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{{ProposalNomination|docketid= 2009-03|proplink=TIROS 1}} <br>  
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<p>{{ProposalNomination|docketid= 2009-03|proplink=TIROS 1}} <br> </p>
  
 
== Proposed Citation in English, with '''title''' and '''text'''. ''Text absolutely limited to 70 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination on the wording of the citation''  ==
 
== Proposed Citation in English, with '''title''' and '''text'''. ''Text absolutely limited to 70 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination on the wording of the citation''  ==
  
''Absolutely limited to 75 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: Whether or not the nominator suggests a citation, The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination of the wording of the citation.'' <br>  
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<p>''Absolutely limited to 75 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: Whether or not the nominator suggests a citation, The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination of the wording of the citation.'' <br> </p>
 
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TIROS 1 - TELEVISION INFRA-RED OBSERVATION SATELLITE  
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<p>TIROS 1 - TELEVISION INFRA-RED OBSERVATION SATELLITE, 1960 </p>
  
RCA Laboratories developed TV Vidicon cameras. RCA Camden developed cameras and recorders under USASCRDL classified contracts. In 1958 RCA Astro, under NASA direction, designed the spacecraft: structure, communications, controls, power supply using solar and battery cells, momentum adjust devices, and horizon sensors. On April 1, 1960 RCA Astro, NASA, and Lockheed teams launched TIROS 1, the worlds first weather satellite.  
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<p>On 1 April&nbsp;1960, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration launched TIROS I, the world's first meteorological satellite, to capture and transmit video images of the Earth's weather patterns. RCA staff at Defense Electronics Products, the David Sarnoff Research Center, and Astro-Electronics Division designed and constructed the satellite and ground&nbsp;station systems. TIROS I pioneered meteorological and environmental satellite television for an expanding array of purposes. </p>
 
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APRIL 1, 2010<br><br>  
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== Historic significance of this work: its importance to the evolution of electrical and computer engineering and science and its importance to regional/national/international development.  ==
 
== Historic significance of this work: its importance to the evolution of electrical and computer engineering and science and its importance to regional/national/international development.  ==
  
After World War II, V2 rocket testing continued, supported by a team of German scientists at White Sands Proving Grounds (WSPG) in NM under the Army’s Ordnance Research and Development (AOR&amp;D) Division at Fort Bliss, TX. In Oct.1949, AOR&amp;D was transferred to Redstone Arsenal, AL. Tests at the WSPG were continued on smaller rockets and high altitude balloon capabilities for a variety of purposes.
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<p>TIROS I was the world's first meteorological satellite, launched with the primary objective of demonstrating the feasibility of utilizing television cameras to observe the earth's cloud cover from a satellite. Because of the success of TIROS I, NASA and the U.S. government continued and expanded the use of satellite video technology into environmental and other applications as a vital part of the world's peaceful use of outer space. To create a worldwide weather satellite system that provided meteorologists with a continuous supply of accurate weather information, RCA Astro-Electronics contracted for the follow-on polar orbit series of TOS (Tiros Operational Satellite), which was administered by the U.S. Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). For the second decade, NASA continued the TIROS program in 1970 under the administration of the newly created National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Astro contracted to build a more efficient TIROS-M satellite with cameras and infra-red radiometers mounted an earth-oriented platform, and supplied the follow-on ITOS (Improved Tiros Operational Satellite). The 1970s closed with TIROS-N precision pointing platform satellites patterned from Astro's latest USAF satellite from the DMSP (Defense Military Satellite Program) whose design configuration and concepts continued to be employed in NOAA polar orbiting weather satellites. These satellites and their successors employed line-scan radiometers in lieu of TV cameras. Lockheed Martin, the latest corporate successor to RCA Astro-Electronics, launched TIROS N-19 on February 6, 2009. The satellites' imaging capabilities have extended well beyond weather observation to include climate research, sea surface temperature measurements, volcano monitoring, forest fire detection, vegetation analysis, and search and rescue, among other uses. </p>
  
