hrough XV are described in
The Explorers are geophysical satellites of various con-figurations developed to study the space environmentand upper atmosphere surrounding earth, including suchphenomena as radiation, micrometeoroids, tempera-tures, magnetic field, and solar plasma. Investigationsat greater distances are accomplished by other devicessuch as the Pioneer, Ranger, and Mariner spacecraft.
MICROMETEOROIDS-A SPACE ENIGMA
known about micrometeoroids.Knowl-edge about these enigmatic particles stems fromradar and optical tracking of their trails afterthey hit earth's atmosphere and from their im-pacts with instruments of spacecraft.Amongother spacecraft that have provided informationon micrometeoroids are the Explorers
VII, andVlll and the Vanguard
satellites; the Pioneer
probe; and Mariner
the instrumented vehicle
NASA FACTS (VOL.
their momentums on striking spacecraft detectors,indicate velocities ranging from about 25,000 toapproximately 160,000 miles per hour.It
theorized that micrometeoroids are grain-
sized cousins of the meteoroids.If this
true,micrometeoroids are composed of iron, silicates,and other substances found on earth. Analysesof meteorites (meteoroids that have fallen toearth) have revealed that they are constituted ofsuch substances.Suggestions regarding origins of micrometeor-oids include the possibility that they are pulver-ized remnants of colliding asteroids ormeteoroids, residues of former comets, leftoversof a great cloud of dust and gas from which thesolar system may have been formed, and t'iosenear earth perhaps have been cast off by themoon.
NASA technician prepares Explorer XVI for vacuum chambertest in which extremes
heat and cold expected in spaceare simulated.
sent from earth to the neighborhood of Venus.Spacecraft have discovered that periodicallythere are micrometeoroid showers lasting fromseveral hours to a few days. Comparison ofmicrometeoroid counts provided by satellites nearearth with reports of Mariner
indicates that micrometeoroid density tends todecrease with distance from earth.As an exam-ple, analysis of Mariner
and earth satellite dataows that micrometeoroids in space near earthe about
times more abundant thanalong Mariner's trajectory in interplanetary space.Calculations of particle speeds, based upon
NASA technicians test four-stage Scout launch vehicle.NoteExplorer XVI in foreground. Covering which protects satel-lite during launch, is jettisoned in orbit.
The experiments of Explorer XVI were designedprimarily
tell what micrometeoroids can do tomaterials that may be used in future spacecraft.They were also aimed at gathering additionalinformation on these particles.The satellite's array of instruments and sensorsincludes the following:
(1 Pressurized cells shaped like half cylinderswith walls fashioned from one-thousandth to five-thousandth inch thick beryllium copper. The
cells contain helium gas held under pressure.