TIROS I (or TIROS-1) was the first successful low-Earth orbital weather satellite, and the first of a series of Television Infrared Observation Satellites.

Tiros 1
Tiros satellite navitar
Tiros I prototype on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Mission typeWeather satellite
Harvard designation1960 β 2
COSPAR ID1960-002B
SATCAT no.29
Mission duration78 days
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeTIROS
ManufacturerRCA Astro
Launch mass122.5 kilograms (270 lb)[2]
Start of mission
Launch dateApril 1, 1960, 11:40:09 UTC[3]
RocketThor DM-18 Able II
Launch siteCape Canaveral LC-17A
End of mission
Last contactJune 15, 1960
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
Semi-major axis7,026.96 kilometers (4,366.35 mi)[4]
Perigee631 kilometers (392 mi)
Apogee665 kilometers (413 mi)
Period98.76 minutes
RAAN264.3671 degrees
Argument of perigee226.1327 degrees
Mean anomaly133.7550 degrees
Mean motion14.74045109
EpochApril 22, 2016, 21:05:55 UTC
two slow-scan visible television camera
(wide-angle and narrow-angle)
horizon sensor
sun angle sensor


Tiros 1 instruments
Instruments and equipment of the TIROS I.

The TIROS-1 spacecraft was launched by NASA and partners at 6:40 AM EST[5] on April 1, 1960, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the United States. Mission partners were NASA, the U.S. Army Signal Research and Development Laboratory, RCA, the U.S. Weather Bureau, and the U.S. Naval Photographic Interpretation Center.[1]


First TV image of Earth from space was recorded by TIROS 1[6]

The TIROS Program was NASA's first experimental step to determine if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth. At that time, the effectiveness of satellite observations was still unproven. Since satellites were a new technology, the TIROS Program also tested various design issues for spacecraft: instruments, data and operational parameters. The goal was to improve satellite applications for Earth-bound decisions, such as "should we evacuate the coast because of the hurricane?".[1]

The TIROS Program's first priority was the development of a meteorological satellite information system. Weather forecasting was deemed the most promising application of space-based observations.[1]

TIROS proved extremely successful, providing the first accurate weather forecasts based on data gathered from space. TIROS began continuous coverage of the Earth's weather in 1962, and was used by meteorologists worldwide. The program's success with many instrument types and orbital configurations led to the development of more sophisticated meteorological observation satellites.[1]


The two cameras for TIROS-1 were for the visible spectrum. The cameras were slow-scan, taking a half-second to record an image, but had a 1.5 millisecond shutter. One camera had a wide-angle lens (104 degrees/~750 miles) with the other having a narrow-angle (12.67 degrees/~65 miles) with corresponding image resolutions of 1.5 miles and 1000 feet. Also included were a horizon sensor and a sun sensor, both used for indicating the orientation of the satellite for the images.

TIROS-1 Magnetic Tape Data Recorder
TIROS-1 Magnetic Tape Data Recorder


  1. ^ a b c d e "TIROS". NASA Science. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  2. ^ "TIROS 1". National Space Science Data Center. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  3. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  4. ^ "TIROS 1 Satellite details 1960-002B NORAD 29". N2YO. December 7, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  5. ^ "U.S. Launches Camera Weather Satellite". The Fresno Bee. AP and UPI. April 1, 1960. pp. 1a, 4a.
  6. ^ Anderson, George D. (April 1, 2010). "The first weather satellite picture". Weather. 65 (4): 87. Bibcode:2010Wthr...65...87A. doi:10.1002/wea.550. ISSN 1477-8696.

External links

1960 in science

The year 1960 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

April 1

April 1 is the 91st day of the year (92nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 274 days remain until the end of the year.

It is not only the first day of the second quarter of the year, but it is also the midway point of the first half of the year.

Deal Test Site

The Deal Test Site (now Joe Palaia Park) is located in Ocean Township, New Jersey.

The Joe Palaia Park was originally started as the Foxburst Farm, a 63-acre (250,000 m2) tract which is now the southern portion of the park. It was purchased by Western Electric, (part of AT&T and later Lucent), in 1919. The site was later expanded with an additional 145 acres (0.59 km2) purchase by AT&T in 1927. The site is bounded by three major township roads, Deal Road, Whalepond Road, and Dow Avenue. Several homes on Whalepond Road, north of Freehold Street, and Dow Avenue, from the corner of Whalepond Road to the Ocean Township School, abut the property.

After World War I, AT&T used the site to conduct ship-to-shore wireless experiments off the Jersey Shore. Five large radio towers were eventually erected and used to broadcast speech and music for a range of 1,000 miles (1,600 km). In 1921, a two-story white building was built, which was used as a laboratory and dormitories for engineers.