In Jan 1946, scientists at Camp Evans (near Fort Monmouth, N.J.) working on Project DIANA, were the first to bounce radio signals off the Moon. This experience led the Army’s Signal Corps and the Signal Research and Development Laboratory (USASCRDL) team into developing components needed for space systems operations.
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<p>Because of the impact of the weather on all aspects of life, orbital satellite observation of the atmosphere was an obvious application at the beginning of satellite research. William Kellogg and Stanley N. Greenfield analyzed the issue at length in RAND Corporation report R-218 in April 1951. Throughout the 1950s, however, the majority of scientist, engineers, and meteorologists rejected the practicality of satellite-borne TV cameras or their output for weather analysis. United States government agencies and contractors ignored or rejected television applications on satellite because of the relative novelty of electronic video technology. Approved by the Federal Communications Commission for electronic monochrome and color transmission standards in 1941 and 1953, television was still a new part of American life in the 1950s. In 1955, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation received a United States Air Force (USAF) contract to build a satellite reconnaissance system using film cameras, winning over a proposal by RCA to use television cameras. </p>
  
The U.S. was the world leader after WWII. The U.S.S.R desires of expansion and world dominance created the conditions later to be called “The Cold War”. After the Korean War Truce, America remained vigilant to other possible threats from the U.S.S.R. and China.  
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<p>In addition, meteorologists in that period were still establishing their profession's legitimacy, partly through the sophisticated analysis of the changing physics of the atmosphere--its motion, temperature, and pressure. Most of them rejected the utility of cloud cover imagery as too simplistic and incompatible with the data demands of forecasters. This attitude pervaded the Air Force Cambridge Research Center and the U.S. Army Signal Corps as well. </p>
  
Under USAF, the RAND Corporation conducted and evaluated numerous satellite applications in the early 1950’s. RAND evaluated various sensing systems and target data characteristics from sensors on high altitude balloon, aircraft, and rockets to determine the requirements for and value of a space platform used for recon and weather forecasting purposes. RAND favored simple satellite systems.
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<p>Despite this resistance, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) proposed TV camera applications to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in 1956. Some members of the ABMA were interested in satellite-based surveillance TV applications and awarded RCA classified contracts to fund lightweight, slow-scan TV camera development. RCA Laboratories staff had designed, developed and tested the small Vidicon TV camera tube along with the vast majority of associated equipment, from cameras and sensors to transmitters and displays, that made the national television standards practical. </p>
  
A joint Army - Navy proposal using a Redstone to launch a satellite- Project Orbiter was denied. In 1955, the government elected to pursue a less military-related effort under project Vanguard, using the Navy’s Viking missile. The Vanguard rocket was developed by the Naval Research Laboratory for the purpose of launching a satellite for the International Geophysical Year. NRL led the development of satellite tracking systems.
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<p>In the fall of 1957 a team from RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center (DSRC) in Princeton conducted a series of classified briefings for the U.S. government. It gave demonstrations to the top levels of the Department of Defense (DoD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), government technical consultants, and ultimately before the House congressional committees of jurisdiction. These presentations highlighted a lightweight, durable, high-resolution Vidicon TV camera suitable for space applications, and established the feasibility of an orbiting satellite payload and mission involving video reconaissance of the earth's surface. </p>
  
In 1955, Lockheed won a USAF contract to build a satellite reconnaissance system, and film cameras were selected for that mission, over a proposal by RCA to use television cameras.
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<p>Coincidentally the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first orbiting satellite that October. Within six months, the DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) transferred management of the TV-based satellite program from the ABMA to the U.S. Army Signal Corps Research and Development Laboratories (USASCRDL) in Fort Monmouth, NJ. RCA created the Astro-Electronics Products Division in 1958 for continued work on contracts with Fort Monmouth, including TIROS, which was commissioned by NASA in January 1959. </p>
  
In Feb 1956, the Army established the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA). The ABMA continued to develop the capability of the Redstone missile under the Von Braun team, and continued investigating surveillance TV applications at USASCDRL.<br> <br>RCA had developed television standards and equipment technology to meet national needs. RCA proposed TV cameras applications to the Army Ballistic Missile Command and classified contracts funded light weight slow scan camera procurement, using the Vidicon cameras developed by RCA Labs in 1956.
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<p>To create its new space technologies division, RCA transferred teams that worked under previous related classified contracts from the DSRC and the Defense Electronics Products Division in Camden. RCA Astro also hired experienced engineers from government agencies and other talented individuals. The RCA Astro engineering team began designing and testing of the new equipment for orbital and ground systems. All equipment development and production became the responsibility of new division. </p>
  
In Oct 1957 the Cold War moved to space when the U.S.S.R orbited their Sputnik satellite with a beeping beacon – the message was clear and the Space Race was added to the Cold War.
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<p>The great technical advance that TIROS represented was the integration of a deceptively simple set of electronic, electrical, and mechanical systems with systematic built-in redundancies and feedback systems on a 270-pound satellite. This enabled a reliable and efficient satellite design. </p>
  
In the Fall of 1957 a team from RCA Labs conducted a series of classified briefings and demonstrations of a light weight TV Vidicon camera suitable for space applications for top levels of DOD, CIA and government technical consultants, and culminating with a briefing before the House Committees of jurisdiction. This demonstration and presentation established the feasibility of a space satellite payload and mission.<br> <br>In Dec 1957, Vanguard TV-3, exploded on Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 18A just seconds after it was launched. The first U.S. attempt to launch a satellite had failed dramatically before the eyes of the world. On Jan 1958, Explorer I, aboard a four-stage version of the Redstone missile was the first U.S. successful response to Sputnik.
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<p>Launched by a Thor-Able rocket booster into a 400-mile-high circular orbit with an inclination of 50 degrees, TIROS was a spin-stabilized satellite shaped like an 18-sided right prism. Engineers laid out the camera and video recorder chains, attitude, transmission, and energy systems on a baseplate capped by a "hat" covered with 9,000 silicon solar cells. A monopole antenna for reception of ground commands extended out from the top of the cover. Two crossed-dipole 235-MHz FM telemetry antennas for image and data transmission projected out from the baseplate. Five pairs of solid-fuel thrusters on the edge of the baseplate maintained the satellite's spin rate between 8 and 12 rpm once a pair of yo-yo weights reduced the launch spin rate from 125 rpm. Two half-inch Vidicon TV cameras, one wide angle and one narrow angle, recorded up to 32 images on their respective tape recorders unless TIROS was in communications range of one of the ground stations. The cameras could be operated sequentially, alternately, or independently from the ground stations. </p>
  
In Feb 1958, DoD created Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). ARPA transferred management of the TV based satellite program from ABM to USASCDRL in Fort Monmouth, NJ. RCA created the RCA Astro Electronics Products Division for continued work on contracts with Fort Monmouth.
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<p>RCA Astro issued subcontracts to complete the acquisition of essential equipment for the TIROS test models and flight spacecraft, including: </p>
  
RCA transferred teams that worked under previous related classified contracts from RCA Labs and RCA Camden to RCA Astro, which hired experienced engineers from government agencies and other talented individuals that wanted to participate. The RCA Astro Engineering team began the design and testing of the new equipments for flight and ground systems. All equipment development and production was the responsibility of RCA Astro.
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<p><br>1. RCA’s Electron Tube Division in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Vidicons<br>2. RCA’s Broadcast Division, Camden, NJ, video recorders<br>3. Elgeet and Tegea, the camera lens<br>4. Lavelle Aircraft Corporation, spacecraft structure fabrication<br>5. Applied Science Corporation, Princeton, for beacon transmitters<br>6. Radiation Labs, video data transmitters<br>7. General Time Incorporated, the spacecraft master clock.<br>8. Barnes Engineering, horizon sensor unit.<br>9. International Rectifier, solar cells.<br>10. Sonotone Incorporated, battery cells and packs. </p>
  
