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External Publication No. 491
u. QS. SATELLITES
(CATEGORY)

·.,CALlPQlNfA.INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
3, CALIFORNIA
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46
ORDCIT Project
Contract No. DA 04-495-0rd-18
Department of the Army
ORDNANCE CORPS
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External Publication No. 491
( u. QS. SATELLITES
W. K: Victor
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena 3, California
May 1, 1958
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U. S. EXPLORER SATELLITES
1
I.
This is the history of the birth of the first U. S. earth
satellite, Explorer I:
May, 1955: A feasibility study was begun which led to
the complete definition of the Jupiter C
vehicle.
April, 1956: This study was presented to the Army by the
Missile Laboratories at Redstone Arsenal and
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It
indicated that the satellite project was
definitely feasible.
September, 1956: The Jupiter C vehicle was successfully
launched at Cape Canaveral, achieving a
record altitude of 650 miles and a record
distance of 3,000 miles southeast from the
coast of Florida.
1956, 1957: Two subsequent launchings of the Jupiter C
vehicle successfully completed the proof
testing of the re-entry nose cone designed
for Jupiter .
4 October, 1957: The first artificial earth satellite was
launched by Russia, a major scientific
achievement bringing world-wide recognition.
of one phase of research
carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute
of Technology, under Contract No. DA-04-495-0rd 18, sponsored by the
Department of the Army Ordnan e Corps.
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory External Publication No. 491
3 November, 1957: The second artificial earth satellite was
launched by Russia, a spectacular demonstration
of rocket power and experimentation in the life
sciences.
6 November, 1957: A formal presentation was made to the technical
pc1el on the Earth Satellite Program proposing
the launching of two earth satellites using
the Jupiter C vehicle. The proposal was
approved at the panel meeting on that date.
8 November, 1957: The announcement was made by the Secretary of
Defense that the Army would participate in
the IGY satellite program.
31 January, 1958: The birth of the first u. S. earth satellite,
Explorer I, occurred at 5 sec after 10:55 PM,
Eastern Standard Time.
5 March, 1958: The Explorer II launching was unsuccessful
due to ignition failure of the fourth-stage
rocket motor.
17 March, 1958: The first Vanguard satellite was placed in
orbit.
26 March, 1958: Explorer III"was placed in orbit at 12:38 PM,
Eastern Standard Time.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of
Technology in submitting its proposal to the National Science
Foundation to launch two fully instrumented earth satellites during
the International Geophysical Year listed the following as
objectives of the satellite experiments:
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory
External Publication No. 491
Explorer I. The first experiment should be performed at the
earliest possible date. Its objectives would be (1) to gather
environmental data for engineering purposes, (2) to flight-test
major items of hardware, and (3) to make measurements of scientific
value. The first experiment emphasized the importance of obtaining
engineering data which could improve the probability for success of
the second experiment; however, the first experiment contained
cosmic-ray and micrometeorite equipment which provided information
to scientists enabling them for the first time to evaluate
quantitatively the regions of space beyond the earth's atmosphere.
Explorer III. The primary objective of the Explorer III
experiment was scientific in nature. The experiment was designed
to achieve a comprehensive survey of cosmic-ray intensity with
respect to geographic and geomagnetic latitudes and longitudes,
altitudes above the earth, and time. Secondary objectives were to
obtain additional information of a statistical nature regarding
the density and size of micrometeorites and to gather additional
data regarding the external and internal temperatures of orbiting
vehicles.
The micrometeorite experiment was performed in cooperation with
the Air Force Cambridge Research Center (AFCRC). The cosmic-ray
experiment was performed in cooperation with the State University
of Iowa (SUI). The launchings of Explorers I and III were performed
in cooperation with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, (ABMA).
The design of the satellite and, where necessary, the
coordination of the redesign, for both the scientific experiment
and the satellite structure, were accomplished by JPL. The integrity
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of the design and the fabrication of the completed payloads were
checked, utilizing the environmental test facilities at JPL prior
to delivery for launch. The Explorer weighed approximately
18 1/2 Ib each. With the empty fourth-stage rocket motor attached,
the total weight of each of the orbiting vehicles was approximately
31 lb.
