SP-4402 Origins of NASA Names





Full-disc photograph of the earh from equatorial orbit, transmitted by ATS 3 on 10 November 1967.

Full-disc photograph of the earth from equatorial orbit, transmitted by ATS 3 on 10 November 1967. A cold front moves eastward over the central United States and a tropical storm is a bottom center. 


[31] Astronomy's traditional definition of a satellite is "a celestial body orbiting another of larger size.1 Through the balance of gravitational attraction, velocity, and centrifugal force, the moon revolves around, or orbits, the earth; hence, it is a satellite of the earth. Since 1957, man has been using rocket-powered launch vehicles to place man-made objects in orbit around the earth. Because they orbit the earth, these objects are earth "satellites."

Technically, of course, orbiting manned spacecraft also became satellites of the earth. Other satellites, in the strict sense of the word, were the spent rocket stages and uninstrumented pieces of hardware-popularly called "space junk"-placed in orbit incidentally. For purposes of the space exploration program, the term "satellite" was applied to man-made, instrumented objects placed intentionally in earth orbit to perform specific functions.

NASA unmanned satellites are divided into two categories: scientific satellites (which obtain scientific information about the space environment) and applications satellites (which perform experiments that will have everyday usefulness for man on earth). Satellites in the Explorer series were typical of the scientific satellites, gathering a variety of scientific data and telemetering it to stations on earth. Examples of applications satellites were Tiros meteorological satellites, designed to provide cloud-cover photographs to aid-in forecasting weather conditions, and Relay and later communications satellites, designed to receive and transmit voice and facsimile communications between distant points on the earth.



Artist's concept of Aeros in orbit. 

Artist's concept of Aeros in orbit. 


AEROS. In June 1969 NASA and the German Ministry for Scientific Research (BMwF) reached an agreement on a cooperative project that would orbit a German scientific satellite designed to investigate particle behavior in the earth's upper atmosphere.1 In early 1969 BMwF had named the proposed aeronomy satellite after Aeros, ancient Greek god of the air.2 Aeros, the second U.S .-German cooperative research satellite, was designated GRS-A-2 by NASA (see also Azur) before launch, assuming its proper name when successfully launched into orbit 16 December 1972.3 Aeros 2 was orbited by NASA 16 July 1974.

("Aeros" also had been used earlier for the Synchronous Meteorological Satellite project [see SMS].)



Alouette 1 before launch


Alouette 1, above, before launch, and an artist's concept of ANS below. Ariel 4, at right, was the first satellite in the Ariel series to carry a United States experiment. 



Ariel 4 was the first satellite in the Ariel series to carry a United States experiment. 


an artist's concept of ANS


[35] ALOUETTE. An international satellite program, Alouette was a Canadian project in cooperation with NASA 1 and was given its name in May 1961 by the Canadian Defence Research Board. The name was selected because, as the French-Canadian name for meadowlark, it suggested flight; the word "Alouette" was a popularly used and widely known Canadian title; and, in a bilingual country, it called attention to the French part of Canada's heritage.2 NASA supported the Board's choice of name for the topside sounder scientific satellite.3

Alouette 1, instrumented to investigate the earth's ionosphere from beyond the ionospheric layer, was launched into orbit by NASA from the Pacific Missile Range 28 September 1962. It was the first satellite designed and built by a country other than the United States or the Soviet Union and was the first satellite launched by NASA from the West Coast. Alouette 2 was orbited later as part of the U.S.-Canadian ISIS project (see ISIS).

NASA's Explorer 20, launched 25 August 1964, was nicknamed "Topsi" for "topside sounder"; it returned data on the ionosphere to be compared with Alouette data, as well as data from Ariel 1 and Explorer 8 and sounding rockets.4


ANS. In June 1970 NASA and the Netherlands Ministries of Economic Affairs and Education and Science reached agreement to launch the first Netherlands scientific satellite in 1974. The satellite was designated "ANS," an acronym for "Astronomical Netherlands Satellite,1 and an ANS Program Authority was created by the Ministries to direct the cooperative project. NASA provided an experiment and the Scout launch vehicle, and the Program Authority designed, built, and tested the spacecraft and provided tracking and data acquisition.l The satellite-launched 30 August 1974- carried an ultraviolet telescope to study selected stellar ultraviolet sources and instruments to investigate both soft and hard x-ray sources.


ARIEL. The world's first international satellite, Ariel I was a cooperative project between the United Kingdom and NASA. The satellite was named in February 1962 for the spirit of the air who was released by Prospero in Shakespeare's play The Tempest. The name "Ariel"-a traditional name in British aeronautics-was chosen by the U.K. Minister of Science and endorsed by NASA. 1 Other satellites followed in the program.

Ariel 1 (UK-1 before orbit), launched from Cape Canaveral 26 April 1962, was built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and instrumented with six British experiments to make integrated measurements in the [36] ionosphere. Ariel 2, containing three U.K.-built experiments, was placed in orbit 27 March 1964. Ariel 3, designed and built in the United Kingdom, was launched 5 May 1967 with five experiments. The U.K.-built Ariel 4 carried four U.K. and one U.S. experiment into orbit 11 December 1971 to investigate plasma, charged particles, and electromagnetic waves in the ionosphere. Ariel 5 (UK-S), also British-built, was launched 15 October 1974 to study x-ray sources.

The UK-X4 satellite was in a different series from the Ariels. An "Y" added to the prelaunch designation indicated it was experimental and, when orbited March 1974 to test spacecraft systems and sensors, the spacecraft was christened Miranda. It was a United Kingdom satellite launched by NASA under a contract for reimbursable services, rather than a joint research mission.2

The United Kingdom's Skynet satellites belonged to still another series. The Skynet I and II series of U.K. Ministry of Defence communications satellites were launched by NASA, beginning in 1969, under agreement with the U.S. Air Force, which reimbursed NASA for launch vehicles and services.


ATS. The name "ATS"-an acronym for "Applications Technology Satellite"-referred to the satellite mission: to test technological experiments and techniques for new practical applications of earth satellites. The name evolved through several transitions, beginning with the project's study phase. In 1962-1963, at NASA's request, Hughes Aircraft Company

conducted feasibility and preliminary design studies for an "Advanced Syncom" satellite. The concept was of a communications spacecraft in synchronous orbit with a new stabilization system and a multiple-access communication capability. Other names in use were "Advanced Synchronous Orbit Satellite," "Advanced Synchronous Satellite," and "advanced synchronous communications satellite. " 1

By March 1964 NASA had decided Advanced Syncom should not only test communications technology but also support development of "meteorological sensing elements, measurements of the space environment in various orbits such as the synchronous orbit, and the conduct of experiments on general stabilization systems which apply not only to communications systems but to other systems." 2 As the concept of the satellite was changed, so was its name-becoming "Advanced Technological Satellite (ATS). " Hughes was selected to build five ATS spacecraft. 3

The change to "Applications Technology Satellite" came in October 1964. Dr. Homer E. Newell, NASA Associate Adnministrator for Space Science [37] and Applications, and Dr. John F. Clark, Director of Space Sciences, had concluded that the adjectives "Advanced Technological" were undesirable because they seemed to conflict with responsibilities of NASA's Office of Advanced Research and Technology.4 On 2 October Dr. Newell formally proposed, and Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., approved, the change to "Applications Technology Satellite"-bringing "the name of the project more into line with its purpose, applications technology, while retaining the initials ATS by which it is commonly known."5

Launched 6 December 1966, ATS 1 took the first U.S. high-quality photographs of the earth from synchronous orbit, showing the changing cloud-cover patterns. In addition to weather data, the satellite relayed color television across the United States and voice signals from the ground to aircraft in flight. ATS 3, launched 5 November 1967, carried advanced communications, meteorology, and navigation experiments and made high-resolution color photographs of one complete side of the earth. ATS 6 was launched 30 May 1974 to support public health and education experiments in the United States and India. It was the first communications satellite with the power to broadcast TV photos to small local receivers.


ATS 3, at left, suspended during antenna pattern testing. The model of ATS 6, below, shows the nine-meter reflector deployed.

ATS 3, at left, suspended during antenna pattern testing. The model of ATS 6, below, shows the nine-meter reflector deployed.


