Tag Archives: Satellite

18 September 1959

Vanguard SLV-7 is launched from LC-18A, 05:16:00 UTC, 18 September 1959. It carried a 50 pound satellite into Earth orbit. (NASA)

18 September 1959: At 05:16:00 UTC, a three-stage Vanguard Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted of from Launch Complex 18A at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The rocket placed a 50 pound (22.7 kilogram) scientific satellite into Earth orbit.

Contained inside the satellite’s 20 inch (50.8 centimeter) diameter magnesium outer shell were sensors and transmitters. The satellite collected data on the Earth’s magnetic field, the Van Allen Radiation Belt, micrometeorite impacts on the satellite and measured drag acting to slow the satellite in its orbit.

Vanguard 3 transmitted data for 84 days before it stopped functioning. It is estimated that it will remain in orbit around the Earth for 300 years.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 August 1975

Viking 1/Titan IIIE-Centaur launches from Kennedy Space Centaur, enroute to Mars, 20 August 1975. (NASA)

20 August 1975: The Viking 1 space probe was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Titan IIIE/Centaur rocket. For the next ten months it traveled to Mars, the fourth planet of the Solar System. Once there, it was placed in orbit and began sending telemetry data back to Earth. A Viking Lander descended to the planet’s surface, landing at Chryse Planitia.

This was the first time that a spacecraft had landed on another planet. The orbiter continued to operate over the course of 1,485 orbits. As it ran low on fuel, mission controllers boosted it into a higher orbit to prevent it falling to the planet. Orbiter operations were terminated 17 August 1980. The lander operated for 6 years, 116 days, before the mission was terminated by a faulty transmission which resulted in a loss of contact, 11 November 1982.

The surface of Chryse Planitia, Mars, photographed by the Viking 1 Lander. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 August 1958

Thor-Able 1 Pioneer launch, 17 August 1958. NASA)
Thor-Able 1 Pioneer launch, 17 August 1958. NASA)

17 August 1958: In what was the first attempt to launch a spacecraft beyond Earth orbit, Thor-Able 1 was to place a small instrumented satellite in orbit around the Moon. Called Pioneer, the satellite carried a television camera, a micrometeorite detector and a magnetometer.

The Thor-Able was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 12:28:00 UTC, 4 minutes behind schedule.

73.6 seconds into the flight, at an altitude of 9.9 miles (16 kilometers), the first stage of the rocket exploded. Telemetry from the upper stages continued and that was tracked until impact in the Atlantic Ocean. An investigation found the cause to be a turbopump failure.

The Thor Able was a two-stage orbital launch vehicle which was developed from the Douglas Aircraft Company’s SM-75 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Designated Thor DM-19, the first stage was 60.43 feet (18.42 meters) long and 8 feet (2.44 meters) in diameter. Fully fueled, the first stage had a gross weight of 108,770 pounds (49,337 kilograms). It was powered by a Rocketdyne LR-79-7 engine which burned liquid oxygen and RP-1 (a highly-refined kerosene rocket fuel) and produced 170,565 pounds of thrust (758.711 kilonewtons). This stage had a burn time of 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

The second stage was an Aerojet General Corporation-built Able, a second stage for the U.S. Navy’s Vanguard rocket. It was 21 feet,6.6 inches (6.57 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 2 feet, 9 inches (0.84 meters). The second stage had a gross weight of 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms). It used an Aerojet AJ10-101 rocket engine which burned a hypergolic  mixture of nitric acid and UDMH. The second stage produced 7,711 pounds of thrust (34.300 kilonewtons) and burned for 1 minutes, 55 seconds.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 July 1962

Telstar 1 launches aboard a Thor Delta rocket at Launch Complex 17B, 0835 GMT, 10 July 1962. (NASA)
Telstar 1 launches aboard a Delta rocket at Launch Complex 17B, 0835 GMT, 10 July 1962. (NASA)

10 July 1962: At 0835 GMT (4:35 a.m., EDT) the first communications relay satellite, Telstar 1, was launched into orbit from Launch Complex 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch vehicle was a three-stage, liquid-fueled, Delta rocket.

This was the first commercial space flight, sponsored by a consortium of communications companies and government organizations, including AT&T, Bell Labs, the BBC, NASA, and British and French postal services. The satellite was used to relay live television broadcasts across the Atlantic Ocean. This had never previously been possible.

Telstar weighed 171 pounds (77.5 kilograms). Its weight and size were restricted by the availability of launch vehicles. It was placed in an elliptical orbit, varying from 591 miles (952 kilometers) to 3,686 miles (5,933 kilometers), and inclined at about a 45° angle to Earth’s Equator. The orbital period was 2 hours, 37 minutes. The properties of Telstar’s orbit restricted its use to about 20 minutes during each pass.