Research continued through the 1930s in conjunction with Bell Telephone Laboratories (the successor to Western Electric’s research division), to use shorter wavelengths for radio transmission, this eventually led to the development of the microwave radio relay systems used to carry long distance telephone traffic in the latter half of the 20th century. The development of fiber-optic communications (also by Bell Labs) ended the widespread use of microwave repeaters.

Facilities at the test site were used in the 1950s and 1960s to monitor missiles and satellites launched from Cape Kennedy. It was instrumental in the development of TIROS-1 and TIROS-2 weather satellites.In 1953, the test site was sold by AT&T, and the new owners leased the property to the U.S. Army Signal Corps for tracking satellites. A 28-foot (8.5 m) dish antenna on a 40-foot (12 m) tower (near the Bicentennial Oak Tree) was used to pick up signals from Russian satellites Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2. The large circular concrete base of this antenna is still visible today.

In the 1960s, the Army transmitted the first photograph via facsimile (fax) to Puerto Rico from the site using the Courier satellite.

In 1823/1824, long before the land became a test site, a Late Pleistocene/early Holocene mastodon was excavated from a peat bog on the south side of Poplar Brook. Fossil vertebrate remains were also found from the Tertiary marls along the brook.

Earth observation satellite

An Earth observation satellite or Earth remote sensing satellite is satellite specifically designed for Earth observation from orbit, similar to spy satellites but intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, map making etc.

The first occurrence of satellite remote sensing can be dated to the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. Sputnik 1 sent back radio signals, which scientists used to study the ionosphere.

NASA launched the first American satellite, Explorer 1, in January 31, 1958. The information sent back from its radiation detector led to the discovery of the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts.

The TIROS-1 spacecraft, launched on April 1, 1960 as part of NASA's TIROS (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) Program, sent back the first television footage of weather patterns to be taken from space.

As of 2008, more than 150 Earth observation satellites were in orbit, recording data with both passive and active sensors and acquiring more than 10 terabits of data daily.Most Earth observation satellites carry instruments that should be operated at a relatively low altitude. Altitudes below 500-600 kilometers are in general avoided, though, because of the significant air-drag at such low altitudes making frequent orbit reboost maneuvres necessary. The Earth observation satellites ERS-1, ERS-2 and Envisat of European Space Agency as well as the MetOp spacecraft of EUMETSAT are all operated at altitudes of about 800 km. The Proba-1, Proba-2 and SMOS spacecraft of European Space Agency are observing the Earth from an altitude of about 700 km. The Earth observation satellites of UAE, DubaiSat-1 & DubaiSat-2 are also placed in Low Earth Orbits (LEO) orbits and providing satellite imagery of various parts of the Earth.To get (nearly) global coverage with a low orbit it must be a polar orbit or nearly so. A low orbit will have an orbital period of roughly 100 minutes and the Earth will rotate around its polar axis with about 25 deg between successive orbits, with the result that the ground track is shifted towards west with these 25 deg in longitude. Most are in sun-synchronous orbits.

Spacecraft carrying instruments for which an altitude of 36000 km is suitable sometimes use a geostationary orbit. Such an orbit allows uninterrupted coverage of more than 1/3 of the Earth. Three geostationary spacecraft at longitudes separated with 120 deg can cover the whole Earth except the extreme polar regions. This type of orbit is mainly used for meteorological satellites.

Environmental Science Services Administration

The Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) was a United States Federal executive agency created in 1965 as part of a reorganization of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission was to unify and oversee the meteorological, climatological, hydrographic, and geodesic operations of the United States. It operated until 1970, when it was replaced by the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The first U.S. Government organization with the word "environment" in its title, ESSA was the first such organization chartered to study the global natural environment as whole, bringing together the study of the oceans with that of the both the lower atmosphere and the ionosphere. This allowed the U.S Government for the first time to take a comprehensive approach to studying the oceans and the atmosphere, also bringing together various technologies – ships, aircraft, satellites, radar, and communications systems – that could operate together in gathering data for scientific study.

Harry Wexler

Harry Wexler (March 15, 1911 – August 11, 1962) was an American meteorologist, born in Fall River, Massachusetts.

List of communications satellite firsts

Milestones in the history of communications satellites.

List of unmanned spacecraft by program

Here is an incomplete list of all unmanned spacecraft categorized by program.

Marjorie Townsend

Marjorie Trees Townsend (née Rhodes; March 12, 1930 – April 4, 2015) was an American electrical engineer, and the first woman to manage a spacecraft launch for NASA.