[38] AZUR. A 17 July 1965 memorandum of understanding between NASA and the German Ministry for Scientific Research (BMwF) initiated a cooperative project that would orbit a German scientific satellite to investigate the earth's inner radiation belt. The agreement provided for the launch of the satellite after a successful series of sounding rocket tests to check out the proposed satellite instrumentation.1 NASA would provide the Scout launch vehicle, conduct launch operations, provide tracking and data acquisition, and train BMwF personnel. In June 1966 NASA designated the satellite GRS-A, an acronym for "German Research Satellite-A."* "Azur," the German word for the color "sky blue," was chosen by BMwF in early 1968 as the name for the satellite, and GRS-A was officially designated Azur by NASA after launch 7 November 1969. 2 (See also Aeros.)


BIOSATELLITE. As the name suggests, Biosatellites were used to conduct space experiments with living organisms, both plant and animal. The biological specimens in orbit underwent prolonged weightlessness, radiation, and other conditions of the space environment; scientists could study the effects on various life processes. Physiological effects included growth and form of entire organisms, structure of growth of cells and tissues, and basic biochemistry of the cell. 1

The NASA Project Designation Committee, asked by the Director of Bioscience Programs in June 1962 to consider an official name for such a project should it be initiated, devised the name "Biosatellite," a contraction of the phrase "biological satellite." The shorter "Bios" formed the basis for the new name and occasionally appeared as a substitute for Biosatellite. 2 But Biosatellite should not be confused with "BIOS" ("Biological Investigation of Space"), the name of a separate reentry spacecraft flown in 1961. The Project Designation Committee reserved the name "Biosatellite" for project use, pending approval of the orbiting biological payload project. 3

In March 1963 NASA contracted for spacecraft feasibility studies for a "bio-satellite program." After evaluating the results of these studies and obtaining funding for the project, NASA selected the General Electric Company to build the spacecraft and later chose the biological experiments to be flown on them. By early 1964 the project was well under way and the name"Biosatellite" had been adopted.



Cutaway models of the German-built Azur

 Cutaway models of the German-built Azur, at left, and NASA's Biosatellite, below.


NASA's Biosatellite


Biosatellite I was launched 14 December 1966; it functioned normally in orbital space flight but failed to reenter as it should have three days later. Biosatellite 2, launched 7 September 1967, obtained information on the effects of radiation and weightlessness on plant and low-order animal life forms. The program ended with the flight of Biosatellite 3, launched 28 June 1969, which was prematurely terminated after eight and one-half days. Analysis of the death of the pigtailed monkey orbited during that flight provided additional information on the effects of prolonged weightlessness during manned flights.



Echo 1 during inflation tests before launch.

 Echo 1 during inflation tests before launch.


ECHO. The idea of an inflatable, spherical space satellite was conceived in January 1956 by William J. O'Sullivan, Jr., aeronautical engineer at NACA's Langley Aeronautical Laboratory (later NASA Langley Research Center), and proposed as an air-density experiment for the International Geophysical Year (1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958).1 The balloon satellite was similar to one described by John R. Pierce of Bell Telephone Laboratories in his 1955 article, "Orbital Radio Relays." 2 Pierce was interested in the orbiting inflated sphere for use as a reflector for radio signals and he proposed a cooperative communication experiment using O'Sullivan's balloon satellite. By early 1959 O'Sullivan's original proposal for IGY air-density studies had become NASA's passive communications satellite project. 3

The word "echo" was often used in the radio and radar sense to describe the reflection of ground-transmitted signals from the surface of an orbiting balloon. The name " Project Echo, " derived through informal use, was given to the 30-meter inflatable-structure satellite.4 O'Sullivan's design was tested in a series of Shotput launches and the Echo project proved that [41] an aluminized-Mylar sphere could be carried aloft by a rocket, be inflated in space, and remain in orbit to provide a means of measuring atmospheric density as well as a surface for reflecting radio communications between distant points on the earth.

Echo 1 passive communications satellite, orbited by NASA 12 August 1960, was the fruition of O'Sullivan's labors. His inflatable-sphere concept also was employed in three air-density Explorer satellites, in Echo 2, and in Pageos 1.


EOLE. NASA and France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) signed a memorandum of understanding 27 May 1966 providing for development of a cooperative satellite-and-instrumented-balloon network to collect meteorological data for long-range weather forecasts.1 "Eole," the French name for Aeolus, ancient Greek god of the winds, was chosen by CNES as the name for the satellite project. 2 Known as "FR-2 [see also FR-1] until late 1968-and also as simply "French Satellite" before December 1968-the project was redesignated by NASA "CAS-A," an acronym for the first in a series of international "Cooperative Applications Satellite(s)." 3 The satellite was given its permanent name Eole after successful launch into orbit 16 August 1971.


Eole, cooperative French and U.S. satellite to collect meteorological data for forecasts.

Eole, cooperative French and U.S. satellite to collect meteorological data for forecasts.


ERTS 1 (renamed LANDSAT 1) after prelaunch tests at General Electric.

 ERTS 1 (renamed LANDSAT 1) after prelaunch tests at General Electric.


ERTS, EOS, SEOS. The name "ERTS"-an acronym for "Earth Resources Technology Satellite"-was a functional designation; it was derived from early concepts of an "earth resources" satellite system to provide information on the environment by using remote-sensing techniques. Between 1964 and 1966, studies of remote-sensing applications were conducted jointly by NASA and the Departments of Interior and Agriculture and NASA initiated [43] a program of aircraft flights to define sensor systems for remote-sensing technology. The studies indicated that an automated remote-sensing satellite appeared feasible and that a program should be initiated for the development of an experimental satellite. 1

In early 1967 NASA began definition studies for the proposed satellite, by then designated ERTS, and by early 1969 the project was approved. 2 Two satellites, ERTS-A and ERTS-B, were subsequently planned for launch. ERTS-A became ERTS 1 on launch 23 July 1972; it was still transmitting data on earth resources, pollution, and environment at the end of 1974, for users worldwide. ERTS-B was scheduled for 1975 launch.**

The early nomenclature for both the program and the proposed satellites was confusing. The "Earth Resources Program" was variously known as the "Natural Resources Program," the "Earth Resources Survey Program," and the "Earth Resources Observation Program." 3 The designation "Earth Resources Survey Program" was eventually used to include ERTS and remote-sensing aircraft programs, as well as the "Earth Resources Experiment Package" (EREP) flown on Skylab missions in 1973-1974. These programs formed a part of NASA's overall "Earth Observations Programs," which also included the meteorology and earth physics program. 4

Before 1967 several names were in use for the proposed earth resources satellite, including the designation "ERS"-a shortened acronym for "Earth Resources Survey Satellite"-which was in conflict with an identical designation for an Air Force satellite project known as the "Environmental Research Satellite." 5 Further confusion arose when the Department of the Interior, which in cooperation with NASA had been studying the application of remote-sensing techniques, announced the name "EROS"-an acronym for "Earth Resources Observation Satellite"-for the satellite....



<<Galloping,>> or surging, glaciers in Alaska identified by U.S. Geological Survey scientists on images taken by ERTS 1

 "Galloping," or surging, glaciers in Alaska identified by U.S. Geological Survey scientists on images taken by ERTS 1. Glacier behavior could give warning of floods and clues to sources of water supply.


....project. 6 In early 1967, when NASA initiated the definition studies of the experimental satellite, the name "ERTS" came into use. 7

In early 1970 the NASA Project Designation Committee met to choose a [45] new name for the ERTS satellites and several names were suggested, including "Earth," "Survey," and "Ceres"-the ancient Greek goddess of the harvest. The Committee favored "Earth" but, after submitting the name to the other Government agencies in the program and receiving unfavorable responses from some, it dropped the name " Earth, " and "ERTS" was used up through the end of 1974.8

EOS. A follow-on to ERTS was to be the Earth Observatory Satellite (EOS)- given a functional name in NASA. Results from the first Earth Resources Technology Satellite showed that greater spectral and spatial resolutions were needed for some applications, such as classifying and monitoring the use of land for urban planners and increasing accuracy in predicting agricultural yield. And since 1970 NASA had seen a need for a multipurpose satellite in low earth orbit to survey the earth and oceans, detect pollution, and monitor the weather. Definition studies were begun in 1974 of a low-cost EOS spacecraft that could be launched, resupplied or serviced, and eventually returned by the Space Shuttle, but could also be launched by a conventional booster before the shuttle became operational. Modular systems for power and different spacecraft functions would permit the Shuttle to unplug and replace malfunctioning systems.9

EOS-A was tentatively scheduled for 1979 launch as a land-and-water-use mission, with EOS-B possibly in 1981.