II. THE JUPITER C VEHICLE
The Jupiter C vehicle is a four-stage rocket. The first stage
is a modified Redstone missile developed by the Army Ballistic
Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama. The Redstone missile,
or booster, was used to carry the high-speed rocket stages and the
payload to the injection altitude. The modified Redstone booster
was conventionally guided by an autopilot and used jet vanes and
attitude jets for control. The attitude control system was carried
in the instrument compartment in the forward portion of the missile.
One of the modifications necessary was the inclusion of electric
motors in the instrument compartment to spin the high-speed cluster
of rocket motors. A second modification was the use of a fuel of
higher performance than is normally used in the Redstone missile .
A third modification was the lengthening of the fuel tanks to permit
an i .Icrease in fuel-carrying capacity.
The second, third, and fourth stages of the Jupiter C missile
were designed and developed by JPL. All stages used identical
solid-propellant rocket motors. These motors are about 3 feet long
and 6 in. in diameter. The second stage used eleven of these
motors clustered in a concent ic ring. The third stage used three
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory External Publication No. 491
motors grouped together and nested inside the concentric second
stage. The fourth stage utilized a single rocket motor to which
the payload was attached. The entire assembly of high-speed stages
was placed atop the Redstone booster, attached by means of a large
shaft, and rotated at a speed of 750 rpm to minimize dispersion
during the burning of tll ,) high- speed stages.
The payload is a bullet-shaped instrument compartment attached
with machine screws to the motor. It has approximately
the same dimensions as the rocket motor; its size and shape were
selected for compatibility with the rocket motor and with the
electronic instrumentation contained within. The primary materials
used in its construction were stainless steel, fiberglass, and
micarta. The bullet-shaped nose cone was made of stainless steel
to resist aerodynamic heating encountered during the launch. The
outer cylinder was also made of stainless steel to carry the thrust
loads and to preserve the alignment of the payload through the
assembly, checkout, and spin-up on axis. Fiberglass was used to
form the insulating rings between the nose cone and cylinder and
between the cylinder and the rocket motor. The electronic components
were mounted on micarta chassis boards to insulate them from the
outer shell. The proper balance between heat absorption and 11eat
reflection was maintained by means of aluminum oxide stripes on
the nose cone and cylinder.
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III. THE EXPLORER I SATELLITE
The Explorer I satellite contained two complete radio telemetry
systems, providing a total of eight channels of continuous telemetry.
Seven sensors supplied data to these eight channels. One of the
sensors, the cosmic-ray tube, was common to both telemetry systems.
Four of the seven sensors detected changes in temperature (see
Table 1).
All four of the temperature sensors changed their resistance
with temperature. The sensor formed part of an oscillating circuit
so that when the resistance increased, the frequency of the
oscillator increased also. The information transmitted by the
satellite and picked up by the ground receiving stations was the
frequency of these resistance-controlled oscillators.
Two of the sensors measured the effects of micrometeorite
impact (see Table 2). A small ultrasonic microphone was placed in
spring contact with the steel cylinder of the payload. The impact
of a micrometeorite on the steel shell was amplified by a high-gain
transistor amplifier to the point where a particle with a very
small momentum would provide a pulse of sufficient amplitude to
trigger a flip-flop. When the output of the flip-flop was in the
"zero" st2te, the current-controlled telemetering subcarrier
oscillator connected to it had a frequency of about 900 cps. When
the satellite collided with the next micrometeorite, the flip-flop
would go to the "one" state and cause the telemetering oscillator
to change its frequency to approximately 1000 cps. With the next
collision, the frequency would alternate back to 900 cps. With
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory External Publication No. 491
such a telemetering system it was relatively simple for anyone
to ascertain the rate at which Explorer I collided with
micrometeorites.
The wire-grid micrometeorite detector operated in the following
manner: As each wire grid was severed, the subcarrier oscillator
experienced a small step increase in frequency. The wire-grid
detectors were wound with very fine wire, approximately 17 ~ in
diameter. Since the nominal impact velocity of the satellite and
a micrometeorite is 20,000 to 30,000 mph, a micrometeorite of
approximately 5 - ~ diameter or greater has been estimated to be
capable of severing one of the wires when it encounters the gauge.
Each wire gauge detector is 1 sq cm in area. The set of twelve
wire gauge detectors was placed in a ring around the fourth-stage
motor.
The cosmic-ray sensor detects the penetration of high-energy
atomic particles through the stainless-steel wall of the Geiger-
Mueller tube. This tube was manufactured by the Anton Electronic
Laboratory and is their Model 314. It is a halogen-quenched tube
about 1 in. in diameter and 6 in. long.
The electronic payload for Explorer I comprises three major
subassemblies: the cosmic-ray-micrometeorite package, the high-
power transmitter, and the low-power transmitter. The cosmic-ray
micrometeorite subassembly has four parts: the cosmic-ray tube,
a scale of 32, a high-voltage power supply, and the microphone
amplifier and scaler. Assuming that the last stage of the scaler
is in a "zero" position, the frequency of the subcarrier oscillator
monitoring the cosmic ray will be about 1200 cps. As soon as 16
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high-energy particles have penetrated the tube's steel shell, the
output flip-flop of the cosmic-ray scaler will change to the "one "
state and the frequency of the subcarrier oscillator will shift to
about 1350 cps. Thus, by noting each time the subcarrier changes
frequency and multiplying by 16 it is possible to determine the
relative cosmic-ray intensity in space without further information.
Because the information is transmitted as the event occurs, the
survey of primary cosmic-ray intensity by Explorer I is limited to
those areas where receiving stations are located. The average
counting rate expected was approximately 32 penetrations per sec,
which, when scaled down by 32, applies a l-cps square wave to the
subcarrier oscillator. With a maximum square wave response of 20
cps for this channel, the telemetering system was capable of
handling information up to 20 times the normal rate expeGted if
such an increase in cosmic-ray intensity occurred due to intense
solar or magnetic storms.
The high-power transmitter is completely transistorized and
operated on a frequency of 108.03 mc with a power output of 60
milliwatts. The transmitter is composed of an oscillator operating
on 54.015 mc and a frequency-doubling RF amplifier operating with
an input of 54.015 me and an output of 108.03 mc. It is amplitude-
modulated with a modulation index of approximately 50%. The final
stage of the transmitter is collector-modulated in a rather
conventional manner. The high-power transmitter obtained its
primary power from a set of 24 RM-12 mercury batteries manufactured
by the P. R. Mallory Company. This transmitter delivered its
radio-frequency energy to a turnstile antenna system extending from
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the satellite between the instrument compartment and the rocket
motor. The high-power transmitter has a set of four subcarrier
oscillators operating on standard FM/FM channels 2, 3, 4, and 5.
The channel-2 oscillator frequency is centered around 560 cps, and
this channel measures the skin temperature of the cylinder. The
channel-3 oscillator freluency is centered about 730 cps and is
used to measure the internal temperature of the satellite. The
channel-4 oscillator frequency :is 960 cps; this channel operates
in conjunction with the system described previously.
The channel-5 oscillator frequency is centered about 1300 cps and
the cosmic-ray count. The life of the high-power
transmitter was approximately 2 weeks, as predicted.
The low-power transmitter is located in the nose of the
satellite. It operated on a frequency of 108.00 mc and delivered
approximately 10 milliwatts of power to the dipole antenna formed
by the nose cone and the cylinder. It was powered by a set of six
RM-42 mercury batteries and consisted of a 54 mc oscillator followed
by a frequency doubler. The low-power transmitter is phase-
modulated by a set of four subcarrier audio oscillators operating
within the standard FM/FM channels 2, 3, 4, and 5. Channel 2
measured the temperature of the nose cone. Channel 3 was used to
measure the nose-cone temperature during launch. Channel 4 measured
the number of micrometeorites (of sufficient size and momentum to
sever the wire) colliding with the wire gauge detectors. Channel 5
measured primary cosmic-ray intensity. The life of the low-power
transmitter was 2 to 3 months as predicted.


