Sunday, November 28, 2010

50 YA - Tiros 2: Second Weather Satellite

Tiros prototype being installed at Smithsonian.

With the success of Tiros-1 earlier in the year, Tiros-2 was launched on a Thor-Delta rocket into orbit on November 23rd, 1960. Like the first version, Tiros-2 was powered by 9,200 solar cells covering the outside of the craft.

Thor-Delta rocket.

Once in orbit, mission controllers determined that the craft had not stabilized correctly. Tiros-2 was equipped with ten small rockets designed to spin the craft precisely to ensure a stable positioning of the camera system. Because the spin was not correct, the camera system was not taking pictures correctly. There were problems with the contrast between light and dark areas on the images.

By the 25th, engineers had managed to increase the spin stabilization which made for a better controlled orientation. Additionally, they had increased the power generation of the solar cells. By the 28th, the system was operating as designed.

Tiros-1 image of hurricane.

The Tiros program was essential in developing weather forecasting procedures. It was so successful, that evidently some people wondered why we needed to develop more complicated spy satellites. As you can see from the image above though, the two really could not compare. It's like comparing apples to oranges.

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