SEOS. An advanced study also was under way in 1974 of a Synchronous Earth Observatory Satellite (SEOS) for experimental meteorological and earth resources observations using a large telescope with improved resolution and an infrared atmospheric sounder. The geosynchronous orbit would provide the short intervals needed to detect and warn of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, foods, and insect crop damage. 10


ESRO. The European Space Research Organization (ESRO), a 10-member Western European group to conduct scientific space research, came into formal existence in March 1964 (the ESRO Convention had been signed 14 June 1962). The Organization named its first satellites "ESRO" in honor of its own abbreviation. 1 An 8 July 1964 NASA-ESRO agreement originally called for two cooperative satellites, ESRO 1 to investigate the polar ionosphere and ESRO 2 to study solar astronomy and cosmic rays. With development of the scientific payloads, it became apparent that ESRO 1 had a rather narrow launch opportunity and that it was important to launch it in....



European designed and built ESRO 1 was also given the name Aurorae in orbit. In the photo the satellite was being tested at the Western Test Range before launch.

 European designed and built ESRO 1 was also given the name Aurorae in orbit. In the photo the satellite was being tested at the Western Test Range before launch.


....the fall; therefore ESRO 2 was moved up for first launch, although the number designations were not changed. 2

After launch by NASA on 3 October 1968, ESRO I was also assigned the name Aurorae by ESRO; it was designed to study the aurora borealis and related phenomena of the polar ionosphere. Its numerical designation later became ESRO IA when a duplicate backup satellite, ESRO IB, was launched 1 October 1969 . ESRO IB was designated Boreas by ESRO.3

ESRO 2A, scheduled to be the first ESRO satellite, failed to reach orbit 29 May 1967. Its backup, ESR0 2B was given the name IRIS-an acronym for [47] "International Radiation Investigation Satellite"-by ESRO after successful launch 16 May 1968.4

Under the 1964 memorandum of understanding, NASA's participation in the cooperative venture was to provide Scout launch vehicles, conduct launch operations, provide supplemental tracking and data acquisition services, and train ESRO personnel. No funds were exchanged in the project.5

Under a 30 December 1966 memorandum of understanding, ESRO became the first international space group to agree to pay NASA for launchings; it would reimburse NASA for launch vehicle and direct costs of equipment and services. The first satellite orbited under this agreement, HEOS I-"Highly Eccentric Orbit Satellite"-was launched 5 December 1968.6

Later scientific and applications satellites planned by ESRO-and to be launched by NASA-were given functional names:7


Cos-B, scheduled for 1975 launch to study cosmic rays from the galaxy, especially gamma radiation, was to be one of the successors to the TD-IA astronomical satellite launched by NASA for ESRO in March 1972.
GEOS, "Geostationary Scientific Satellite" (a different satellite from NASA's Geodetic Explorers or Geodynamic Experimental Ocean Satellite), was scheduled for 1976 launch to study cosmic radiation over a long period.
EXOSAT, a high-energy astronomy satellite, was planned for 1979 launch for x-ray astronomy.
METEOSAT, a geostationary meteorological satellite, was planned for 1976 launch.
OTS, geostationary "Orbital Test Satellite," was to be launched in 1976 or 1977 as a forerunner of the European Communications Satellite (ECS; formerly CEPT, for Conference Europeene des Postes et Telecommunications, or CETS, for Conference on European Telecommunications Satellite).
AEROSAT, joint "Aeronautical Satellite" to be developed with the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency and a U.S. contractor, was to be launched in 1977 or 1978 for air traffic control, navigation, and communications.
MAROTS, "Maritime Orbital Test Satellite," an adaptation of OTS funded principally by the United Kingdom, was planned for 1977 launch for civil maritime communications and navigation.


ESRO was also cooperating with NASA in the International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE) program and the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) program (see Explorer).



Engineers check out ESSA 5 in the top photo. The first complete coverage of North America from ESSA 1, in the lower photo, was transmitted 5 February 1966.

 Engineers check out ESSA 5 in the top photo. The first complete coverage of North America from ESSA 1, in the lower photo, was transmitted 5 February 1966.


ESSA. The ESSA satellites were meteorological satellites in the Tiros Operational Satellite (TOS) system that were financed and operated by the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). The name was selected by ESSA early in 1966 and was an acronym derived from "Environmental Survey Satellite";1 it was also the abbreviation for the operating agency.

Between 1966 and 1969 NASA procured, launched, and checked out in orbit the nine ESSA satellites, beginning with ESSA l, orbited 3 February 1966.

On 3 October 1970 ESSA was incorporated into the new National Oceanic [49] and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). After launch by NASA, the sub sequent series of satellite-in the Improved TOS (ITOS) system-were turned over to NOAA for operational use. The first lTOS spacecraft funded by NOAA, launched 11 December 1970, was designated NOAA 1 in orbit,2 following the pattern set by the ESSA series. (See also Tiros, TOS, and lTOS.)


EXPLORER. The name "Explorer," designating NASA's scientific satellite series, originated before NASA was formed. "Explorer" was used in the 1930s for the U.S. Army Air Service-National Geographic stratosphere balloons. On 31 January 1958, when the first U.S. satellite was orbited by the U.S. Army as a contribution to the International Geophysical Year (IGY), Secretary of the Army Wilbur M. Brucker announced the satellite's name, Explorer 1. The name indicated she mission of this first satellite and its NASA successor-to explore the unknown.1

The Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) had previously rejected a list of explorer names for the satellite. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, responsible for the fourth stage of the Jupiter C rocket (configured as the Juno l launch vehicle) and for the satellite, had called the effort ``Project Deal" (a loser in a poker game always called for a new deal-and this satellite was the answer to the Russian Sputnik). On the day of the launch, ABMA proposed the name "Top Kick," which was not considered appropriate. The list of names was brought out again. All the names on the list had been crossed out and only the heading "Explorers" remained. The late Richard Hirsch, a member of the National Security Council's Ad Hoc Committee for Outer Space, suggested that the first American satellite be called simply "Explorer." The name was accepted and announced.2

When NASA was being formed in 1958 to conduct the U.S. civilian space program, responsibility for IGY scientific satellite programs was assigned to NASA. The decision was made by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to continue the name "Explorer" as a generic term for future NASA scientific satellites.3 Explorers were used by NASA to study (1) the atmosphere and ionosphere, (2) the magnetosphere and interplanetary space, (3) astronomical and astrophysical phenomena, and (4) the earth's shape, magnetic field, and surface.

Many of the Explorer satellites had project names that were used before they were orbited and then supplanted by Explorer designations once they were placed in orbit. Other Explorer satellites, particularly the early ones, were known before orbit simply by numerical designations. A listing of some of the Explorers' descriptive designations illustrates the variety of scientific missions performed by these satellites: Aeronomy Explorer, Air....



Explorer 1



Explorer 11 Gamma-ray Astronomy Satellite


Explorer 29 Geodetic Satellite.

Some of the Explorer satellites, left to right above: Explorer 1; Explorer 11 Gamma-ray Astronomy Satellite; and Explorer 29 Geodetic Satellite.


....Density Satellite, Direct Measurement Explorer, Interplanetary Monitoring Platform (IMP), Ionosphere Explorer, Meteoroid Technology Satellite (MTS), Radio Astronomy Explorer (RAE), Solar Explorer, Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS).

SAS-A, an X-ray Astronomy Explorer, became Explorer 42 when launched 12 December 1970 by an Italian crew from the ban Marco platform off the coast of Kenya, Africa. It was also christened Uhuru, Swahili for "Freedom," because it was launched on Kenya's Independence Day. The small satellite, mapping the universe in x-ray wavelengths for four years, discovered x-ray pulsars and evidence of black holes.4

Geodetic Satellites (GEOS) were also called "Geodetic Explorer Satellites" and sometimes "Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellites." GEOS 1....