In June 1958, USASCRDL developed a 150-pound communication satellite under Project SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment). The ARPA-sponsored project provided for a launch on an USAF Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).  
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<p><br>RCA Astro-Electronics staff completed the spacecraft system design and designed, built, and tested the spacecraft in simulated launch and space environments. The staff also designed, built and tested the ground station Command and Data Acquisition (CDA) equipment. RCA delivered and installed CDAs at Camp Evans at Fort Monmouth as well as at a U.S. Air Force facility at Kaena Point on Oahu, Hawaii. Camp Evans staff joined RCA Astro staff to perform perforemd the TIROS I environmental testing. After launch, Camp Evans' 60-feet-high space antenna communicated with TIROS I and II while the Naval Research Laboratory's distributed Mini-Track system was used for satellite tracking and orbit determination. RCA staff operated a backup CDA at the Astro plant. </p>
  
In Oct. 1958, Congress and the President of the United States created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Some USASCDRL employees were transferred to NASA, who continued working with the U.S. Weather Bureau, and directed all subsequent aspects of the TIROS 1 project.
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<p><br>TIROS I’s success fulfilled America’s Space for Peace initiative and promise, restored American confidence in the Space Race, conclusively demonstrated the merits of expansive space images for meteorology, and enabled the accelerated exploration and development of civilian applications of space.<br> </p>
  
In Dec 1958 SCORE satellite was the first to relay, store, and forward human voice and data, and also broadcasted President Eisenhower’s Christmas message to the world.
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== What features or characteristics set this work apart from similar achievements?  ==
  
RCA Astro issued several subcontracts to complete the acquisition of essential equipment for the TIROS test models and flight spacecraft. <br>1. RCA’s Tube Division for Vidicons<br>2. RCA’s Camden unit for Video Recorders<br>3. Elgeet and Tegea supplied the camera lens<br>4. Lavelle Aircraft Corp. for spacecraft structure fabrication<br>5. Applied Science Corporation of Princeton for Beacon Transmitters <br>6. Radiation Labs for Video Data Transmitters<br>7. General Time Inc for the spacecraft master clock.<br>8. Barnes Engineering provided a Horizon Sensor Unit.<br>9. International Rectifier supplied Solar Cells.<br>10. Sonotone supplied the Battery Cells and Packs.<br>11. Other procurement of significant items like small rockets, and quality electronic components were all vital to the success of the mission.
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<p>Earlier film systems of space reconnaissance were limited in duration by the amount of film stored on the satellite and by the awkward collection of film jettisoned by parachute to either an airplane or sea- or land-based landing. A camera on an Atlas ICBM had shown the feasibility of tropospheric cloud observation, and Explorer VI took the first televised images from orbit but the resolution was poor and the experiment was peripheral to the satellite mission focus on physical phenomena and micrometeorites. </p>
  
RCA Astro completed the spacecraft system design and designed, built, and tested the spacecraft in simulated launch and space environments to qualify the spacecraft for launch, ready to successfully perform all the aspects of the mission.  
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<p>Television pictures from the first orbit of the TIROS I satellite at an altitude of 400 miles demonstrated that significant weather systems could be recognized and located. Succeeding orbits yielded pictures that revealed previously unknown weather phenomena and corroborated other phenomena that had previously been merely suspected. </p>
  
The TIROS 1 Ground Station Command and Data Acquisition (CDA) equipment was designed and produced by Astro and delivered to Camp Evans at Fort Monmouth where space antennas for transmit and reception were used by the TIROS Project, and USAF provided their facility at Kaena Point on Oahu, Hawaii. RCA Astro operated a backup CDA installed at the Astro plant.
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<p>The first major meteorological discovery made from TIROS I images was the high degree of organization of cloud patterns on a global scale. This revelation increased the utility of weather observation from orbiting satellites. </p>
  
TIROS 1’s success fulfilled America’s Space for Peace initiative and promise, restored our nation’s confidence in the Space Race, conclusively demonstrated the merits of expansive space images for meteorology and enabled the accelerated exploration and development of civilian applications of space.<br>  
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<p>Image analysts at the U.S. Weather Bureau also found that all cyclones are characterized by a very distinct vortex cloud pattern about their centers. Because of these individualities, large-scale cloud and weather systems could be easily recognized and tracked for many days. TIROS I detected a storm off the coast of Madagascar and tracked this storm through its television cameras for five consecutive days. </p>
  
