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NASA FACTS Explorer XIX the Air Density Satellite

NASA FACTS Explorer XIX the Air Density Satellite

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Published by Bob Andrepont
NASA Facts booklet on Explorer 19
NASA Facts booklet on Explorer 19

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Dec 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/03/2010

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A
An Educational Services Publication
of
theNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
Page
1
Source of Acquisibon
EXPLORER
X
X
I
NASA
contractor~~rantee
THE AIR SATELLITE
The 12-foot diameter Explorer XIX is inflation tested.
At
upper left of sphere are solar cellsthat convert sunlight to electricity for powering the satellite's radio transmitter.
THE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE
Explorer
XIX
is
one of a series of satellitesdesigned to increase knowledge about air den-The earth
is
surrounded by a vast oceansities at altitudes above a hundred miles. Suchof air called the atmosphere.The air
is
a mix-information is important not only for the ad-ture of oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, helium,vancement of science but also in predicting thehydrogen, and other gases.influence of the thin air at these altitudes on Scientists once believed that the atmos-spacecraft motion.phere stopped at about 100,000 feet above
 
Page
2
NASA FACTS VOL.
11-2
Artist's conception of Explorer
XIX
in orbit.Cutaway shows locations of radio trackingbeacon and batteries that are attached to inside surface of the sphere.The insulating banddivides the satellite into two metallic sections that serve as transmitting antennas.
earth because conventional aircraft controlswere ineffective beyond that height. Since theadvent of the Space Age, they have learned thatthe atmosphere extends many thousands of milesinto space. Some scientists contend that theatmosphere continues to the outer edge ofearth's magnetic field. This edge
is
no closerthan 40,000 miles to earth's surface.About
99
percent of the air in the atmos-phere is concentrated in the first 20 miles aboveearth. Some scientists suggest that the upperatmosphere begins at the 20-mile altitude.Others set its beginning at higher altitudes.Satellite measurements have indicated thesparseness of air in the upper atmosphere. Asan example, one calculation derived from sat-ellite data is that the air at earth's surface
is
trillion times denser than at an altitude of
UPPER ATMOSPHERE
DENSlTW
VARlE
S
The density of air dwindles with increasingaltitude.Upper atmosphere density has beenfound to vary also from day to day and day tonight. The density over one geographic regionmay differ from that above another. There arealso fluctuations during the 27-day period inwhich the sun makes a complete rotation on itsaxis. Abrupt increases in air density havebeen observed to follow solar flares-suddenoutbursts of matter from the sun.Air density also fluctuates with the solarcycle. The cycle
is
a period of about
1 1
yearsduring which solar activity, as evidenced by thefrequency and magnitude of sunspots,
s
flares, and other eruptions, starts at a maximdeclines to a minimum, and then again rises toa maximum.
 
NASA
FACTS
VOL.
11-2
Page
3
Technicians make final check of Explorer XIX payload which
is
mountedon fourth stage of Scout launch vehicle.
3
Scientists theorize that increased solaractivity warms the upper atmosphere and thatas the atmosphere warms, it swells and liftsdenser layers to higher altitudes. As the sunquiets down, the upper atmosphere cools andcontracts, becoming less dense at any altitude.
DESCRIPTION OF EXPLORER
XIX
Explorer XIX is essentially a 12-foot diam-eter inflated sphere weighing about
17
pounds.Because it
is
so large and so light in weight, it
is
markedly affected even by the sparse airatoms and molecules of the upper atmosphere.Scientists calculate air density in the satellite'spath by comparing the spacecraft's orbit with atheoretical orbit based upon the absence of air.Explorer
XIX
is
constructed of a four-plylaminate, consisting of alternating layers of-mil-thick polyester plastic film and '/2-mil-thickinum foil. The aluminum foil forms theouts~de urface; and the plastic, the inside sur-face. (A mil
is
one-thousandth of an inch.)Whitecircles (resembling polka dots)painted on the satellite's outer surface contributeto temperature balance by absorbing less of thesun's heat than the aluminum skin. Temperaturebalance
is
required for operation of the space-craft's electronic equipment.Mounted inside of the satellite
is
a smallradio that transmits a tracking signal. Its power
is
supplied by
a
rechargeable storage batterywithin the sphere and a bank of solar cells onthe satellite's outer surface. Solar cells convertsunlight to electricity.They contain silicon, amaterial that emits electrons when struck bylight. The electrons are channeled into wiresand, thus harnessed, become an electric current.
EXPERIMENT DESCRIPTION
A principal purpose of the Explorer XIXexperiment
is
to extend measurements of airdensity in the upper atmosphere to the polarregions. Prior experiments have furnishedmeasurements of the atmosphere over otherareas of earth. The various measurements

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