Articles Comments

Space Archaeology » Archive


A-1 was the first French satellite, launched on 26 November 1965 from the soon-to-close Hammaguir launch site in Algeria (which had gained independence from French rule a few years earlier). The original designation of A-1 was later changed in honour of the cartoon character, Asterix (although it had almost been called Zebulon or Zebby, after a puppet from the telelvision show The Magic Roundabout). With the launch of Asterix, France became the third country to launch its own satellite, and the sixth to have a satellite in orbit (the UK, Canada and Italy had satellites launched previously on American rockets). Asterix had been developed as part of a kind of internal French space race. It was built and launched just ten days before the FR-1 satellite was launched on an American Scout rocket. Weighing … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts


Cosmos 2222 was launched twenty years ago on 25 November, 1992 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. The 1900 kilogram US-K model satellite was part of the Oko (eye) program, which were intended to identify ballistic missile launches through infra-red detection of their exhaust. To detect these launches the satellites were equipped with a distinctive telescope equipped with a four metre sunshade. Cosmos 2222 ceased functioning in December 1996, but remains in orbit today, along with the Molniya rocket body that launched it. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts


Cosmos 312 was the fifth of the Soviet Sfera satellites (thus also known as Sfera 5), launched on 24 November 1969. The Sfera (sphere) program was a series of geodetic satellites used to improve the accuracy of maps – and of long-range weapons systems. The satellites held flashing lights to indicate their position relative to the surrounding starfields and thus used to measure the position of points on the earth’s surface to within a few dozen meters. Still in orbit today, Cosmos 312 is accompanied by the rocket booster that launched it. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts


On 23 November 1960 the TIROS-2 satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Thor-Delta rocket. Also known as TIROS-B, the satellite’s name indicates that it was the second Television InfraRed Observation Satellite. The TIROS program was NASA’s first step in using satellites to study the earth – meteorology being the most promising application. TIROS-2 had two television cameras for imaging cloud cover, as well as radiometers for measuring infrared radiation from earth and the atmosphere. It was the first satellite to make infrared observations. The craft was a 127 kilogram, 18-sided right prism 107 cm in diameter and 56 cm high constructed from aluminum alloy and stainless steel and tiled with 9260 solar cells which charged its nicad batteries. Magnetic tape recorders stored photographs while the satellite was out of range … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Skynet 1A

Skynet 1A was the first of the Skynet family of British military communication satellites. The satellite was a 422 kilogram spin-stabilised cylinder (a “spinner”), 810 mm high and 1370 mm in diameter with a despun antenna platform, built by Philco Ford/Ford Aerospace in the United States (later Skynet satellites were built in the United Kingdom). The Skynet program was begun after Lord Mountbatten recommended that the three armed forces use a single method of communication, and the satellite was intended to provide secure voice, telegraph and fax. Two ships, Fearless and Intrepid were fitted with 2 metre dish stations to work with Skynet 1. Launched on 22 November 1969 from Cape Canaveral aboard a Delta M rocket, Skynet 1A was the second geostationary military satellite, first geostationary military communication satellite and the third geostationary satellite. Placed in orbit … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts

Injun 4

The “Injun” satellite series was developed at the University of Iowa by James Van Allen (and his team of “Injuneers”), launched between 1961 and 1974 to study radiation and magnetic phenomena in the ionosphere and beyond. Injun 1 was the first satellite developed by a university. They notably monitored radiation from the Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test and mapped the Van Allen belts. The last three of six satellites in the Injun series were launched by NASA as part of the Explorer program, thus Injun 4 is also designated Explorer 25. Originally, Van Allen had intended to name the first satellite of this series Hawkeye, for Iowa’s mascot and football team, but to avoid confusion with the new Hawk missile, he named it Injun, inspired by the Cajun sounding rocket and Mark Twain’s character … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts

Solidaridad 1

When Mexico retired its first telecommunications satellites – Morelos 1 and 2 – they turned to their creators at Hughes Space and Communications Company to create replacements. The first replacement was Solidaridad 1, launched along with Meteosat 6 by Ariane rocket from Kourou, French Guiana on 20 November 1993. Also known as Satmex 3, Solidaridad 1′s name was chosen to indicate its role of uniting metropolitan and rural Mexico with the world. The satellite covered Mexico, with some bands extending to the United States, Caribbean and South America, providing “voice telephony, data communications, television relay, facsimile transmission, business networks … educational TV broadcasts … [and] nationwide mobile services.” Twelve thousand rural schools across the country received educational programming transmitted through Solidaridad 1, and some relied entirely on these broadcasts. The satellite was a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts


The United States Navy has a natural interest in Solar radiation because of its impact on radio communications on Earth. During the 1950s, attempts were made to measure radiation from Solar flares using rockets, but it took the advent of the satellite age for the field to mature. The SOLRAD (SOLar RADiation) satellite program began in 1960 and continued until 1976, making it one of the longest-running series of satellites devoted to a single research program. Early SOLRAD satellites were launched with the then-classified GRAB (Galactic Radiation And Background) satellites, the United States’ first intelligence satellites, designed to intercept Soviet signals. The first SOLRAD/GRAB mission was the first multiple-satellite launch. It determined that radio fade-outs were caused by Solar X-ray emissions, was the first orbital observatory and the first satellite to be commanded … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts