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The TIROS 6 Meteorological Satellite System

The TIROS 6 Meteorological Satellite System

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Sep 27, 2011
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The TIROS VI satellite was successfully launched from Cape Kennedy (at that
time Cape Canaveral), Florida on September 18, 1962 at 8:53:09 GMT (3:53:09
A.M. EST), and injected into a nearly circular orbit having an inclination of
58.319 degrees, an apogee of 442.18 statute miles, and a perigee of 425.13
statute miles. The anomalistic period of the orbit was 98. 73 minutes, and
its eccentricity was 0. 0019. This was the sixth consecutive launching and
orbiting of a TIROS satellite in as many attempts.

The primary mission of the TIROS VI satellite was to provide increased photo-
graphic coverage of the tropical latitudes, especially of the Caribbean area, dur-
ing the 1962 autumnal hurricane season. The satellite, operating in conjunction
with the previously launched TIROS V satellite, provided early detection and ob-
servation of many of the major hurricanes and typhoons that appeared during
that period. Some of these storms were first detected before they had reached
hurricane force, and their paths and developments into severe storms were fol-
lowed continuously in pictures returned from many orbits. The operational life
of TIROS VT exceeded that of any previous TIROS satellite, continuing until Oc-
tober 11, 1963 and providing operational data for nearly 13 months in space.
TIROS VI was thus able to observe the autumnal hurricanes and tropical storms
of 1963 as well as those of 1962.

The TIROS VI satellite carried two one-half-inch vidicon television cameras,
one equipped with a wide-angle lens and the other with a medium-angle lens.
Each camera was part of an independent camera system which could be
operated by ground command either to take pictures while in contact with a
TIROS ground station or to take and record pictures over areas outside the
communications range of the ground stations, for subsequent transmission to
one of the ground stations. In addition to the television systems, the satellite
carried instrumentation and electronics for telemetry and beacon transmissions,
for dynamics control, and for attitude determination. The dynamics control
subsystems maintained the desired satellite attitude and kept the satellite's
spin rate within the desired range of 8-to-12 rpm. Electrical power was sup-
plied by a solar-energy conversion array and storage batteries.

In addition to the primary mission of hurricane watching, the satellite provided
routine observation of the locations and movements of the world's weather sys-
tems during 389 days of producing meteorologically useful pictures. In this


period, TIROS VI transmitted a total of 66, 674 pictures to the ground stations,
of which 58,667 were useful for meteorological purposes, thus exceeding the
performance of all previous TIROS satellites both in total picture production and
in the total number of useful pictures produced. From the useful picture se-
quences, 2122 nephanalyses were prepared by the U. S. Weather Bureau, and
276 storm advisories and bulletins were issued.

The satellite was also used to provide direct weather observations for other
NASA programs and for scientific projects in which NASA was participating. Most
notable among these was the direct support given to the Project Mercury Man-
ned Space Flight Program for the MA-8 flight, in October 1962, and the MA-9
flight, in May 1963.

After October 15, 1964, although the satellite no longer produced meteorologi-
cally useful pictures, it was programmed once every two days to obtain data
concerning the longevity of the various components in the space environment,,
This extended evaluation continued successfully until June 24, 1964, when, after
655 days (9412 orbits) of operation in the space environment, the satellite no
longer responded to command. An account of the extended evaluation period is
given in Appendix A of this report. *

TIROS VI was the first TIROS satellite to be equipped with one-year timing de-
vices for silencing the beacon transmitters after 12 months of orbital operation.
On September 14, 1963, just four days before the satellite had been in space for
one year, the beacon transmitters turned off as scheduled. The command and
control subsystem and TV picture subsystem No. 1 continued to operate normal-
ly. Because this event had been anticipated and adequate planning had been made
beforehand, it was possible to continue regular satellite interrogations, using
ephemeris data to locate and track the satellite. Regular programming and in-
terrogation of the satellite continued for nearly one month following beacon turn-
off. Many useful pictures were obtained during that period before defocusing of
the vidicon in camera No. 1 took place on October 11, 1963.


