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An Educational Services Publication of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Source of Acquisibon NASA contractor~~rantee


The 12-foot diameter Explorer XIX is inflation tested. At upper left of sphere are solar cells that convert sunlight to electricity for powering the satellite's radio transmitter.

Explorer XIX i s one of a series of satellites designed t o increase knowledge about air densities a t altitudes above a hundred miles. Such information is important not only for the advancement of science but also in predicting the influence o f the thin air a t these altitudes on spacecraft motion. The earth i s surrounded b y a vast ocean of air called the atmosphere. The air i s a mixture o f oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, helium, hydrogen, and other gases. Scientists once believed that the atmosphere stopped at about 100,000 feet above

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Cutaway shows locations of radio tracking Artist's conception of Explorer XIX in orbit. beacon and batteries that are attached to inside surface of the sphere. The insulating band divides the satellite into two metallic sections that serve as transmitting antennas.

earth because conventional aircraft controls were ineffective beyond that height. Since the advent of the Space Age, they have learned that the atmosphere extends many thousands of miles into space. Some scientists contend that the atmosphere continues to the outer edge of earth's magnetic field. This edge i s no closer than 40,000 miles to earth's surface. About 99 percent of the air in the atmosphere is concentrated in the first 20 miles above earth. Some scientists suggest that the upper atmosphere begins at the 20-mile altitude. Others set its beginning at higher altitudes. Satellite measurements have indicated the sparseness of air in the upper atmosphere. As an example, one calculation derived from satellite data is that the air at earth's surface is trillion times denser than at an altitude of

The density of air dwindles with increasing Upper atmosphere density has been altitude. found to vary also from day to day and day to night. The density over one geographic region may differ from that above another. There are also fluctuations during the 27-day period in which the sun makes a complete rotation on its axis. Abrupt increases in air density have been observed to follow solar flares-sudden outbursts of matter from the sun. Air density also fluctuates with the solar cycle. The cycle i s a period of about 1 1 years during which solar activity, as evidenced by the frequency and magnitude of sunspots, s flares, and other eruptions, starts at a maxim declines to a minimum, and then again rises to a maximum.


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Technicians make final check of Explorer XIX payload which i s mounted on fourth stage of Scout launch vehicle.


Scientists theorize that increased solar activity warms the upper atmosphere and that as the atmosphere warms, it swells and lifts denser layers to higher altitudes. As the sun quiets down, the upper atmosphere cools and contracts, becoming less dense at any altitude.

Explorer XIX is essentially a 12-foot diameter inflated sphere weighing about 17 pounds. Because it i s so large and so light in weight, it i s markedly affected even by the sparse air atoms and molecules of the upper atmosphere. Scientists calculate air density in the satellite's path by comparing the spacecraft's orbit with a theoretical orbit based upon the absence of air. Explorer XIX i s constructed of a four-ply laminate, consisting of alternating layers of -mil-thick polyester plastic film and '/2-mil-thick inum foil. The aluminum foil forms the outs~de surface; and the plastic, the inside surface. ( A mil i s one-thousandth of an inch.)

White circles (resembling polka dots) painted on the satellite's outer surface contribute t o temperature balance by absorbing less of the sun's heat than the aluminum skin. Temperature balance i s required for operation of the spacecraft's electronic equipment. Mounted inside of the satellite i s a small radio that transmits a tracking signal. Its power i s supplied by a rechargeable storage battery within the sphere and a bank of solar cells on the satellite's outer surface. Solar cells convert They contain silicon, a sunlight to electricity. material that emits electrons when struck by light. The electrons are channeled into wires and, thus harnessed, become an electric current.

A principal purpose of the Explorer XIX experiment i s to extend measurements of air density in the upper atmosphere to the polar regions. Prior experiments have furnished measurements of the atmosphere over other areas of earth. The various measurements

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permit.comparison of densities and temperatures o f the upper atmosphere over different latitudes of earth. 1 Another g o a l i s t o learn more about the contributions of energetic particles and ultraviolet light to heating and, consequently, density o f the upper atmosphere. Energetic particles are electrified constituents of atoms such as protons and electrons. Bands o f these particles that have been trapped in earth's magnetic field and surround the globe are called the Van Allen Radiation Region. Ultraviolet radiation i s part of a family called the electromagnetic spectrum. Among the other members of this family are X-rays, radio waves, and visible light. Most of the ultraviolet radiation streaming t o earth i s absorbed by earth's atmosphere. For a long time, scientists believed that ultraviolet rays were chiefly responsible for heating of the upper ,. atmosphere.