Atmosphere Explorer named Explorer 32 in orbit



an artist's drawing of an Interplanetary Monitoring Platform (Explorer 34)


Atmosphere Explorer (above), named Explorer 32 in orbit, and an artist's drawing of an Interplanetary Monitoring Platform (Explorer 34) at right.


....(Explorer 29. launched 6 November 1965) and GEOS 2 (Explorer 36, launched 11 January 1968) refined knowledge of the earth's shape and gravity field. GEOS-C, to be launched in 1975 as a successor to GEOS 1 and 2, was renamed "Geodynamic Experimental Ocean Satellite" to emphasize its specific mission in NASA's earth and ocean physics program while retaining the GEOS acronym. GEOS-C was to measure ocean currents, tides, and wave heights to improve the geodetic model of the earth and knowledge of [52] earth-sea interactions. (The European Space Research Organization's Geostationary Scientific Satellite-also called GEOS, planned for 1976 launch-was not a part of the Geodetic Explorer series. See ESRO.)5

The 52nd Explorer satellite was launched by NASA 3 June 1974-Hawkeye l, also called Explorer 52, a University of Iowa-built spacecraft. The University's Injun series had begun with Injun 1 on 29 June 1961, to study charged particles trapped in the earth's magnetosphere. The first three Injuns were launched by the Air Force (Injun 2 failed to reach orbit; Injun 3 was orbited 13 December 1962). NASA launched the next three, adding the Explorer name. Hawkeye 1 originally carried the prelaunch designation "Injun F" but this was discarded; the Hawkeye name was approved by the NASA Project Designation Committee in June 1972. (Injun 4, 21 November 1964, was also named Explorer 25; Injun 5, 8 August 1968, was Explorer 40.)6

Two International Sun-Earth Explorers, lSEE-A (sometimes called "Mother") and ISEE-B (sometimes called "Daughter"), were planned for dual launch in 1977, to be followed by ISEE-C ("Heliocentric") in 1978. The joint NASA and European Space Research Organization program-earlier called the International Magnetosphere Explorer (lME) program-was to investigate sun-earth relationships and solar phenomena.7

An International Ultraviolet Explorer (lUE; originally designated SAS-D in the Small Astronomy Satellite series) was scheduled for 1976 launch as a cooperative NASA, United Kingdom, and ESRO satellite to gather high-resolution ultraviolet data on astronomical objects.8

An Applications Explorer, the Heat Capacity Mapping Mission (HCMM) was planned for 1977 launch. A "small, dedicated satellite," the HCMM was to be a simple, low-cost spacecraft with one sensor for one purpose, making thermal measurements of the earth's surface across the United States. Measurements would map kinds of rocks and soil, help find mineral resources, and show whether geothermal energy sources could be found by spacecraft.9


FR-1. FR 1 was the designation of the French satellite orbited by NASA 6 December 1965 in a cooperative U.S.-French program to investigate very-low-frequency electromagnetic waves. The name developed in 1964, when NASA and France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) agreed, after preliminary sounding rocket experiments, to proceed with the satellite project.1 CNES provided the satellite and designated it "FR-1" for "France" or "French" satellite number one.2 The first flight unit was....



FR-1 in testing at the Western Test Range.

 FR-1 in testing at the Western Test Range.


Artist's concept of HEAO.

Artist's concept of HEAO.


....designated "FR-1A" and the backup unit, "FR-1B." The second U.S.-France cooperative satellite, "FR-2," was later renamed "Eole." (See Eole.)


HEAO. In September 1967 NASA established the Astronomy Missions Board to consult the scientific community and submit for consideration a long-range [54] program for the 1970s. The Board's X-Ray and Gamma-Ray Panel completed its report in September 1968, recommending an Explorer-class spacecraft with a larger payload capability, designated "High Energy A" by the Panel and "Heavy Explorer" in other sections of the AMB position paper.1 The spacecraft was alternately referred to as the "Super Explorer," but all three names were later dropped because of the undesirable connotation of their abbreviations ("HEX" and "SEX"). The name "HEAO"-an acronym for ``High Energy Astronomy Observatory"-first appeared in June 1969 and was officially adopted as the concept for the spacecraft evolved to that of an observatory-class satellite.2

HEAO was originally planned to be the largest unmanned spacecraft orbited by the U.S., weighing almost 10 metric tons and capable of carrying the larger instruments required to investigate high-energy electromagnetic radiation from space-including x-rays, gamma rays, and high energy cosmic rays. The first satellite in the series, HEAO-A, was to be launched by a Titan IIIE launch vehicle in 1975.

In January 1973 the project was suspended because of budget cuts. A scaled-down project was substituted in FY 1975, calling for three spacecraft instead of four, to be launched by an Atlas-Centaur vehicle instead of the Titan IIIE, in 1977, 1978, and 1979. With the smaller launch vehicle, HEAO was revised to carry fewer instruments and weigh about 3200 kilograms. The first mission was to make an x-ray survey, the second detailed x-ray studies, and the third a gamma and cosmic ray survey of the sky. Launches of spacecraft from NASA's Space Shuttle after 1980 would carry heavier gamma and cosmic ray experiments to complete the scientific objectives.3


HEOS. The name of the HEOS satellite, built and named by the European Space Research Organization (ESRO), is an acronym for "Highly Eccentric Orbit Satellite."1 HEOS 1 was launched 5 December 1968 to investigate interplanetary magnetic fields and study solar and cosmic ray particles outside the magnetosphere. Nine scientific groups in five countries provided experiments on board the satellite. Under a 30 December 1966 memorandum of understanding and an 8 March 1967 contract with ESRO, the mission was the first cost-reimbursed NASA launch of a foreign scientific satellite.2 HEOS 2, the second satellite in the series, was launched by NASA 31 January 1972, to continue the study of the interplanetary medium. (See also ESRO.)


INTASAT. NASA and Spain signed a memorandum of understanding in May 1972 on a joint research program in which NASA would launch Spain's first....



HEOS 1 in preparation for its 30 December 1966 launch with experiments from five countries


HEOS 1, at left, in preparation for its 30 December 1966 launch with experiments from five countries. INTASAT, below, was launched as Spain's first satellite 15 November 1974.


INTASAT  was launched as Spain's first satellite 15 November 1974.


....satellite. The Spanish Space Commission-Comision Nacional de investigacion del Espacio (CONlE)-named the satellite "INTASAT," an acronym for the Instituto Nacional de Technica Aeroespacial (INTA), the government laboratory responsible for development of the satellite. Designed and developed in Spain to measure the total electron count in the ionosphere and ionospheric irregularities, INTASAT was launched pickaback in a three-satellite launch (with NOAA 4 and OSCAR 7) on 15 November 1974. The 15-kilogram satellite was to beam data to 25 to 30 scientists around the world from its sun-synchronous, polar orbit for two years.1



 An Intelsat IV series comsat jettisons its nosecone shroud in an artist's drawing.

 An Intelsat IV series comsat jettisons its nosecone shroud in an artist's drawing. The Centaur stage of the launch vehicle is still attached.


INTELSAT. Intelsat satellites were owned and operated by the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT). They were launched and tracked, on a reimbursable basis, by NASA for the Communications Satellite Corporation, the U.S. representative in and manager of INTELSAT. INTELSAT's method of designating its satellites went through numerous changes as new satellites were launched, producing alternate names for the same satellite and varying the numbering system.

The first of the INTELSAT satellites, Intelsat I, was named "Early Bird" because it was the satellite in the "early capability program" -the program to obtain information applicable to selection and design of a global commercial system and to provide experience in conducting communications [57] satellite operations.1 Early Bird, the world's first commercial comsat, was launched by NASA 6 April 1965 and placed in synchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean.

Intelsat II-A, also called "Lani Bird," was the first communications satellite of the Consortium's Intelsat II series. Lani Bird was launched in October 1966 to transmit transpacific communications, but failed to achieve synchronous orbit. It was named by the Hawaiian press; "Lani" meant "bird of heaven."2 Intelsat II-B, or Pacific l, the second in the Intelsat II series, was launched in January 1967 and placed in orbit to provide transpacific service.3 Intelsat II-C (later redesignated Intelsat- II F-3 for flight 3 in series II), or Atlantic 2,*** was the second INTELSAT satellite to provide transatlantic service.4 It was placed in synchronous orbit over the Atlantic in March 1967.