Shortly after the launching on September 18, 1962, satellite separation from the
third-stage rocket occurred normally and the de-spin mechanism reduced the
initial injection spin-rate successfully. Since the actual passage of the satellite
was in close correlation with the predicted orbit, the Pacific Missile Range
Command and Data Acquisition Station, located at San Nicolas Island, California,

*On December 23, 1964, while this report was in the reproduction cycle,
TIROS VI responded to interrogation, providing 63 video frames to the Wallops
Island CDA station. An account of this interrogation is given in Appendix A.
Future successful interrogations of TIROS VI will be reported separately, as
they occur.


experienced no difficulty in acquiring '.lie satellite on the first orbit and in veri-
fying separation and spin down.

Both the Wallops Island and the PMIl Command and Data Acquisition Stations
successfully interrogated the satellite on the first three orbits, and received
remote pictures of excellent quality. The taking of useful direct pictures was
not possible during the first three orbits because of the low solar illumina-
tion angle and the high nadir angles occurring while the satellite was within
range of the ground stations; direct pictures were, however, programmed,
to demonstrate that the subsystems were performing normally. During the
remainder of September 1962, 18,373 direct and remote pictures were

On September 19, the second day of TIROS VI operation, the satellite transmit-
ted a total of 604 pictures, of which 5-1 were considered useful for meteorologi-
cal purposes. From these, twenty-one nephanalyses were prepared, represent-
ing a record for one day's interrogation of a meteorological satellite. The
pictures received showed the presence of a cloud vortex off the Irish coast and
showed additional vortices in the Norlh and South Atlantic, over the desert re-
gion of the Sudan, and off the Pacific Coast of North America. Many land mas-
ses were identified, including the coasts of Siberia, Pakistan and California, the
southern tip of India, coastlines along the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and por-
tions of Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela and Chile. Special storm advisories were
sent to Brazil, giving the location of a storm in the South Atlantic, and to Air
Force detachments in the Pacific, giving the Locations of several cloud vortices
in that area. The quality of these early-orbit photographs from both cameras
is indicated in Figure 1-1.

Engineering checkout of all satellite systems was performed using the AED back-
up ground station during the first week of operation. The timing accuracies of
both programmer clocks aboard the spacecraft were verified during 11 orbits oc-
curring between September 21 and September 23. On September 26, the magne-
tic-attitude-control switch was commanded to step through all 12 positions; the
switch circuits responded normally, permitting the ground stations to obtain
calibration data for future attitude-control programming. During this period,
the satellite continued to transmit piciures of excellent quality, a high percent-
age of which were meteorologically useful. Routine nephanalyses were pre-
pared on a daily basis and special storm bulletins and weather advisories were
sent to Brazil, Florida, Puerto Rico, Australia, and Hawaii, and to Air Force
detachments in the Pacific.

During late September and early October, TIROS VI and TIROS V provided oper-
ational support for the Project Mercury MA-8 spaceflight. The two satellites
transmitted more than 5000 pictures .n support of the MA-8 launch and recovery


о. Red Seo and Nile River;
Camera I, Remote
Orbit 777, Sept. 26, 7962

b. Saudi Arabia and Arabian Sea;
Camera 7, Remote;
Orbit 745, Sept. 28. 1962

с. Vortex South of Australia;
Camera 2, Remote;
Orbit 274, Oct. 7, 7962

d. Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman;
Camera 2, Remote;
Orbit 073, Sept. 23, 7962

Figure 7 7 Early Orbit Pictures, Both Cameras

1 4

On October 1, 1962, Tropical Storm Daisy was observed in the Atlantic Ocean
east of Cuba and its position and description were reported to the weather centers
at San Juan, Puerto Rico and Miami, Florida. TIROS VI continued to monitor the
progress of Daisy through the next several days as it approached the coast of the
United States from the southeast, obtaining pictures of its configuration as its
winds increased from tropical storm to hurricane intensity. A picture taken of
Daisy during this period is shown in Figure 1-2.