In recent years, however, many scientists have theorized that energetic particles may als play a major role in heating of the upper atmosphere. To help determine how the atmosphere reacts to such particles, scientists are comparing data on atmospheric density provided b y Explorer XIX as i t passed over polar regions with information from Explorer IX as i t orbited over areas closer to the equator. The Explorer IX satellite, launched February 16, 1961, is similar I t burned up during re-entry t o Explorer XIX. on April 9, 1964. The polar areas were chosen for study of temperature variations due to particles because energetic particles penetrate the atmosphere over these areas more deeply than they do regions closer to the equator. This stems from the fact that the lines o f force o f earth's magnetic field tend to become nearly vertical, instead of horizontal, at the poles. As a result, the Right of energetic particles t o earth i s not barred

Folding of a 12-foot diameter Air Density Explorer satellite. After folding, technicians will pack it in a metal cylinder 9 inches in diameter and 1 9 inches long to b e launched into Earth orbit by a Scout launch vehicle.


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as effectively over the poles as over other areas. The lines of force of earth's magnetic field can be visualized on a small scale b y sprinkling i r o n filings around a bar magnet. Note how the iron filings, which follow the magnet's lines of force, curve inward a t both ends, or poles of the bar magnet.

Explorer XIX was orbited b y a Scout launch vehicle which was fired from Point Arguello, California, on December 19, 1963. Initially, the satellite's apogee (highest altitude) was almost 1 4 9 0 miles; its perigee (lowest altitude), about 368 miles; and its period (time for one revolution about the earth), approximately 116 minutes. At launch, Explorer XIX was folded and packed inside a metal cylinder 8'/2 inches in diameter and 1 9 inches long. In orbit, compressed nitrogen gas pushed the sphere from its container and inflated i t t o a 12-foot diameter. The orbit of Explorer XIX swings as far north as Thule, Greenland, and as far south as the Antarctic continent, enabling the satellite to cover most of the globe. Explorer XIX i s being tracked b y NASA radio tracking stations and by the sensitive telescopic cameras of the worldwide Baker-Nunn network, which i s operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

On January 1, 1964, scientists of many nations inaugurated a two-year cooperative study of the sun called IQSY for International Quiet Sun Years. The program is a sequel t o the IGY, or International Geophysical Years, a study of t h e earth and space conducted by world scientists in 1957 and 1958. The somewhat incongruous term &$quiet sun" has its origin i n observations made during many years which indicated, as noted previously, that the tempo of solar activity follows a cycle of roughly 11 years, beginning a t peak solar activity, dropping t o a low, and rising again to a maximum. IQSY is being conducted during the time of minimum solar activity when the sun is relatively free of solar flares, sunspots, and other eruptions. During


Scout launch vehicle rockets Explorer XIX from Point Arguello, California.

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I C Y , the sun was i n the most active time of its cycle of activity. A major goal of lQSY is to compare its observaSuch comparisons and other tions with those of IGY. IQSY studies are expected P yield increased undero standing of how the sun behaves and how it governs natural events on and near earth. The major NASA effort supporting US participa.. tion in IQSY will be the launching of a series of Pioneer spacecraft on long-duration missions during which they will cover millions of miles of interplanetary space.

The spacecraft monitors solar radiation and magnetic fields at widely separated points in space. Their experiments are designed t o provide basic data on the interplanetary environment and measure solar effects upon the environment. Data Prom NASA scientific satellites and sounding rockets are already contributing information relating t o the IQSY. Among such satellites are Explorer XIX (described in Phis NASA FACTS) and Explorer XVIIB, #he first of a series of InterplanePary Explorer Satellites. (See NASA FACTS-BnterpBanetary Explorer Satellites.)


Deflated and folded Explorer XIX is carefully fitted inside the metal container in which it will ride into orbit.

NASA FACTS format is designed for bulletin-board display uncut, or for 8 x 10% looselea4 notebook insertion when cut along dotted lines and folded along solid lines. For notebook ring insertion, punch at solid dots in the margins.

NASA FACTS is an educational publication of NASA's Division of Educational Programs and Services. I t will be mailed t o addressees who request i t from: NASA, Educational Publications Distribution Center, AFEE-1, Washington, D . 20546. ., C




I 9 6 4 OF-736-652

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