== What features or characteristics set this work apart from similar achievements?  ==
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<p>A further discovery of importance was that the weather fronts associated with mid-latitude storms are strikingly clear and easily identifiable on weather-satellite photographs. It is also of great significance that the location of the jet stream over the eastern Mediterranean Sea could sometimes be inferred from cloud bands observed on the televised images. </p>
  
The TIROS Program was initiated during the Cold War’ Space Race by elements of the Department of Defense exploring space applications. This ARPA project, then being developed by USASCDRL, was recognized as the nation’s best response to meet President Eisenhower’s direction to form a space for peace program. After NASA was formed by act of Congress in 1958, NASA took charge of the TIROS project and coordinated all elements of the government, including that of the U. S. Weather Bureau and the Air Weather Service. TIROS was adequately funded, had access to the latest launch vehicle performance to support an operational and payload.
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<p>During the 89-day operating life of TIROS I, it transmitted approximately 23,000 TV photographs to its ground stations, of which meteorologists found over 19,000 useful. Its successors transmitted hundreds of thousands more. </p>
  
NASA was assigned responsibility of the TIROS Program, which was to be the new space agency’s first operational program. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) was the lead center. This mission would follow the other research initiatives of the Vanguard program led by the NRL to support the International Geophysical Year and the Explorer spacecraft series which were being developed by the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
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<p>Further Reading </p>
  
As a part of the U. S. Space Program, the Vanguard 2 spacecraft launched in Feb 1959 and Explorer 6 spacecraft launched on August 7, 1959, were each predecessors of TIROS 1. Vanguard 2 spacecraft payload was primarily an imaging experiment led by Principal Investigator Bill Stroud, who was formerly with the USASCDRL team at Ft. Monmouth, while the TIROS Project was under ARPA. Mr. Stroud would later become the NASA/GSFC Program Manager for TIROS 1. <br> <br>Each of these predecessors included an experiment to capture an image of the Earth’s cloud structure. These early experiments were weight limited and the image developed was dependent upon spacecraft launch vehicle orbit achieved and other spacecraft attitude maintenance characteristics. Neither experiment was able to demonstrate performance comparable to that of the more robust TIROS Project. The TIROS 1 cameras had been demonstrated in other classified projects used on sub-orbital flight missions.  
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<p>Charles W. Dickens and Charles A. Ravenstein, with John F. Fuller, ed., Air Weather Service and Meteorological Satellites, 1950-1960, Air Weather Service Historical Study no. 5 (United States Air Force Military Airlift Command, Air Weather Service: Scott Air Force Base, 1973), at<br>airweaassn.org/reports/Pages%20from%20Air%20Weather%20Service% 20and%20Meteorological%20Satellites,%201950--1960_partA.pdf. </p>
  
<br>An Air Weather Service Study on TIROS 1 <br>The Air Weather Service provided an evaluation of the TIROS 1 mission. The report “Air Weather Service and Meteorological Satellites, 1950—1960” written by Mr. Charles W. Dickens, and MSgt Charles A. Ravenstein and edited by Mr. John F. Fuller, for the Air Weather Service Historical Study No. 5, December 1973 provides a users perspective of the TIROS 1 achievements.<br>http://www.airweaassn.org/reports/Pages from Air Weather Service and Meteorological Satellites, 1950--1960_partA.pdf<br>http://www.airweaassn.org/reports/Pages%20from%20Air%20Weather%20Service%20and%20Meteorological%20Satellites,%201950--1960_partA.pdf
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<p>National Space Science Data Center: Explorer VI, at nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay.do?id=1959-004A. </p>
  
<br>The AWS Report file is 14mb and is in pdf style with images of text embedded. Below, two images are included, and are extracts from: page 46 – TIROS 1 Evaluated, and page 48 AWS Conclusions from TIROS 1 photographs.<br><br>
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<p>National Space Science Data Center: TIROS I, at nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay.do?id=1960-002B. </p>
  