Subsequent satellites followed the same sequences: Intelsat lI-D, or Pacific 2, was launched in September 1967 and later renumbered Intelsat-II F-4; Intelsat Ill-A (later Intelsat-III F1) failed to achieve orbit in September 1968; Intelsat-III F-2, or Atlantic 3, was launched in December 1968.5

Satellites in the Intelsat IV series were numbered according to a different system, beginning with Intelsat-IV F-2, launched 25 January 1971. Although Intelsat-IV F-2 was the first in the series to be launched, the "F-2" referred to the second "fabrication"-the second satellite built- rather than the second "flight" in the series.6 Other satellites in the series followed this pattern, with Intelsat-IV F-8 launched into orbit 21 November 1974.

Each successive series of satellites increased in size and communications capacity: satellites in the Intelsat II series were improved versions of Early Bird; Intelsat III satellites had 5 times the communications capacity of the It series; and Intelsat IV satellites not only had an increased capacity-more than 5 times that of the III series-but also were nearly 10 times as heavy.


IRIS. "IRIS," an acronym for "International Radiation Investigation Satellite," was designed, developed, and built by the European Space Research Organization (ESRO). ESRO assigned the name to ESTRO 2B-a backup satellite to ESRO 2A, which had been launched 29 May 1967 but had failed to achieve orbit.1 Under an agreement with ESRO, NASA [58] launched IRIS 1 on 16 May 1968, to study solar astronomy and cosmic ray particles. (See also ESRO.)

(NASA also briefly used a sounding rocket with the name "Iris.")


ISIS. ISIS was a cooperative satellite project of NASA and the Canadian Defence Research Board to continue and expand ionospheric experiments of the Alouette 1 topside sounder satellite. The name was devised in January 1963 by John Chapman, project manager of the Canadian team; Dr. O. E. Anderson, NASA Office of International Affairs; and other members of the topside sounder Joint Working Group. They selected "Isis" because it was the name of an ancient Egyptian goddess and an acronym for "International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies."1

The first ISIS launch, known as "ISIS-X," was achieved 28 Nov. 1965, when NASA launched Alouette 2 and Explorer 31 from Western Test Range with a single Thor-Agena B booster. The Canadian topside sounder and the U.S. Direct Measurement Explorer were designed to complement each other's scientific data on the ionosphere. Both ISIS 1 (launched 29 January 1969) and ISIS 2 (launched 31 March 1971) carried experiments to continue the cooperative investigation of the ionosphere.

In 1969 the Canadian government proposed the substitution of an experimental communications satellite for the last of the projected ISIS spacecraft (ISIS-C).2 The satellite was redesignated "CAS-C"-an acronym used by NASA to denote an international "Cooperative Applications Satellite."3 In April 1971 a memorandum of understanding was signed by NASA and the Canadian Department of Communication providing for the launch of CAS-C, which later was again redesignated ``CTS-A," an acronym for "Communications Technology Satellite."4 CTS-A was scheduled for 1975 launch.


LAGEOS. In 1971 NASA was considering the possibility of launching a passive satellite, "Cannonball," on a Saturn launch vehicle left from the Apollo program. Definition and documentation were completed in late 1971. Subsequently the Office of Applications began defining a similar but less costly satellite as a new project to begin in Fiscal Year 1974. The redefined satellite was given the functional name "Laser Geodynamic Satellite," or "LAGEOS." LAGEOS was to be the first of a series of varied satellites within NASA's earth and ocean physics applications program (EOPAP)- including spacecraft launched on unmanned vehicles in 1976 and 1977 and later ones on the Space Shuttle.1



ISIS 2 carried 12 ionosphere experiments into orbit 31 March 1971


ISIS 2, at left, carried 12 ionosphere experiments into orbit 31 March 1971. Below, technicians complete the final assembly of the LAGEOS satellite structure, which was to carry 426 precision optical laser retroreflectors into orbit in 1976.


technicians complete the final assembly of the LAGEOS satellite structure, which was to carry 426 precision optical laser retroreflectors into orbit in 1976.


Approved as a "new start" for Fiscal Year 1974, with a 1976 launch date, the terrestrial reference satellite was to be a very heavy ball-weighing 411 kilograms although less than a meter in diameter-covered with laser reflectors so permit highly accurate measurements of she earth's rotational movements and movements of the earth's crust. The orbit and the weight of the [60] simple, passive satellite were planned to provide a stable reference point for decades. The high, 5900-kilometer orbit would permit simultaneous measurements by laser ranging from earth stations a continent apart. Data would be used in earthquake prediction and other applications.2


NIMBUS. The meteorological satellite Nimbus was named from the meteorological term meaning "precipitating clouds" (from the Latin "rainstorm" or "cloud"). The satellite name was suggested in late 1959 by Edgar M. Cortright, Chief of NASA's Advanced Technology Programs, who directed the formation of NASA's meteorological satellite programs, including Nimbus and Tiros.1 Nimbus was a second-generation research satellite following the first meteorological satellite series, Tiros. Nimbus I was orbited 28 August 1964 and provided photographs of much higher resolution than those of Tiros satellites until it ceased transmission 23 September 1964. Nimbus 2 (1966) and 3 (1969) operated a few years, followed by Nimbus 4 and 5 in April 1970 and December 1972, to continue providing meteorological data and testing a variety of weather-sensing and measuring devices.


NOAA. From 1970, ITOS meteorological satellites launched by NASA were financed and operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which was established 3 October 1970 and incorporated the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). Following ESSA's tradition of using the agency's acronym for the satellite name, the new series was named NOAA. NOAA I (ITOS-A-following after the experimental Tiros-M, which had become ITOS I on launch 23 January 1970) was launched 11 December 1970 to begin the new operational series. (See ESSA; and TIROS, TOS, and ITOS.)


OAO. The first satellite proposed for the "Orbiting Observatory" series, an astronomy satellite, was called the "Orbiting Astronomical Observatory" in early planning documents. It retained its original designation through the years, with the abbreviation OAO used as a short title. The term "Orbiting Astronomical Observatories" was first mentioned in writing by Dr. James E. Kupperian, Jr., in a December 1958 draft project outline, and NASA project officials approved this name as a working designation.1 The question of a new name arose in March 1959 when NASA was preparing the first official project document. The long name had been shortened in common usage to "OAO." The NASA officials-Dr. Kupperian, Dr. G. F. Schilling, and Dr. Nancy Roman-decided to keep the long title with OAO as a short....



Nimbus 1, at right, and the photograph it returned of Hurricane Alma on 11 September 1964. At bottom OAO 3 being checked out at Kennedy Space Center.

Nimbus 1


Nimbus 1-photograph of Hurricane Alma returned on 11 September 1964.



OAO 3 being checked out at Kennedy Space Center.


[62] ....title. The intent at the time was to keep a meaningful name, one which was short, descriptive, and professional.2

The first satellite of the program, OAO 1, was launched into almost perfect orbit 8 April 1966, but its power supply failed. OAO 2, launched 7 December 1968, took the first ultraviolet photographs of stars, returning data previously unobtainable. OAO 3, launched 21 August 1972, contained the largest telescope orbited by the U.S. to that date. It was given the additional name Copernicus after launch in honor of the Polish astronomer as part of the international celebration of the 500th anniversary of his birth.3


OFO, the Orbiting Frog Otolith spacecraft, studied the adaptability of the inner-ear balance mechanism to weightlessness.

OFO, the Orbiting Frog Otolith spacecraft, studied the adaptability of the inner-ear balance mechanism to weightlessness.


OFO. "OFO" was an acronym for "Orbiting Frog Otolith"-not to be confused with similar acronyms describing the Orbiting Observatory series of spacecraft. The name, derived through common use, was a functional description of the biological experiment carried by the satellite ("otolith" referred to the frog's inner-ear balance mechanism).1

The Frog Otolith Experiment (FOE) was developed by Dr. Torquato Gualtierotti of the University of Milan, Italy, when he was assigned so the Ames Research Center as a resident Research Associate sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences.2 The experiment was designed to study the adaptability of the otolith to sustained weightlessness, to provide information for manned space flight. Originally planned in 1966 to be included on an early Apollo mission, the experiment was deferred when that mission was [63] canceled. In late 1967 authorization was given to orbit the FOE when a supporting spacecraft could be designed.3 The project, part of NASA's Human Factor Systems program, was officially designated "OFO" in 1968.4 After a series of delays, OFO was orbited 9 November 1970.


