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  Space Cover 216: Tracking Map Envelopes

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 216: Tracking Map Envelopes

Posts: 473
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 06-04-2013 06:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 216 (June 2, 2013)

Space Cover #216: Tracking Envelopes

A popular area for collectors is covers manually created from "tracking maps." The earliest covers of this type seem to be from the Apollo 12 mission with the use of the Earth orbital map showing the various tracking stations cancelled for the launch and splashdown dates and a Moon orbital map cancelled for the landing date.

Shown above are some tracking envelope covers for the Apollo 14 mission with a Moon orbital map cancelled from Houston for the orbit insertion and moon landing dates - if you look at the map on the envelope it shows the events for those two days. The second cover is cancelled from Houston for the splashdown date and is an Earth orbital map with the map area on the front of the cover showing the recovery area.

The original maps are cut into the shape of unfolded envelopes and then folded and glued into the envelope shape for processing as a regular cover.

The next scan shows covers created for the Apollo 15 mission with a moon landing cover from a Moon orbital map cancelled from KSC and a splashdown cover made from an Earth orbital map showing the recovery area cancelled from Western Samoa.

Covers like this are not just found in space event cover boxes but also in FDC boxes as well. The covers below are both on Moon orbital maps with FDI cancels for plate blocks of the Space Achievement stamps. Note the interesting cancel from Huntsville – FDI with no CDS to the left of it and the CDS on the right hand side in the selvage area of the block.

I have seen covers like these created for shuttle missions as well with "road maps" used to show the area around KSC and Edwards AFB used to create envelopes for the launch and landing dates. Does anyone have any to show?

Creating their own envelopes allowed collectors to show exactly what they wanted on the envelope to match the location of the event.

So next time you are looking for covers consider adding a few "map" covers to your collection.


Posts: 187
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 06-04-2013 08:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tom, this is a great Space Cover of the Week for a subject we all have seen and collected but possibly never thought to categorize as a separate collecting group.

I am including two space shuttle launch covers made from shuttle tracking maps and canceled in Houston, Texas, where Mission Control was located, for the respective space shuttle missions of STS-5(top) and STS-6 (bottom). These covers are the real thing; they are not reprinted maps or photo copied maps. They are actual tracking maps made into covers and are usually very modest in price to collect, $3 or so.

The covers are a great area to collect with a slice of real history for an actual mission added as a plus. Many thanks for highlighting it!

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1933
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-04-2013 08:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tom and Steve, yes, indeed, a great cover topic and favorite of mine this time around!

Earth orbital and lunar map produced cachet covers, provided by the MSC/JSC Stamp Club, started with the first manned lunar landing mission in July 1969 and included Apollo 11's FDI of C76, of which, there are a few in my own collection.

All throughout the Apollo and Skylab era, employees of the Houston-based space center operated stamp club were providing both Earth and lunar orbital tracking "map covers."

Employees of the Johnson Space Center stamp club continued on with the tradition of the popular tracking map covers (Earth only) with several of the first space shuttle flights throughout the 1980s, but later stopped producing them shortly afterwards.

It wasn't until the late 1980s (and again during the early 90s) that SpaceCoast Cover Service, after acquiring a bunch of shuttle tracking maps in mint or unused condition, arranged to have the original orbital maps cut, folded, and processed into standard-size envelopes by my firm's local printing company in Cocoa, FL.

Hundreds of them were produced and used for shuttle philatelic processing throughout the 1990s, mostly at the KSC/Cape/Patrick AFB postal stations, with a few even going to Houston, TX, for mission control postmarking.

A limited number of other map covers would be at Edwards AFB, CA, in covering milestone shuttle orbiter landings on site out there.

Others, afterwards, were saved and processed for use throughout the shuttle program to include later highlight missions, even until the final close of the shuttle program in 2011.

The "map covers" in my opinion combines two areas of cover and space collecting into a single historical document of sorts, as explained above in a prior posting here.


Posts: 1273
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 06-04-2013 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is an Apollo 16 cover, postmarked on the lunar landing date in Houston, with the map showing the Descartes lunar-landing area on the moon for that mission (follow the 7 o'clock vector off of the postmark and across the cover, and you will hit Descartes).

The majority of these early tracking map covers (if not all) were produced by Rand Philatelic Bureau in Houston. When I first became acquainted with Rand in the late 1980's, they had boxes full of tracking map covers for prior missions (including the one above), and were making more for the ongoing Shuttle flights at that time. As Ken Havekotte mentions above, he took over in the 1990's as Rand phased out.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1933
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-04-2013 09:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well said, as it was Rand Philatelic Bureau in Seabrook, TX, that was mainly responsible for the map covers--but of course--Rand was owned by the founder and long-time president of the JSC Stamp Club.

But credit needed to be attributed to Rand's owner with the creation idea and initial production of the Apollo and Shuttle orbital tracking map covers.

What a great idea it was, huh?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 28662
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-04-2013 09:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I really love the look of these covers and it was a great idea for philatelic collectibles, but as someone who has been searching for certain early shuttle tracking maps, it pains me to read that real maps were destroyed to make these.

I had always figured that they were reproductions — printed onto existing envelopes. I didn't realize they were actual maps cut and folded into covers...

Hart Sastrowardoyo

Posts: 2354
From: Toms River, NJ,USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 06-04-2013 09:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, how many tracking maps were made per shuttle mission? There must have been a lot of them made, given the distribution numbers for FDFs, although both are hard to come by (For example, I have only seen two maps for canceled missions, one each for 41F/STS-16 and STS-51-D (not the DR version.))

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1933
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-05-2013 06:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There were indeed lots of shuttle orbital tracking maps printed, mainly for those NASA individuals and companies that needed to use them within the space industry.

One of my primary contacts for them, during various shuttle missions, would hand over to me unopened shrink-wrapped packs of them. If I recall correctly, there were either 25 or 50 maps of a single mission altogether in a package.

Sometimes I would get several packs of them for a certain mission, therefore, it would appear there were no shortages of them for general distribution purposes.

Of course, I did keep many of the original maps, not all for philatelic uses, but for my own collection, and I still have many of those in addition to some unused map covers.

Most of the tracking maps I have were from the 1980s and early/mid-90s. After that, unfortunately, my sources no longer had them available in quantities that I was getting them for.


Posts: 1273
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 06-05-2013 07:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can attest that the shuttle tracking maps came out in droves in the late '80's/early '90's. I used to bring one of the shrink-wrapped bundles, that Ken describes above, to Space Unit meetings back then, crack it open, and make sure that no maps came home with me. Silly me...

And Ken is right about the Rand Philatelic folks being the main drivers of the MSC Stamp Club back in the day. Some day that story will be ready for prime time... but not now.


Posts: 389
From: Australia
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 01-27-2014 07:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought people might be interested that there are quite a few Skylab tracking map covers available on eBay at the moment.

Seller User ID: coversplease

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