<br>  
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<p>[A. (Abraham) Schapf] TIROS: A Story of Achievement (AED P 5167A, Radio Corporation of America Defense Electronics Products, Astro-Electronics Division, Princeton, NJ: 1964), at<br>docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/TIROS/TL798M4T5761964.pdf.<br> </p>
  
== Please attach a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property.  ==
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<p><br> </p>
  
File attached - Letter from Sarnoff Corporation
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<p><br> </p>
  
''The letter is necessary in order to process your nomination form. Click the Attachments tab to upload your letter.''
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== Please attach a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property. ==
  
[[Media:TIROS-Sarnoff-Letter.pdf|Media:TIROS-Sarnoff-Letter.pdf]]
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<p>File attached - Letter from Sarnoff Corporation </p>
  
[[Media:TIROS-evaluation1.pdf|Media:TIROS-evaluation1.pdf]]
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<p>''The letter is necessary in order to process your nomination form. Click the Attachments tab to upload your letter.'' </p>
  
[[Media:Tiros-evaluation2.pdf|Media:Tiros-evaluation2.pdf]]  
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<p>[[Media:TIROS-Sarnoff-Letter.pdf|Media:TIROS-Sarnoff-Letter.pdf]] </p>
  
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<p>[[Media:TIROS-evaluation1.pdf|Media:TIROS-evaluation1.pdf]] </p>
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<p>[[Media:Tiros-evaluation2.pdf|Media:Tiros-evaluation2.pdf]] </p>
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Latest revision as of 15:19, 15 October 2010

Docket Number: 2009-03 Proposal Link: http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Milestone-Proposal:TIROS_1

Proposed Citation in English, with title and text. Text absolutely limited to 70 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination on the wording of the citation

Absolutely limited to 75 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: Whether or not the nominator suggests a citation, The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination of the wording of the citation.

TIROS 1 - TELEVISION INFRA-RED OBSERVATION SATELLITE, 1960

On 1 April 1960, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration launched TIROS I, the world's first meteorological satellite, to capture and transmit video images of the Earth's weather patterns. RCA staff at Defense Electronics Products, the David Sarnoff Research Center, and Astro-Electronics Division designed and constructed the satellite and ground station systems. TIROS I pioneered meteorological and environmental satellite television for an expanding array of purposes.

Historic significance of this work: its importance to the evolution of electrical and computer engineering and science and its importance to regional/national/international development.

TIROS I was the world's first meteorological satellite, launched with the primary objective of demonstrating the feasibility of utilizing television cameras to observe the earth's cloud cover from a satellite. Because of the success of TIROS I, NASA and the U.S. government continued and expanded the use of satellite video technology into environmental and other applications as a vital part of the world's peaceful use of outer space. To create a worldwide weather satellite system that provided meteorologists with a continuous supply of accurate weather information, RCA Astro-Electronics contracted for the follow-on polar orbit series of TOS (Tiros Operational Satellite), which was administered by the U.S. Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). For the second decade, NASA continued the TIROS program in 1970 under the administration of the newly created National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Astro contracted to build a more efficient TIROS-M satellite with cameras and infra-red radiometers mounted an earth-oriented platform, and supplied the follow-on ITOS (Improved Tiros Operational Satellite). The 1970s closed with TIROS-N precision pointing platform satellites patterned from Astro's latest USAF satellite from the DMSP (Defense Military Satellite Program) whose design configuration and concepts continued to be employed in NOAA polar orbiting weather satellites. These satellites and their successors employed line-scan radiometers in lieu of TV cameras. Lockheed Martin, the latest corporate successor to RCA Astro-Electronics, launched TIROS N-19 on February 6, 2009. The satellites' imaging capabilities have extended well beyond weather observation to include climate research, sea surface temperature measurements, volcano monitoring, forest fire detection, vegetation analysis, and search and rescue, among other uses.