OGO. An acronym for "Orbiting Geophysical Observatory," the name was derived from NASA's concept for an observatory-class satellite. In late 1959 and early 1960, the concept evolved from that of a larger general-purpose scientific satellite (as opposed to the special-purpose Explorers), which would be a standardized spacecraft housing a variety of instruments to be flown regularly on standardized trajectories. "Orbiting Observatory" became the term used for this class of spacecraft, and "Orbiting Geophysical Observatory" developed as a functional description for this particular satellite.

The names "EGO" and "POGO" also were developed during this period to apply to OGO satellites in particular orbital trajectories: highly eccentric (Eccentric Geophysical Observatory) and polar orbit (Polar Orbiting Geophysical Observatory).1 Between 1964 and 1969 NASA orbited six OGO satellites and results from the successful OGO program included the first global survey by satellite of the earth's magnetic field.


OSO. An acronym for "Orbiting Solar Observatory," OSO evolved from the NASA concept for larger, general-purpose spacecraft for scientific ....


Artist's concept of an OGO spacecraft in orbit.

Artist's concept of an OGO spacecraft in orbit.



OSO 3 undergoing spin-balance tests before launch.

 OSO 3 undergoing spin-balance tests before launch.


....experiments (see OGO). The name was a functional description of the satellite, indicating it was of the orbiting-observatory class of satellites whose purpose was to measure phenomena of the sun.1 OSO 1 , launched 7 March 1962, was the first satellite in the "Orbiting Observatory" series to be placed in orbit. OSO 7 was launched 29 September 1971.

The OSO satellites were designed to provide observations of the sun during most of its II-year cycle. Results included the first full-disc photograph of the solar corona, the first x-ray observations from a spacecraft of a beginning solar flare and of solar "streamers"-structures in the corona-and the first observations of the corona in white light and extreme ultraviolet.


PAGEOS. The acronym for "Passive Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite"1 came into use among project officials and found its way into documents through common use.2 "PAGEOS" paralleled the name "GEOS" that designated the active (instrumented) geodetic satellites in the Explorer series. In August 1964 NASA approved Langley Research Center's proposal for the PAGEOS project. Pageos I, a balloon 30 meters in diameter-similar to the Echo balloon satellite-achieved orbit and inflated 23 June 1966. The uninstrumented (passive) satellite reflected sunlight and, photographed by ground stations around the world, provided a means of precision mapping the earth's surface.3



PAGEOS 1 inflation test


a Pegasus satellite with wings outspread in an artist's drawing.


PAGEOS 1 inflation test, above, and a Pegasus satellite with wings outspread in an artist's drawing.



PEGASUS. The outstanding feature of the Pegasus satellites was their huge winglike panels, 96 meters tip to tip, sweeping through space to determine the rate of meteoroid penetrations. The program office said when choosing from proposed names that the spacecraft, to be the heaviest yet orbited, would be "somewhat of a 'horse' as far as payloads are concerned" and [66] there could be "only one name for a horse with wings"-Pegasus, the name of the winged flying horse of ancient Greek mythology.1

The original suggestion for the name had come from an employee of the spacecraft contractor, Fairchild Stratos Corporation. The contractor, with the concurrence of the NASA Office of Space Vehicle Research and Technology and Marshall Space Flight Center, had held an in-house competition in 1963 to select a name for the project. From more than 100 suggestions by Fairchild Stratos employees, the NASA program office recommended the name "Pegasus" to the Project Designation Committee. The Committee approved the selection in July 1964**** and NASA announced the name in August.2


A Relay satellite, below; and San Marco 1, at right, in checkout a Wallops.

A Relay satellite, below; and San Marco 1, at right, in checkout a Wallops.


[67] Three Pegasus satellites were placed in orbit, all by Saturn I launch vehicles: Pegasus I on 16 February 1965, Pegasus 2 on 25 May 1965, and Pegasus 3 on 30 July 1965.


RELAY. NASA's medium-altitude, active-repeater communications satellite was formally named "Relay" in January 1961***** at the suggestion of Abe Silverstein, NASA's Director of Space Flight Programs.1 The name was considered appropriate because it literally described the function of an active-repeater comsat: the satellite received a signal, amplified it within the satellite, and then relayed the signal back toward the earth.2 Relay I, orbited 13 December 1962, and its successor Relay 2, orbited 21 January 1964, both demonstrated the feasibility of this kind of communications satellite. After its research role was completed, Relay 2 was turned over to the Department of Defense to assist in military communications over the Pacific.


SAN MARCO. The Italian space program was conceived in 1960 by Professor Luigi Broglio, Professor Carlo Buongiorono, and Dr. Franco Fiario.1 By 1962 they and their colleagues had decided that an ocean platform in nonterritorial waters should serve as the base for launching their satellite booster. ENI, Italy's state-owned oil industry, made available a suitable platform, which happened to be named "San Marco" (Saint Mark). The name "San Marco" grew into the designation for the entire cooperative space project- including preparatory phases not associated directly with the sea-based launch site. Professor Broglio was particularly pleased to adopt the name for the project because Saint Mark was the patron saint of Venice, his birthplace. Saint Mark was also the patron of all who sailed the sea.2

The San Marco project was a cooperative effort of NASA and the Italian Space Commission, with NASA providing launch vehicles, use of its facilities, and training of Italian personnel. On 15 December 1964, the San Marco Scout 1 booster, launched from Wallops Station by an Italian crew, orbited she Italian-designed-and-built San Marco I satellite. The launch was the first satellite launch in NASA's international cooperation program that was conducted by non-U.S. personnel and was the first Western European satellite launch. San Marco 2 was launched into equatorial orbit 26 April 1967 from [68] the San Marco platform in the Indian Ocean. San Marco 3, launched 24 April 1971, was the third satellite orbited from the platform (the second had been NASA's Explorer 42, launched 12 December 1970). San Marco 4 was launched from the platform 18 February 1974.

The San Marco satellites were scientific satellites designed to conduct air-density experiments using a variety of instruments; in addition, San Marco I and 2 measured ionospheric characteristics related to long-range radio transmission.


SEASAT. The name of the "sea satellite"-"Specialized Experimental Applications Satellite," shortened to the acronym "SEASAT"-was chosen before the program was officially established. A 1969 conference of scientists and representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, NASA, other Government agencies, universities, and scientific institutions met at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, to review activities needed in the earth and ocean physics fields. The conference identified a number of activities, including satellite projects. SEASAT and LAGEOS (see LAGEOS) were among them, the names growing out of the thinking of a number of the participants and fitting the tasks of the satellites within NASA's earth and ocean physics applications program (EOPAP).1

After studies and definition of requirements in cooperation with numerous Government agencies and private institutions, through the SEASAT User Working Group, NASA introduced SEASAT as a "new start" in its Fiscal Year 1975 program. The new satellite was scheduled for 1978 launch, following technological evolution of equipment on the Skylab and GEOS-C missions; it would be the first devoted entirely to studying the oceans. SEASAT was to circle the globe 14 1/2 times a day to observe weather and sea conditions of all the earth's oceans with accurate micro wave devices. Information was to be distributed to a large user community for predicting weather, routing shipping, and issuing disaster warnings. This first satellite in the program was to be a proof of concept spacecraft for later operational missions.


SIRlO. In March 1970 NASA and the Italian National Research Commission signed a memorandum of understanding providing for the reimbursable NASA launch of Italian scientific spacecraft.1 The first satellite planned for launch under this agreement was SIRIO-an acronym for "Satellite Italiano Ricerche Orientate (Italian Research-Oriented Satellite)."2 Tentatively .....



An artist's concept of SEASAT, a satellite to study oceans.

 An artist's concept of SEASAT, a satellite to study oceans.


