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First weather satellite, TIROS I, launched 48 years ago

The Television Infrared Observation Satellite I (TIROS-I) was launched on April 1, 1960, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It was the world’s first weather observation satellite, providing proof that weather forecasting could be accurately performed in space.

This satellite was the first of a series of satellites (TIROS) that NASA sent into orbit as an experiment to see if satellites could be used to study the Earth. Its goal was to show that a global weather satellite system was possible. (As we know now, such a global system is very possible, and very valuable to all people on Earth.)

The TIROS spacecraft was developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and managed by the U.S. Environmental Science Services Administration. It was manufactured by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

It was launched at 6:40 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) onboard a three-stage Thor-Able rocket system. TIROS-I was launched into a 99.19-minute orbit.

After being inserted into orbit, TIROS I (also called 1960-[Beta]2) sent back the first television picture from space.

From its nearly circular pro-grade orbit, which ranged from 495 to 539 miles (796 to 867 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface, the TIROS-I took television pictures of weather patterns down below in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Its orbit was considered a semi-polar orbit; that is, its orbit took it about half-way to the North and South Poles so that it could eventually observe much of the surface of the Earth. Specifically, it was in an orbit that was 48 degrees to the equatorial plane, where 0 degrees is located at the equatorial plane and 90 degrees is located at the poles.