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Fifty-years ago this week, the NASA TIROS IV meteorological satellite was successfully orbited by a United States Air Force Thor-Delta launch vehicle.  Launch took place from LC-17A at Cape Canaveral, FL on Thursday, 08 February 1962.  The TIROS (Television Infra Red Observation Satellite) Program marked the first use of satellite technology to provide near-continuous photographic coverage of global cloud formations from space.  Historically, TIROS photos were instrumental in helping mature the science/art of global weather forecasting.  The TIROS IV mission was designed to maintain an operational TIROS in orbit for an extended period and to obtain improved photographic data to be used in weather forecasting during the northern hemisphere hurricane season.  The cylindrical spacecraft measured 42 inches in diameter and 19 inches in height.  Constructed of aluminum and stainless steel, TIROS IV weighed 285 lbs.  A bank of 63 onboard batteries was charged via an array of 9,260 solar cells that covered the vehicle’s external surface.  The satellite carried an upgraded lens system to improve the clarity of photos taken by its twin cameras.  As a result, TIROS IV photos were the best to date in the TIROS Program.  An international facsimile transmission network was also instituted that allowed the US Weather Service to share photos with weather services worldwide.  From its nearly circular orbit of 420 nm above the surface of the Earth, TIROS IV snapped over 32,000 photos over the course of its 161-day mission.

Posted in Aerospace, History

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