...scheduled for launch in 1975, SIRIO would conduct telecommunications, technology, and scientific experiments from synchronous orbit.


SMS. An operational satellite system that could provide continuous observation of weather conditions from a fixed position above the earth had been under study since the first weather satellites were launched in the early 1960s. Studies of the requirements for a stationary weather satellite were begun in early 1960 and the proposed project was named for Aeros, ancient Greek god of the air.1 Conceived as the third phase of a program consisting of Tiros and planned Nimbus satellites, Aeros would be a synchronous satellite in equatorial orbit that could track major storms as well as relay cloud-cover photographs of a large portion of the earth.2



 The second SMS satellite, erected atop its Delta launch vehicle at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 17.

 The second SMS satellite, erected atop its Delta launch vehicle at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 17.


[71] By late 1962 the name Aeros had been dropped in favor of the more functional designation "SMS," an acronym for "Synchronous Meteorological Satellite."3 Meanwhile, studies were being made of a Tiros spacecraft ("Tiros-K") that could be modified for a near-synchronous orbit to determine the capability of an SMS.4 Tiros-K was subsequently canceled in 1965 as development plans for the ATS satellites permitted the inclusion of experiments to test the proposed instrumentation for the SMS.5

After the successful photographic results of ATS I and 3, two experimental SMS satellites were approved and tentatively planned for launch. SMS-A and SMS-B, funded by NASA, would be prototypes for the later operational satellites funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Following launch and checkout by NASA, both satellites were to be turned over to NOAA for use in the National Operational Meteorological Satellite System (NOMSS).****** Successive satellites in the series would be designated "GOES"-an acronym for "Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite"-by NOAA.6 An operational system of two or more SMS satellites and a single ITOS spacecraft could provide the coverage required for accurate long-range weather forecasts.

SMS-A became SMS I on launch into orbit 17 May 1974 and supported the international Global Atmospheric Research Program's Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE) before becoming part of NOAA's operational system late in the year. SMS-B and GOES-A (SMS-C) were scheduled for 1975 launch. The European Space Research Organization, Japan, and the U.S.S.R. were planning to launch their own geostationary satellites during the decade to complement the SMS system for global use.7


SPHINX. Planned as one of NASA's smallest scientific satellites, the 113-kilogram SPHINX took its name from the acronym for "Space Plasma High Voltage Interaction Experiment." It was to be launched pickaback on the proof flight of the newly combined Titan Ill-Centaur launch vehicle, along with a dynamic model of the Viking spacecraft. The planned yearlong mission was to measure effects of charged particles in space on high-voltage solar cells, insulators, and conductors. Data would help determine if future spacecraft could use high-voltage solar cells, instead of the present low-voltage cells, to operate at higher power levels without added weight or cost. The Centaur stage failed on launch 11 February 1974, however, and the satellite was destroyed.1



Flight model of the French-German Symphonie above.


Flight model of the French-German Symphonie above. A syncom fires its apogee motor in orbit in the photographic composite.


A syncom fires its apogee motor in orbit in the photographic composite.


SYMPHONIE. The experimental Franco-German Symphonie communications satellites were designed and built in Europe for launch by NASA with launch vehicles and services paid for by France and West Germany.

Two satellites were developed by the joint Consortium Industriel France Allemand pour le Satellite Symphonie (CIFAS) under the direction of the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the West German space agency Gesellschaft fur Weltraumforschung (GfW). The three-axis stabilized satellites were to test equipment for television, radio, telephone, telegraph, and data transmission from synchronous orbit, 35 900 kilometers above the equator, They were planned for launch from [73] French Guiana on the Europa II launch vehicle, but when the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO) canceled its vehicle project the countries turned to NASA. The contract for NASA launch services was signed in June 1974.1

In 1967 France had a stationary (synchronous) orbit communications satellite, SAROS (Satellite de Radiodiffusion pour Orbite Stationnaire), in the design stage and West Germany was about to begin designing its Olympia satellite. The two nations agreed in June 1967 to combine their programs in a new joint effort, Participants in the 1967 discussions in Bonn-the Federal Republic of Germany's capital on the Rhine River-sought a new name for the joint satellite just before the agreement was signed. Gerard Dieulot, technical director of the French program, was reminded of the German composer Robert Schumann by the name of French Minister Maurice Schumann, negotiator for France. The new accord in the Rhine Valley, Dieulot suggested, was a "symphony by Schumann." "Symphonie," the French spelling of the word coming originally from the Latin and Greek "symphonia," "harmony" or "agreement," was adopted when the Franco-German satellite agreement was signed in June.2

NASA launched Symphonie I (Symphonie A before launch) into orbit from Eastern Test Range 18 December 1974. Symphonie-B was scheduled for September 1975 launch.


SYNCOM. A word coined from the first syllables of the words "synchronous communications," "Syncom" referred to communications satellites in synchronous earth orbit. The name was devised by Alton E. Jones of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Early in August 1961, when he was working on the preliminary project development plan, he decided that a name was required before the plan could go to press the next day. He invented the name "Syncom." 1 Before the end of August, NASA Headquarters officials had approved the preliminary plan and NASA had issued a press release using the name.2

Three Syncom satellites were developed and launched. After a launching success but communications failure with Syncom I (14 February 1963), Syncom 2 was launched 26 July 1963, into the first synchronous orbit and Syncom 3, launched 19 August 1964, was put into the first truly stationary orbit. The Department of Defense participated in Syncom research and development, providing ground stations and conducting communications experiments. Early in 1965, after completing the research and development program, NASA transferred use of the two Syncom satellites to the Department of Defense.



Structural model of TD-1A (above) showing the telescope, suspended for a space simulation test (ESC photo).


Telesat satellite Anik 1 in production (Hughes Aircraft Co. photo)



Structural model of TD-1A (above) showing the telescope, suspended for a space simulation test (ESC photo). At left, Telesat satellite Anik 1 in production (Hughes Aircraft Co. photo); below a composite photograph of the Telstar 1 spacecraft in space.


below a composite photograph of the Telstar 1 spacecraft in space.


[75] TD. "TD," an abbreviation for the U.S. Thor-Delta launch vehicle, was the name given to a satellite project by the European Space Research Organization (ESRO).1 T-1A, a solar astronomy satellite designed to carry a variety of instruments including a large telescope, was launched by NASA 11 March 1972. Under a 1966 memorandum of understanding with ESRO, NASA was reimbursed for the launch.2

Proposals for the satellite, then unnamed, had been discussed at an astronomy colloquium soon after the formal establishment of ESRO in March 1964.3 By 1965, ESRO had planned a series of TD satellites and in 1967, after several program delays, signed a contract with NASA for the launch of two satellites, TD-l and TD-2.4 In April 1968, however, ESRO announced the cancellation of both satellites because of problems in financing. The project was later reinstated and a second contract for a single Thor-Delta launch was signed with NASA in June 1970. The satellite was subsequently redesignated "TD-lA" because it differed from the two earlier configurations and combined the TD-2 design with several experiments originally planned for TD-l.5


TELESAT. In early 1969 the Canadian Ministry of Communications proposed plans for a satellite system that could be used entirely for domestic communications.1 The system would be managed and operated by Telesat ("Telecommunications Satellite") Canada, a new corporation supported by industry, government, and public investment. The first two satellites in the system, Telesat-A and B, would be launched into synchronous equatorial orbit and be capable of relaying TV, telephone, and data transmissions throughout Canada. Under an agreement with Telesat, NASA would provide the Thor-Delta launch vehicles and be reimbursed for the satellite launches.2

In orbit each Telesat satellite would be designated "Anik," the Eskimo word for "brother."3 Anik I was launched into orbit 9 November 1972 and Anik 2 on 20 April 1973. Anik 3 was scheduled for 1975.


TELSTAR. A contraction of "telecommunications" and "star," the name "Telstar" designated the active communications satellites developed by American Telephone & Telegraph Company. In November 1961, at the request of AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories, NASA endorsed the selection of "Telstar" as a name for the project.1 NASA was responsible for launching, tracking, and data acquisition for the AT&T-built satellites on a cost-reimbursable basis. Telstar I, the first active-repeater communications satellite, was the first privately funded satellite and relayed the first live transatlantic telecast after 10 July 1962 launch. It was followed by the equally successful Telstar 2, 7 May 1963.