Because of the impact of the weather on all aspects of life, orbital satellite observation of the atmosphere was an obvious application at the beginning of satellite research. William Kellogg and Stanley N. Greenfield analyzed the issue at length in RAND Corporation report R-218 in April 1951. Throughout the 1950s, however, the majority of scientist, engineers, and meteorologists rejected the practicality of satellite-borne TV cameras or their output for weather analysis. United States government agencies and contractors ignored or rejected television applications on satellite because of the relative novelty of electronic video technology. Approved by the Federal Communications Commission for electronic monochrome and color transmission standards in 1941 and 1953, television was still a new part of American life in the 1950s. In 1955, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation received a United States Air Force (USAF) contract to build a satellite reconnaissance system using film cameras, winning over a proposal by RCA to use television cameras.

In addition, meteorologists in that period were still establishing their profession's legitimacy, partly through the sophisticated analysis of the changing physics of the atmosphere--its motion, temperature, and pressure. Most of them rejected the utility of cloud cover imagery as too simplistic and incompatible with the data demands of forecasters. This attitude pervaded the Air Force Cambridge Research Center and the U.S. Army Signal Corps as well.

Despite this resistance, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) proposed TV camera applications to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in 1956. Some members of the ABMA were interested in satellite-based surveillance TV applications and awarded RCA classified contracts to fund lightweight, slow-scan TV camera development. RCA Laboratories staff had designed, developed and tested the small Vidicon TV camera tube along with the vast majority of associated equipment, from cameras and sensors to transmitters and displays, that made the national television standards practical.

In the fall of 1957 a team from RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center (DSRC) in Princeton conducted a series of classified briefings for the U.S. government. It gave demonstrations to the top levels of the Department of Defense (DoD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), government technical consultants, and ultimately before the House congressional committees of jurisdiction. These presentations highlighted a lightweight, durable, high-resolution Vidicon TV camera suitable for space applications, and established the feasibility of an orbiting satellite payload and mission involving video reconaissance of the earth's surface.

Coincidentally the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first orbiting satellite that October. Within six months, the DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) transferred management of the TV-based satellite program from the ABMA to the U.S. Army Signal Corps Research and Development Laboratories (USASCRDL) in Fort Monmouth, NJ. RCA created the Astro-Electronics Products Division in 1958 for continued work on contracts with Fort Monmouth, including TIROS, which was commissioned by NASA in January 1959.

To create its new space technologies division, RCA transferred teams that worked under previous related classified contracts from the DSRC and the Defense Electronics Products Division in Camden. RCA Astro also hired experienced engineers from government agencies and other talented individuals. The RCA Astro engineering team began designing and testing of the new equipment for orbital and ground systems. All equipment development and production became the responsibility of new division.

The great technical advance that TIROS represented was the integration of a deceptively simple set of electronic, electrical, and mechanical systems with systematic built-in redundancies and feedback systems on a 270-pound satellite. This enabled a reliable and efficient satellite design.

Launched by a Thor-Able rocket booster into a 400-mile-high circular orbit with an inclination of 50 degrees, TIROS was a spin-stabilized satellite shaped like an 18-sided right prism. Engineers laid out the camera and video recorder chains, attitude, transmission, and energy systems on a baseplate capped by a "hat" covered with 9,000 silicon solar cells. A monopole antenna for reception of ground commands extended out from the top of the cover. Two crossed-dipole 235-MHz FM telemetry antennas for image and data transmission projected out from the baseplate. Five pairs of solid-fuel thrusters on the edge of the baseplate maintained the satellite's spin rate between 8 and 12 rpm once a pair of yo-yo weights reduced the launch spin rate from 125 rpm. Two half-inch Vidicon TV cameras, one wide angle and one narrow angle, recorded up to 32 images on their respective tape recorders unless TIROS was in communications range of one of the ground stations. The cameras could be operated sequentially, alternately, or independently from the ground stations.