Meteorological instrumentation

Meteorological instruments are the equipment used to sample the state of the atmosphere at a given time. Each science has its own unique sets of laboratory equipment. Meteorology, however, is a science which does not use much lab equipment but relies more on on-site observation and remote sensing equipment. In science, an observation, or observable, is an abstract idea that can be measured and for which data can be taken. Rain was one of the first quantities to be measured historically. Two other accurately measured weather-related variables are wind and humidity. Many attempts had been made prior to the 15th century to construct adequate equipment to measure atmospheric variables.

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) was created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to operate and manage the United States environmental satellite programs, and manage the data gathered by the National Weather Service and other government agencies and departments.

Polar Operational Environmental Satellites

The Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) was a constellation of polar orbiting weather satellites funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) with the intent of improving the accuracy and detail of weather analysis and forecasting. The Spacecraft were provided by NASA and the European Space Agency, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center oversaw the manufacture, integration and test of the NASA-provided TIROS satellites. The first polar-orbiting weather satellite launched as part of the POES constellation was the Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS), which was launched on April 1, 1960. The final spacecraft, NOAA-19, was launched in February 2009. The ESA-provided MetOp satellite operated by EUMETSAT utilize POES-heritage instruments for the purpose of data continuity. The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which was launched on November 18, 2017, is the successor to the POES Program.On-orbit satellite operations of POES is performed by NOAA's Office of Satellite and Product Operations (OSPO).

Satellite imagery

Satellite imagery (also Earth observation imagery or spaceborne photography) are images of Earth or other planets collected by imaging satellites operated by governments and businesses around the world. Satellite imaging companies sell images by licensing them to governments and businesses such as Apple Maps and Google Maps.


TIROS 2 (or TIROS-B) was a spin-stabilized meteorological satellite. It was the second in a series of Television Infrared Observation Satellites. It re-entered in May 2014.

Television Infrared Observation Satellite

TIROS, or Television Infrared Observation Satellite, is a series of early weather satellites launched by the United States, beginning with TIROS-1 in 1960. TIROS was the first satellite that was capable of remote sensing of the Earth, enabling scientists to view the Earth from a new perspective: space. The program, promoted by Harry Wexler, proved the usefulness of satellite weather observation, at a time when military reconnaissance satellites were secretly in development or use. TIROS demonstrated at that time that "the key to genius is often simplicity." TIROS is an acronym of "Television InfraRed Observation Satellite" and is also the plural of "tiro" which means "a young soldier, a beginner".Participants in the TIROS project included the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United States Army Signal Research and Development Laboratory, Radio Corporation of America, the United States Weather Bureau, the United States Naval Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC), the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


The Thor-Able was an American expendable launch system and sounding rocket used for a series of re-entry vehicle tests and satellite launches between 1958 and 1960. It was a two stage rocket, consisting of a Thor IRBM as a first stage and a Vanguard-derived Able second stage. On some flights, an Altair solid rocket motor was added as a third stage. It was a member of the Thor family and an early predecessor of the Delta.

Timeline of the Space Race

This is a timeline of first achievements in spaceflight from the first intercontinental ballistic missile through the first multinational human-crewed mission—spanning the era of the Space Race. Two days after the United States announced its intention to launch an artificial satellite, on July 31, 1956, the Soviet Union announced its intention to do the same. Sputnik 1 was launched on October 4, 1957, beating the United States and stunning people all over the world.

United States Army Communications-Electronics Command

The Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) is a Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) of the United States Army based at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, United States. It is one of four such commands under the Army Materiel Command (AMC), and is the Army's provider and maintainer of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decision relocated CECOM to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland as part of implementing the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law. Its former home, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey has been closed since 15 September 2011.

CECOM has approximately 13,000 military, civilian and contract personnel across five CECOM organizations.

Weather satellite

The weather satellite is a type of satellite that is primarily used to monitor the weather and climate of the Earth. Satellites can be polar orbiting, covering the entire Earth asynchronously, or geostationary, hovering over the same spot on the equator.Meteorological satellites see more than clouds and cloud systems: city lights, fires, effects of pollution, auroras, sand and dust storms, snow cover, ice mapping, boundaries of ocean currents, energy flows, etc. Other types of environmental information are collected using weather satellites. Weather satellite images helped in monitoring the volcanic ash cloud from Mount St. Helens and activity from other volcanoes such as Mount Etna. Smoke from fires in the western United States such as Colorado and Utah have also been monitored.

Other environmental satellites can detect changes in the Earth's vegetation, sea state, ocean color, and ice fields. For example, the 2002 Prestige oil spill off the northwest coast of Spain was watched carefully by the European ENVISAT, which, though not a weather satellite, flies an instrument (ASAR) which can see changes in the sea surface.

El Niño and its effects on weather are monitored daily from satellite images. The Antarctic ozone hole is mapped from weather satellite data. Collectively, weather satellites flown by the U.S., Europe, India, China, Russia, and Japan provide nearly continuous observations for a global weather watch.

TIROS satellites

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