ITOS-B being checked out before launch.

 ITOS-B being checked out before launch.


TIROS, TOS, ITOS. The Tiros meteorological satellite, which provided weather data from high above the earth's cloud cover, was given a name that described its function. In mid-1958, the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (initiator of the project) requested the Radio Corporation of America (contractor for the project) to supply a name for the satellite. RCA personnel concocted the name "TIROS," an acronym derived from the descriptive title "Television and Infra-Red Observation Satellite."1 The name eventually came to be written "Tiros" as it was used in other acronyms.

[77] In April 1959 responsibility for the Tiros research and development pro gram was transferred from the Department of Defense to NASA, and on 1 April 1960 Tiros I was launched into orbit. Meteorologists were to receive valuable data-including more than

5 000 000 usable cloud pictures-from 10 Tiros weather satellites.2 By early 1964 NASA had orbited Tiros I through Tiros 8 and the U.S. Weather Bureau was making operational use of the meteorological data from them. These satellites were able to photo graph about 20 percent of the earth each day.

On 28 May 1964 NASA and the Weather Bureau announced a plan for an operational meteorological satellite system based on Tiros research and development. They called the system "TOS"-an acronym for "Tiros Operational Satellite." In accordance with the NASA-USWB agreement, Tiros 9 was a NASA-financed, modified Tiros satellite, orbited to test the new "cartwheel" configuration on which the TOS would be based. Tiros 10 was a USWB-financed, Tiros satellite similar to Tiros 9, orbited to continue testing the TOS concept. Early in 1966 NASA orbited the two operational satellites in the TOS system-financed, managed, and operated by the Weather Bureau, by then an agency of the new Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). Upon their successful orbit, ESSA designated the TOS satellites ESSA I and ESSA 2-ESSA in this case being an acronym for "Environmental Survey Satellite."3 These two satellites provided continuous cloud-cover pictures of the entire sunlit portion of the earth at least once daily.

In 1966 NASA announced plans for a design study of an improved TOS spacecraft that would be twice as large as the previous TOS satellites. This spacecraft would be able to scan the earth's nighttime cloud cover and would more than double the daily weather coverage obtained in the TOS series of ESSA satellites.4 The first satellite in the Improved Tiros Operational Satellite (ITOS) series, ITOS I-launched 23 January 1970-was a joint project of NASA and ESSA. With the exception of ITOS 1, spacecraft in the ITOS series would be funded by ESSA.5

On 3 October 1970, ESSA was combined with the major Federal programs concerned with the environments of the sea and air; programs from four departments and one agency were consolidated to form the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Department of Commerce. The first operational ITOS spacecraft funded by NOAA-designated NOAA I in orbit-was launched II December 1970. NOAA 4 (lTOS-G) was put into orbit 15 December 1974 to join the still orbiting NOAA 2 and 3 (launched 15 October 1972 and 6 November 1973) in [78] obtaining global cloud-cover data day and night and global measurements of the earth's atmospheric structure for weather prediction.


VANGUARD. The name "Vanguard" applied to both the first satellite series undertaken by the United States and to the launch vehicle developed to orbit the satellites. In the spring of 1955, scientific interest in orbiting an artificial earth satellite for International Geophysical Year (1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958) was growing. Several launch vehicle proposals were developed for placing a U.S. satellite in orbit. The proposal chosen in August...


Vanguard 2 atop its satellite launch vehicle.

 Vanguard 2 atop its satellite launch vehicle.



[79] ....1955 to be the U.S. satellite project for the IGY was the one offered by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), based on Milton W. Rosen's concept of a new launch vehicle combining the Viking first Stage, Aerobee second stage, and a new third stage.1 Rosen became technical director of the new project at NRL.

The name "Vanguard" was suggested by Rosen's wife, Josephine. Rosen forwarded the name to his NRL superiors, who approved it. The Chief of Naval Research approved the name 16 September 1956.2 The word denoted that which is "out ahead, in the forefront."

Vanguard I, a 1.5-kilogram scientific satellite, was orbited 17 March 1958, although ironically it was not the first U.S. satellite (Explorer I had been launched into orbit by the Army 31 January 1968). The NRL project Vanguard team was transferred to NASA when the space agency was established l October 1958. Vanguard 1 was followed in 1959 by Vanguard 2 and 3. Scientific results from this series included the first geodetic studies indicating the earth's slightly "pear" shape, a survey of the earth's magnetic field, the location of the lower edge of the earth's radiation belts, and a count of micrometeorite impacts.


WESTAR. Westar satellites were commercial communications satellites owned and operated by Western Union Telegraph Company and launched by NASA under a contract, to form the first United States domestic communications satellite system.

As early as 1966, Western Union petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for permission to build a domestic satellite system to relay telegraph traffic. The FCC was then making a detailed study of the need for such a system in response to requests from several organizations. When the FCC decided in 1970 to invite applications, Western Union was the first to respond, proposing a high-capacity multipurpose system to serve all 50 states.1 The company won approval in January 1973 to build the first U.S. system, with authorization for three satellites. Hughes Aircraft Company was to build the comsats (or "domsats," as the press began to call them) and NASA signed a contract with Western Union in June 1973, agreeing to provide launch services, with reimbursement for the Thor-Delta launch vehicles and costs.2

Western Union asked its employees to suggest a name for the new satellites. From the suggestions, "Westar" was chosen-combining part of the company's name with "star," a reference to a body in space, or satellite.3

Westar I ("Westar-A" before launch) was orbited 13 April 1974 and began commercial operation 16 July. As a new postal Service, Westar I relayed the first satellite "Mailgrams" in 1974, from New York to ...



Westar 1 being encapsulated in its payload shroud on top the Delta launch vehicle at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 17.

 Westar 1 being encapsulated in its payload shroud on top the Delta launch vehicle at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 17.


...Los Angeles at the speed of light. Westar 2 was launched 10 October 1974 and Westar-C was held as a spare. In synchronous orbit, each drum-shaped satellite could relay 12 color TV channels, up to 14 400 one-way telephone circuits, or multiple data channels.


* "GRS-A became "GRS-A-1" when an agreement was reached to orbit a second research satellite. designated "GRS-A-2" (Aeros). (NASA, "Project Approval Document," 15 June 1966.

** NASA announced 14 January 1975 that ERTS 1 had been renamed LANDSAT 1 and ERTS-B would become LANDSAT 2 when launched 22 January. Associate Administrator for Applications Charles W. Mathews said that, since NASA planned a SEASAT satellite to study the oceans, "LANDSAT" was an appropriate name for the satellite that studied the land. Dr. George M. Low, Deputy Administrator of NASA, had suggested a new name be found for ERTS, with more public appeal. John P. Donnelly, Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, had therefore requested NASA office heads and Centers to submit ideas for new names by the end of December 1974. From a number of replies received, the NASA Project Designation Committee made its recommendation, and "LANDSAT" was approved. (NASA, News Release 75-15; Mathews, ERTS-B Mission Briefing, NASA Hq., 14 Jan. 1975; Howard G. Allaway, Public Affairs Officer, NASA, telephone interview, 3 Feb. 1975; and Bernice Taylor, Administrative Assistant to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, NASA, telephone interview, 12 Feb. 1975)

*** UPI nicknamed it "Canary Bird" because of the association with the Canary Islands earth station. "Canary Bird" appeared widely in the press as its designation, but was not adopted by INTELSAT.

**** The NASA Project Designation Committee originally agreed on "Project Pegasus" as the name for the experiments before launch. The satellites were to be supplanted with an Explorer designation in orbit. (Julian W. Scheer, Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, NASA, memorandum for Raymond L. Bisplinghoff, Associate Administrator for Advanced Research and Technology, with concurrence of Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Associate Administrator, 6 July 1964.)

***** Eight months earlier, Lloyd E. Jones, a member of the NASA Ad Hoc Committee to Name Space Projects and Objects, had suggested to the Committee a group of names for applications satellites. The Committee approved the name "Relay" for an active comsat 19 May 1960. (NASA Ad Hoc Committee to Name Space Projects and Objects, minutes of meeting 19 May 1960.)

****** NOMSS was also known by NOAA as the National Operational Environmental Satellite System.