RCA Astro issued subcontracts to complete the acquisition of essential equipment for the TIROS test models and flight spacecraft, including:


1. RCA’s Electron Tube Division in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Vidicons
2. RCA’s Broadcast Division, Camden, NJ, video recorders
3. Elgeet and Tegea, the camera lens
4. Lavelle Aircraft Corporation, spacecraft structure fabrication
5. Applied Science Corporation, Princeton, for beacon transmitters
6. Radiation Labs, video data transmitters
7. General Time Incorporated, the spacecraft master clock.
8. Barnes Engineering, horizon sensor unit.
9. International Rectifier, solar cells.
10. Sonotone Incorporated, battery cells and packs.


RCA Astro-Electronics staff completed the spacecraft system design and designed, built, and tested the spacecraft in simulated launch and space environments. The staff also designed, built and tested the ground station Command and Data Acquisition (CDA) equipment. RCA delivered and installed CDAs at Camp Evans at Fort Monmouth as well as at a U.S. Air Force facility at Kaena Point on Oahu, Hawaii. Camp Evans staff joined RCA Astro staff to perform perforemd the TIROS I environmental testing. After launch, Camp Evans' 60-feet-high space antenna communicated with TIROS I and II while the Naval Research Laboratory's distributed Mini-Track system was used for satellite tracking and orbit determination. RCA staff operated a backup CDA at the Astro plant.


TIROS I’s success fulfilled America’s Space for Peace initiative and promise, restored American confidence in the Space Race, conclusively demonstrated the merits of expansive space images for meteorology, and enabled the accelerated exploration and development of civilian applications of space.

What features or characteristics set this work apart from similar achievements?

Earlier film systems of space reconnaissance were limited in duration by the amount of film stored on the satellite and by the awkward collection of film jettisoned by parachute to either an airplane or sea- or land-based landing. A camera on an Atlas ICBM had shown the feasibility of tropospheric cloud observation, and Explorer VI took the first televised images from orbit but the resolution was poor and the experiment was peripheral to the satellite mission focus on physical phenomena and micrometeorites.

Television pictures from the first orbit of the TIROS I satellite at an altitude of 400 miles demonstrated that significant weather systems could be recognized and located. Succeeding orbits yielded pictures that revealed previously unknown weather phenomena and corroborated other phenomena that had previously been merely suspected.

The first major meteorological discovery made from TIROS I images was the high degree of organization of cloud patterns on a global scale. This revelation increased the utility of weather observation from orbiting satellites.

Image analysts at the U.S. Weather Bureau also found that all cyclones are characterized by a very distinct vortex cloud pattern about their centers. Because of these individualities, large-scale cloud and weather systems could be easily recognized and tracked for many days. TIROS I detected a storm off the coast of Madagascar and tracked this storm through its television cameras for five consecutive days.

A further discovery of importance was that the weather fronts associated with mid-latitude storms are strikingly clear and easily identifiable on weather-satellite photographs. It is also of great significance that the location of the jet stream over the eastern Mediterranean Sea could sometimes be inferred from cloud bands observed on the televised images.

During the 89-day operating life of TIROS I, it transmitted approximately 23,000 TV photographs to its ground stations, of which meteorologists found over 19,000 useful. Its successors transmitted hundreds of thousands more.

Further Reading

Charles W. Dickens and Charles A. Ravenstein, with John F. Fuller, ed., Air Weather Service and Meteorological Satellites, 1950-1960, Air Weather Service Historical Study no. 5 (United States Air Force Military Airlift Command, Air Weather Service: Scott Air Force Base, 1973), at
airweaassn.org/reports/Pages%20from%20Air%20Weather%20Service% 20and%20Meteorological%20Satellites,%201950--1960_partA.pdf.

National Space Science Data Center: Explorer VI, at nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay.do?id=1959-004A.

National Space Science Data Center: TIROS I, at nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraftDisplay.do?id=1960-002B.

[A. (Abraham) Schapf] TIROS: A Story of Achievement (AED P 5167A, Radio Corporation of America Defense Electronics Products, Astro-Electronics Division, Princeton, NJ: 1964), at
docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/TIROS/TL798M4T5761964.pdf.



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