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IV. THE EXPLORER III SATELLITE
The Explorer III satellite differs from Explorer I in several
respects, as shown in Table 3. The sensors used in Explorer III
are shown in Table 4 •
The two major electronic subassemblies comprising the payload
were the low-power transmitter and the SUI Cosmic Ray Package,
modified. The low-power transmitter was essentially the same as
that used in Explorer I. Channel-3 telemetry measured internal
temperature .in Explore . .r III instead of nose-cone temperature, as in
Explorer I.
The SUI Cosmic Ray Package is comprised of several pancake
foam-potted decks. The decks are stacked one upon the other and
bolted together to form a cylinder about 5 1/2 in. in diameter and
12 in. long. The stack of pancakes is slid into a tight-fitting
aluminum can for structural rigidity. The functions performed by
the various decks are:
Deck A
Deck B
Deck C
Deck D
Deck E
Deck F
Deck G
Deck H
G-M tube, cover plate, turn-on plug
VHF receiver
High-power transmitter, modulator,
high-voltage power supply
Tuning fork oscillator and scale of 4
Scale of 128
Scale of 128
Record-drive amplifier, playback circuit,
relay control circuits
Mercury batteries (receiver, transmitter)
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Deck I Mercury batteries (tape recorder and
interrogation cycle)
Deck J Magnetic-tape recorder
The original Vanguard experiment, with the SUI package, is
compared with Explorer III to indicate some of the reasons for and
the effects of the modification. It is seen (Table 5) that by
separating the functions of tracking and stored-data transmission
the expected operating lifetime of the equipment was increased from
one to two months without increasing battery weight. In addition,
it was possible to include one more channel of continuous telemetry.
One major mechanical problem and one major electrical problem
were encountered in modifying the SUI Cosmic Ray Package for the
Jupiter C vehicle:'
Mechanical Problem
The system would not interrogate
while spinning at a rate in excess
of 450 rpm. (Jupiter C spin rate
is 750 rpm).
Electrical Problem
Modulation sidebands on the low-
power transmitter interfered with
the operation of the receiver,
causing self-interrogation.
Solution
a. Move the latching relays
nearer the spin axis.
b. Modify the tape-recorder
release mechanism.
Solution
a. Use a separate local
oscillator for the receiver.
b. Add a 10B-mc trap in the
receiver-input transmission
line.
The receiver used in Explorer III was designed, fabricated,
and supplied by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). It is a
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sensitive, completely transistorized, printed circuit, double
superheterodyne receiver operating in the VHF band with the
following characteristics:
Threshold sensitivity
Bandwidth
Noise figure
Supply voltage
Power consumption,
non-interrogated
Power consumption,
interrogated
-100 dbm
10 kc/s
>30 db
10.4 v
21 mw
210 mw
The design of the receiver was excellent for the application; the
actual hardware supplied by NRL passed all of the environmental
tests without a single failure.
v. CALIBRATION PROCEDURES
Temperature. In general, the calibration of the telemetry
channels was accomplished in two steps. First, the subcarrier
oscillators were placed in an oven, and their frequency variation
as a function of temperature was recorded. Simulated detectors,
placed outside the oven, were connected to the oscillators and
var:ed over the expected range of resistance. Then the oscillators
were removed from the oven, and the actual detectors were placed
in the oven for calibration. Calibration curves were plotted
showing the frequency change of the oscillator as a function of
the temperature of the sensor and the temperature of the oscillator.
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Micrometeorite Microphone Detector. Small glass beads were
dropped onto the steel cylinder of the assembled payload. The
momentum was calculated knowing the mass of the beams and its
terminal velocity at impact. A conversion factor relating large-
mass, low-velocity particle momentum to small-mass, high-velocity
particle momentum is being determined experimentally by AFCRC.
Micrometeorite Wire Gauge Detector. This will be an after-
the-fact calibration performed under the direction of AFCRC. It
will be accomplished by shooting high-velocity particles of known
mass at the wire gauge detectors to determine the minimum particle
size and momentum required to sever the wire.
Cosmic-Ray Detector. Four calibrations were performed on the
Geiger-Mueller tubes prior to flight:
a. Relative counting rate as a function of temperature.
b. Relative counting rate as a function of supply voltage.
c. Standard source-standard distance measurement to serve
as a reference for later absolute calibrations.
d. Absolute efficiency based on a ratio of a 3-fold to 2-fold
count in an omnidirectional field.