Observations of typhoons, tropical storms, and other major weather systems
were made throughout the remainder of 1962. Among these were Typhoons
Doreen, Frieda, Emma, Gilda, and Ivy during October of that year; and Ty-
phoons Jean, Caroline, and Karen during November. A photograph of Typhoon
Karen is shown in Figure 1-3. On November 28, 1962, Typhoon Lucy was ob-
served in the Pacific Ocean; a special weather alert giving the location and
description of the cloud patterns associated with Typhoon Lucy was sent to the
Joint Typhoon Warning Center at Guam.

On November 12, a loss of focus became apparent in the pictures taken by
camera system No. 2, the medium-angle camera system, and, 12 days
later, useful picture transmission from this camera system ceased altogether
as the result of vidicon filament failure. During its two and one-half months
of operation, this camera system transmitted more than 12, 300 pictures,
which were still classified as good to excellent when the malfunction developed.
The quality of the late photographs returned by camera system No. 2 prior
to defocusing is evidenced by the frame shown in Figure 1-4.

The wide-angle camera system continued to provide TV pictures of very good
quality. During the first four months of 1963, the satellite photographed storm
systems in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and over the continents of
North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Based on these photographs,
storm advisories were broadcast to many parts of the world by the U. S.
Weather Bureau. Examples of the photographs taken during this period are
shown in Figure 1-5.

Beginning on May 12, 1963, thirty-nine orbits of TIROS VI were programmed
to provide meteorological support to the Project Mercury MA-9 manned orbital
spaceflight. Of the 1246 pictures received from the satellite during this period,
1146 were analyzed in direct support of the Mercury flight. Thirty-seven neph-
analyses were prepared from this data and transmitted directly to Project Mer-
cury meteorologists. In addition, 253 of the pictures were forwarded to the
Project Mercury meteorologists via photo-facsimile transmission, to supple-
ment the nephanalyses.

The TIROS VI satellite entered its second tropical storm season and continued
its observations of major weather systems during the summer of 1963. In June,
1963, Tropical Storm Emily was observed off the southwest coast of Mexico,


Figure 1-2. Hurricane Daisy;

Camera 2, Remote;
Orbit 236. Oct. 4, 1962

Figure 1-3. Typhoon Karen;
Camera 1, Remote;
Orbit 827, Nov. 14, 1962

Figure 1-4. Cellular Formation West of Australia; Camera 2, Remote; Orbit 726, Nov. 6, 7962


о. Vorfex Over Mid Atlantic;
Camera 2, Remote
Orbit 3154, April 22. 1963

b. Twin Vortex Over North Atlantic;
Camera 1, Remote;
Orbit 3183. April 25, 1963

с. Vortex Southwest of Australia;
Camera 1, Remote;
Orbit 1677, Jon. 11, 1963

d. Storm System West of California;
Camera 1, Remote;
Orbit 2006, Feb. 2, 1963

Figure 1 5. Pictures Taken During First Four months of 1963

1 7

and a well-developed storm vortex was kept under observation during the period
from July 5 to July 9. On July 15, Typhoon Wendy was observed in the Pacific
Ocean, 500 miles northeast of the Philippines.

On July 20, 1963, the satellite was programmed to take pictures of the moon's
shadow crossing the surface of the earth during the solar eclipse of that date.
A mosaic of pictures showing the moon's shadow over Alaska and Western Cana-
da is presented in Figure 1-6.

