Thus, one must include a relevant chapter or even a whole collection, dedicated to these early smoking rockets trials.

From the first decades of 20th Century, brave balloonists risked extremely dangerous conditions to investigate flying at high attitudes using stratosphere balloons. Professor Piccard was the first time to reach the stratosphere. That spirit was imperative to run the risk of launching astronauts decades later. Many collections include philatelic items recording those romantic and almost forgotten stratospheric flights.

Today, rockets launch satellites and other vehicles into Space on schedules as regular as train timetables and the human presence is almost a permanent fixture in orbital space stations. Covers with postal cancellations and official cachets added personally by the cosmos/astronauts while in Earth orbit are of special interest.

What philatelic items are appropriate?

The necessary information to record an astronautic event cannot be offered by stamps because they usually give a scant reference to a particular event but not much more. How can we record philatelically where, how and when a particular rocket has been launched; the ship that recovered the crew who returned from space; a deep space probe that had an encounter with a planet or satellite or which control centre managed a difficult mission?

Philatelic covers and cards postally cancelled and cacheted at launching sites, mission control centres, tracking stations, research laboratories, training astronaut complexes, and recovery ships are the key astrophilatelic items, and as such as necessary in any astrophilatelic collection. Many such items have official cachets applied to commemorate the relevant projects.

Worldwide collectors have sent, and continue sending, covers and cards to those selected sites, to get them cancelled on the actual day of the event. Often receiving the official rubber cachet prepared for that particular space mission or project.

If you join us collecting ASTROPHILATELY, you will be able to record through the pages of your collection, the never-ending story of human endeavour to conquer outer Space.

by FIP Section for Astrophilately (C) Copyright FIP