Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

1991 (Phone: 202/453-1549)

March 15,

Cheryll Madison Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: 301/286-8956) RELEASE: 91- 42 NASA TERMINATES OPERATION OF EXPLORER SATELLITE The Dynamics Explorer (DE)-1 satellite, which acquired the first global images of the Aurora, was officially retired by NASA on Feb. 28, 1991, after 9 years of collecting scientific data. Designed to operate for 3 years, DE-1 performed for nearly a decade in space. Fred Gordon, the spacecraft operations manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., reported that the decision to stop gathering additional data from DE-1 was based on an evaluation of the costs for the spacecraft's operations compared to the expected value of the science gained. Also influencing the decision was the fact that the spacecraft has refused to accept commands at various times since Nov. 17, 1990. According to Dr. Robert Hoffman, NASA's Project Scientist

for the Dynamics Explorers Program, the spacecraft's cameras, in a single view from high altitudes, could see an entire Auroral zone, a ring of light encircling each polar region. These images, taken 12 minutes apart, have proven invaluable in studies of "Auroral substorms," when the Aurora suddenly brightens and expands and when electric currents flowing between the magnetosphere and ionosphere greatly increase in intensity, Hoffman explained. The Dynamics Explorers Program, which consisted of two spacecraft, was designed to study the coupling or interchange of energy, electric currents and mass between the upper atmosphere, ionosphere and the magnetosphere. Hoffman said that the quality and quantity of data returned from the two spacecraft far exceeded the expectations before launch. Scientists associated with the program will continue to analyze for many years the large volume of scientific data accumulated by the satellites. - more The DE-1 spacecraft and its companion spacecraft, DE-2, were launched together on August 3, 1981, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc, Calif., on a Delta rocket and placed into polar elliptical orbits. DE-2 ceased operations on Feb. 19, 1983 and reentered the Earth's atmosphere the next day. The DE-1 satellite is among the more successful Explorers, the oldest U.S. satellite series. The first U.S. satellite was Explorer 1, launched in February 1958, which discovered the Earth's trapped radiation, or the Van Allen belts. Since then, 71 other Explorers have been launched to conduct various scientific studies. The DE-1

spacecraft is managed and operated by the Goddard Space Flight Center for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications. - end -

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