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April 1, 1960 -- TIROS I is Launched

The launch of TIROS I (Television and InfraRed Observation Satellite) on April 1, 1960 marked the first day it became possible to observe the Earth's weather conditions on a regular basis, over most of the world from the vantage point of outer space.
TIROS I launch at Cape Canaveral
The satellite designed to obtain cloud pictures was rocketed into space aboard a Thor-Able launch vehicle, in the early hours of April 1, 1960, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The satellite was basically a cylinder with 18 flattened sides to mount solar power cells. The satellite was approximately 42 inches (1.07m) in diameter, 22 inches (0.56m) high (including the projecting television camera lense), and had a launch weight of approximately 283 pounds (128.4kg) including fuel for small solid rockets to control the satellite's spin over time. For comparison, the latest generation NOAA-15 satellite is 74 inches (1.88m) in diameter, and 165 inches (4.2m) high in its "folded" launch configuration, and weighs 4,920 pounds (2231.7kg) at liftoff.
TIROS I Satellite
The main sensors that provided the cloud pictures were television cameras. The TIROS cameras were slow-scan devices that take snapshots of the scene below; one "snapshot" was taken every ten seconds. These were rugged, lightweight devices weighing only about 4.5 pounds (2 kg) including the camera lense. TIROS I was equipped with two cameras. One had a wide angle lense providing views that were approximately 750 miles (1207 km) on a side (with the satellite looking straight down), and a narrow angle camera with a view that was about 80 miles (129 km) on a side.

When the satellite was within range of a ground station, the cameras could be commanded to take a picture every 10, or every 30 seconds. But each camera was also connected to a clock controlled tape recorder to record images when the satellite was beyond the range of a ground station. Each recorder contained 400 feet (122 m) of tape, and could record up to 32 pictures for playback the next time the satellite was in range.

There were two Command and Data Acquisition (CDA) stations used for TIROS I. These were located at the Army Signal Corps laboratory in Belmar, New Jersey and the U.S. Air Force facility a Kaena Point, Hawaii. A third station, used for engineering and back-up was located the the RCA plant where the TIROS was built, in Hightstown, New Jersey.
First picture from TIROS I.
When the satellite data was read out at either of the CDA stations, it was recorded on 35-mm film for making prints and large projections. From these, a hand-drawn cloud analysis (nephanalysis) was made then transmitted by facsimile to the U.S. Weather Bureau National Meteorological Center (NMC) near Washington, D.C. It was not until 1962 (TIROS IV, TIROS V) that some of the actual gridded satellite pictures were sent via facsimile to NMC and some other large Weather Bureau offices
  TIROS I ceased operating in mid-June 1960 due to an electrical failure. During the 77 days it operated, the satellite sent back 19,389 usable pictures that were used in weather operations. TIROS II was launched on November 23, 1960.
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