An after-the-fact calibration will be performed by the State
University of Iowa to determine the effective length of the G-M
tube in the payload configuration and to assist in determining
absolute magnitude of the omnidirectional field for a given recorded
count rate.
Calibration data for Explorer I is contained in JPL Publication
No. 130, entitled "Calibration Record for the IGY Earth Satellite
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1958 Alpha." Calibration data for Explorer III is contained in
JPL Publication No. 127, entitled IICalibration Record for the IGY
Earth Satellite 1958 Gamma."
VI. INFORMATION TRANSMITTED BY THE EXPLORERS
Questions relating 0 the density and size of meteorites as
telemetered by Explorers I and III should be directed to Dr. E.
Manring or Dr. M. Dubin at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center
in Cambridge, Mass. Questions relating to the absolute intensity
of primary cosmic rays should be addressed to Dr. J. Van Allen at
the State University of Iowa, in Iowa City, Iowa. Questions
relating to the external and internal temperatures encountered by
the Explorer satellites in space should be directed to Dr. A. Hibbs
of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
When this report was written Explorer I had been in orbit two
and one-half months. During this time the coldest temperature
reached by the nose-cone skin sensor was -30°C; the hottest
temperature, +75°C. However, for anyone orbit it appears that
the outer skin experienced a total temperature variation of about
80 to 90
o
C. The internal temperature of the payload varies much
less than the outside temperature due to the insulation provided.
The temperature inside Explorer I varies from 0 to 35°C inside the
cylinder and from 5 to 40
0
C inside the nose cone. Data from
Explorer III indicate that the temperatures it will experience will
be similar to those measured in Explorer I. Internal temperatures
measured during a 2-week observation period were 0 to 30
0
C inside
the nose cone and 5 to 35°C inside the cylinder.
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VII. EXPLORER SATELLITES IN ORBIT
As the satellites continue to encircle the earth, their paths
can be described quantitatively in the manner shown in Table 6.
The accuracy to which the orbital parameters are known can best
be determined by using them to predict the position of the satellite
at some time in the future. If the parameters of Explorer I are
used to predict its position 3 days in advance, an error in time
of about one min (or 300 miles along the path) might be expected.
The Explorer III orbit will be more difficult to predict accurately,
because the unknown effects of atmospheric drag at the lower perigeal
altitudes are more pronounced. On the other hand, Explorer III
will provide scientists with a great deal more information about
the atmospheric density at this altitude.
Although the density of the atmosphere at perigee is extremely
small compared with that at the surface of the earth, the satellite
still collides with enough air molecules to slow it down a small
fraction of its total speed. As the speed at perigee decreases,
the altitude at apogee and the time to complete one orbit also
decreases. Therefore, by noting the rate at which the period
decreases, it is possible to predict the expected lifetime of the
satellite. Just before the satellite is about to enter the
atmosphere and burn up, the satellite orbit becomes circular. The
rate of decay for the Explorer I period is 0.01 min/day, and the
estimated lifetime is 5 to 10 years. The rate of decay for the
Explorer III period is 0.3 min/day, and its estimated lifetime
is 4 to 6 months.
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VIII. FUTURE COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES
One of the significant things demonstrated by the Explorer
satellites is that a communication system can operate effectively
with milliwatts of radiated power at ranges up to 2500 miles. The
technique is successful because the information rates are low and
bandwidths of the receivers are narrow. Further exploitation of
this technique will make it possible to communicate at distances
measured in millions of miles with only a few watts of transmitter
power.