The appearance of Hurricane Arlene in the Caribbean area in early August marked
the beginning of the 1963 hurricane season. This storm, first observed by TIROS
VI on August 2, was monitored by the satellite for a period exceeding one week,
and its position and description were continuously reported to the Miami, Florida
and San Juan, Puerto Rico weather stations as the storm progressed through the
Caribbean. The coverage afforded by weather-satellite observations of Arlene
is illustrated in the map of Figure 1-7, on which the sightings made by TIROS VI
are designated. During the period from August 2 to August 7, Arlene decreased
below hurricane intensity and was reclassified as a tropical-depression. The
apparent remnants of the storm were observed on August 7. However, on
August 8, as Arlene approached the east coast of the United States, its winds
again increased to hurricane velocity. Sightings from TIROS VI on August 8, 9,
and 10 showed Hurricane Arlene as its intensity reached a maximum and then as
it veered away from the coast and moved on a northeasterly course into the
North Atlantic. A picture of Arlene as it appeared on August 3 is shown in
Figure 1-8.

During September of 1963, TIROS VI continued monitoring weather systems
throughout the world, sighting and tracking Typhoon Gloria over a one-week
period in the early part of the month and transmitting pictures of Tropical Storm
Hester on September 12. Typhoon Gloria is shown in Figure 1-9. In the middle
of September, the new TIROS Command and Data Acquisition Station at Fairbanks,
Alaska became operational. The TIROS VI satellite was used in the initial check-
out interrogations made by the Alaska ground station, and was interrogated on a
regular basis by that station after the station had become fully operational.

On September 14, 1963, just four days before the satellite had completed one
year of orbital operation, the one-year timers silenced both of the satellite's
beacon transmitters as scheduled. However, accurate ephemeris data and ade-
quate planning for this event permitted the ground stations to continue regular
interrogation of TIROS VI, and the satellite continued to provide operational
support by transmitting picture data of very good quality. Significant storms
observed after beacon turn-off included Typhoon Jennifer, Hurricane Debra,
Hurricane Edith, and Hurricane Flora. Debra and Edith are shown in Figure







"" I































Figure /-7. Path of Hurricane Ar/ene as ifs /nfensify Decreased from Hurricane to Tropical Storm
(August 7) and Increased Again to Hurricane (August 8, 9, and 10)

Figure 1-8. Hurricane Arlene on August 3, 7963, Orbit 4658, Camera 1, Remote


Figure /-9. Typhoon Gloria, Orbit 5797,
Camera 7, Remote

Figure /-70. Tropical Storm Debro (left) and Hurricane Edith. Picture of Debra from Orbit, 5405,
Camera 7, Remote; Edith from Orbit 5463, Camera 7, Remote


The TIROS VI pictures contained exceptional detail of surface phenomena and
they recorded, in addition to weather data, a number of geophysical events.
Several photos of this type are shown in Figure 1-11. Figure 1-11 (a) shows
a cloud of fine particles, believed to be a dust storm, extending over the
Arabian Sea. Snow cover on the Himalaya Mountains is shown in Figure I-
11 (b). Ice covering James Bay and Hudson Bay is shown in Figure I-11 (c).
Figure 1-11 (d) is representative of the detail observed in land masses in
the TIROS VI pictures.

On October 11, 1963, after TIROS VI had operated for 389 days in orbit, normal
picture taking finally ceased because of a malfunction in the electronics associ-
ated with the wide-angle camera system. Although it was still possible to obtain
picture data, the pictures were out of focus and were not useable for meteorolo-
gical purposes. As stated previously, interrogations were continued on a limited
basis for an additional 10 months to observe the long-term characteristics of the
components and subsystems. A summary of this extended evaluation period,
which lasted until late June 1964, is given in Appendix A of this report.


a. Dust Storm Over Arabian Sea

b. Snow Covered Himalaya Mountains

с. Hudson Bay and James Bay;
Outlines of Ice Locked Bays Visible

d. Northeastern Coast of North America fron
Cape Cod to Gulf of St. Lawrence

Figure I П. Geophysical Conditions and Surface Detail Recorded by TIROS VI

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