In addition to its primary role as a communications relay satellite, Telstar also performed scientific experiments to study the Van Allen Belt.

The Delta was a three-stage expendable launch vehicle which was developed from the Douglas Aircraft Company’s SM-75 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Designated Thor DM-19, the first stage was 60.43 feet (18.42 meters) long and 8 feet (2.44 meters) in diameter. Fully fueled, the first stage had a gross weight of 108,770 pounds (49,337 kilograms). It was powered by a Rocketdyne LR-79-7 engine which burned liquid oxygen and RP-1 (a highly-refined kerosene rocket fuel) and produced 170,565 pounds of thrust (758.711 kilonewtons). This stage had a burn time of 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

The second stage was an Aerojet General Corporation-built Delta 104. It was 19 feet, 3 inches (5.88 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.40 meters). The second stage had a gross weight of 9,859 pounds (4,472 kilograms). It used an Aerojet AJ10-104 rocket engine which burned a hypergolic  mixture of nitric acid and UDMH. The second stage produced 7,890 pounds of thrust (35.096 kilonewtons) and burned for 4 minutes, 38 seconds.

The third stage was an Allegany Ballistics Laboratory Altair 1. It was 6 feet long, 1 foot, 6 inches in diameter and had a gross weight of 524 pounds (238 kilograms). This stage used a solid-fuel Thiokol X-248 rocket engine, producing 2,799 pounds of thrust (12.451 kilonewtons). Its burn time was 4 minutes, 16 seconds.

The three stages of the Delta rocket accelerated the Telstar satellite to 14,688 miles per hour for orbital insertion.

The day prior to launch, the United States detonated a 1.45 megaton thermonuclear warhead at an altitude of 248 miles (400 kilometers), near Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. (Operation Dominic-Fishbowl Starfish Prime). Radiation from this test, combined with residual radiation from the Soviet Union’s  57 megaton detonation over Novaya Zemlya Archipelago (RDS-220, known as “Big Ivan,” or “Tsar Bomba”) on 21 October 1961, damaged the satellite’s circuitry and it went out of service in December 1962.

Engineers were able to work around the damage and restore service by January 1963, but Telstar 1 failed permanently 21 February 1963.

Telstar is still in Earth orbit.

Telstar 1 communications relay satellite. (Bell Laboratories)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 December 1988, 14:30:34 UTC

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off at LC-39B, 2 December 1998. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off at LC-39B, 2 December 1998. (NASA)

2 December 1988, 14:30:34 UTC: At 9:30 a.m., EST, Space Shuttle  Atlantis (OV-104) launched from Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-27. This was the deployment of the first of five Lockheed Martin Lacrosse I reconnaissance satellites, USA-34, for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and the Central Intelligence Agency.

STS-27 was the third flight for Atlantis.

Seated, left to right, are Guy S. Gardner, pilot; Robert L. Gibson, commander and Jerry L. Ross, mission specialist. On the back row, left to right, are mission specialists William M. Shepherd and Richard M. Mullane.
Seated, left to right, are Colonel Guy S. Gardner, USAF, pilot; Captain Robert L. Gibson, USN, mission commander and Colonel Jerry L. Ross, USAF, mission specialist. On the back row, left to right, are mission specialists Captain William M. Shepherd, USN and Colonel Richard M. Mullane, USAF.

Space Transport System flight STS-27 was commanded by Captain Robert Lee Gibson, United States Navy, with Colonel Guy S. Gardner, United States Air Force, as the shuttle pilot. Three mission specialists were aboard for the mission: Colonel Richard M. Mullane, USAF; Colonel Jerry L. Ross, USAF; and Captain William B. Shepherd, a U.S. Navy SEAL.

Atlantis STS-27 lands at Edwards Air Force Base. The damage to heat-protective tiles is clearly visible. (NASA)
Atlantis STS-27 accelerates toward orbit. (NASA)

Approximately 1 minute, 25 seconds after liftoff, insulating material from the right solid rocket booster (SRB) came off and struck the orbiter. The damage to the thermal tiles on the shuttle’s right side was extensive. More than 700 tiles were damaged and one was completely missing.

Atlantis completed 68 orbits during this mission. It landed on Runway 17, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 6 December 1988, at 23:36:11 UTC (4:36 p.m., PST). The duration of the flight was 4 days, 9 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds.

Sts-27_Landing
Atlantis touches down on Rogers Dry Lake, on the afternoon of 6 December 1988. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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