Table 1. Temperature Sensors Used in :p orer I
Measurement
Nose cone, launch
Nose cone, skin
Cylinder, skin
Internal, RF chassis
Detector
Type
Temperature
Resistance
wire
Resistance
wire
Thermistor
Thermistor
Manufacturer
and Model
Detectors
Arnoux
No. 52714H-13
Arnoux
No. 2202L-8
GE Carboloy
RF 11
VECO
No . 32A12
Measurement
Range, °C
-50 to 450
-100 to 150
-50 to 150
-10 to 80
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Table 2. Micrometeorite Sensors Used in Explorer I
Measurement
Number of gauges
opened by meteorite
collisons
Micrometeorite
collisons with
cylinder as they
occur
Detector
Type
Manufacturer
and Model
Meteorite Detectors
17-J.-L wire
on 1 sq cm
patch
Ultrasonic
microphone
AFCRC
Temple
University
and AFCRC
Measurement
Range
Will register
up to 12 open
gauges by
collison with
meteorites
greater than
5 J-L in diam.
Detects all
meteorites
with
momentums of
6 to 18
milligram
cm/sec and
above
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Table 3. Characteristic Differences Between
Explorers I and III
Characteristic
Sensors
Temperature detectors
Meteorite detectors
Cosmic-ray measurement
Data storage
Data transmission
Radio receiver
Antennas
Transistors, total
High-power transmitter
Explorer I
7
4
2
Single G-M tube;
2 continuous
readouts
None
Continuous only
None
1 dipole
1 turnstile
42
Continuous for
2 weeks
Explorer III
4
2
1
Single G-M tube;
1 continuous readout
1 stored trans-
mission
Magnetic-tape recorder
Continuous plus
playback upon
command
Transistorized VHF
receiver
2 dipoles, one
duplexed with
receiver
107
Intermittent for
2 months
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Measurement
Nose-cone skin
Internal, at base
of G-M tube
Number of gauges
opened by
meteorite
collisons
Primary cosmic-ray
intensity
Table 4. Explorer III Sensors
Detector
Type
Manufacturer and
Model
Temperature Detectors
Thermistor
Thermistor
GE·· Carboloy
RF 11
VECa
No. 32A12
Meteorite Detector
17-/J. wire on
on 1 sq cm
patch
AFCRC
Cosmic-Ray Detector
Geiger-
Mueller
tube
Anton Electronic
Labs. No. 314
Measurement
Range, °c
-50 to 150
-10 to 80
Register up to
12 open gauges
by collison
with
meteorites
greater than
5 /J. in diam.
o to 640
particles/
sec
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Table 5. Comparison of Explorer III with Original Vanguard Package II
Explorer III
Telemetry
Assignment I Information Transmitted
HP I Stored cosmic-ray data
108.03 mc on command
LP5
LP4
LP3
LP2
Continuous cosmic ray
Meteorite abrasion, 12
wire gauge detectors
Internal temperature,
direct (thermistor)
Shell
direct (thermistor)
Two-months battery life,
weight, 18.5 lb
Vanguard SUI Package II
Telemetry Assignment
HP
108.00 mc
3500-cps subcarrier
pulse FM
3500-cps subcarrier
zero signal
frequency
3500-cps calib with
standard resistor
Information Transmitted
Stored cosmic-ray data
on command
Continuous cosmic ray
Meteorite abrasion, 12
wire gauge detectors
Internal temperature,
Indirect (freq vs
temp)
None
One-month battery life,
weight, 20.5 lb
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory External Publication No. 491
Table 6. Orbital Parameters of Explorers I and III
Orbital
Characteristic
Explorer I
(after 2 1/2 months
in orbit)
Explorer III
(after 2 weeks in
in orbit.)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - r _ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Perigee, miles
Apogee, miles
Eccentricity
Semimajor axis/earth radius
Nodal period, min
Rate of decrease of period,
min/day
Inclination to equatorial
plane, deg
Motion of apogee in direction
of satellite motion,
deg/day
Westward precession,
deg/day
Westward motion of ascending
node (includes precession),
deg/period
Westward motion of earth;
deg/period
Orbit number
Date
Time of crossing
Longitude crossing
ascending node
Longitude of perigee
Altitude
220
1563
0.1383
1.2248
114.58
0.01
33.14
6.45
4.31
29.06
28.68
786
4/4/58
16 H 8M 42S, GMT
2
0
49' 20
11
east
153
0
east
1500 miles
117
1740
0.166
1 ~ 2344
115.65
0.3
33.46
6.29
4.25
71
4/1/58
9H 38M 1 7S, GMT
114
0
4' 4111 west
11
0
-east
1320 miles
Page 21

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