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An Educational Services Publication of the

A Page 1

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

EXPLORER X X I Source of Acquisibon


NASA contractor~~rantee

THE AIR SATELLITE

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.

THE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE


Explorer XIX i s one of a series of satellites
designed t o increase knowledge about air den- The earth i s surrounded b y a vast ocean
sities a t altitudes above a hundred miles. Such of air called the atmosphere. The air i s a mix-
information is important not only for the ad- ture o f oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, helium,
vancement of science but also in predicting the hydrogen, and other gases.
influence o f the thin air a t these altitudes on Scientists once believed that the atmos-
spacecraft motion. phere stopped at about 100,000 feet above
Page 2 NASA FACTS VOL. 11-2

Artist's conception of Explorer XIX in orbit. Cutaway shows locations of radio tracking
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 UPPER ATMOSPHERE DENSlTW VARlES


were ineffective beyond that height. Since the
advent of the Space Age, they have learned that The density of air dwindles with increasing
the atmosphere extends many thousands of miles altitude. Upper atmosphere density has been
into space. Some scientists contend that the found to vary also from day to day and day to
atmosphere continues to the outer edge of night. The density over one geographic region
earth's magnetic field. This edge i s no closer may differ from that above another. There are
than 40,000 miles to earth's surface. also fluctuations during the 27-day period in
About 99 percent of the air in the atmos- which the sun makes a complete rotation on its
phere is concentrated in the first 20 miles above axis. Abrupt increases in air density have
earth. Some scientists suggest that the upper been observed to follow solar flares-sudden
atmosphere begins at the 20-mile altitude. outbursts of matter from the sun.
Others set its beginning at higher altitudes. Air density also fluctuates with the solar
Satellite measurements have indicated the cycle. The cycle i s a period of about 1 1 years
sparseness of air in the upper atmosphere. As during which solar activity, as evidenced by the
an example, one calculation derived from sat- frequency and magnitude of sunspots, s
ellite data is that the air at earth's surface is flares, and other eruptions, starts at a maxim
trillion times denser than at an altitude of declines to a minimum, and then again rises to
a maximum.
NASA FACTS VOL. 11-2 Page 3

Technicians make final check of Explorer XIX payload which i s mounted


on fourth stage of Scout launch vehicle.

White circles (resembling polka dots)


3 Scientists theorize that increased solar
activity warms the upper atmosphere and that
as the atmosphere warms, it swells and lifts
painted on the satellite's outer surface contribute
t o temperature balance by absorbing less of the
denser layers to higher altitudes. As the sun sun's heat than the aluminum skin. Temperature
quiets down, the upper atmosphere cools and balance i s required for operation of the space-
contracts, becoming less dense at any altitude. craft's electronic equipment.
Mounted inside of the satellite i s a small
radio that transmits a tracking signal. Its power
DESCRIPTION O F EXPLORER XIX i s supplied by a rechargeable storage battery
within the sphere and a bank of solar cells on
Explorer XIX is essentially a 12-foot diam- the satellite's outer surface. Solar cells convert
eter inflated sphere weighing about 17 pounds. sunlight to electricity. They contain silicon, a
Because it i s so large and so light in weight, it material that emits electrons when struck by
i s markedly affected even by the sparse air light. The electrons are channeled into wires
atoms and molecules of the upper atmosphere. and, thus harnessed, become an electric current.
Scientists calculate air density in the satellite's
path by comparing the spacecraft's orbit with a EXPERIMENT DESCRIPTION
theoretical orbit based upon the absence of air.
Explorer XIX i s constructed of a four-ply A principal purpose of the Explorer XIX
laminate, consisting of alternating layers of experiment i s to extend measurements of air
-mil-thick polyester plastic film and '/2-mil-thick density in the upper atmosphere to the polar
inum foil. The aluminum foil forms the regions. Prior experiments have furnished
outs~desurface; and the plastic, the inside sur- measurements of the atmosphere over other
face. ( A mil i s one-thousandth of an inch.) areas of earth. The various measurements
Page 4 NASA FACTS VOL. 11-2
permit.comparison of densities and temperatures In recent years, however, many scientists
o f the upper atmosphere over different latitudes have theorized that energetic particles may als
of earth. play a major role in heating of the upper atmos-
1 Another g o a l i s t o learn more about the phere. To help determine how the atmosphere
contributions of energetic particles and ultra- reacts to such particles, scientists are comparing
violet light to heating and, consequently, density data on atmospheric density provided b y Ex-
o f the upper atmosphere. Energetic particles plorer XIX as i t passed over polar regions with
are electrified constituents of atoms such as pro- information from Explorer IX as i t orbited over
tons and electrons. Bands o f these particles areas closer to the equator. The Explorer IX
that have been trapped in earth's magnetic field satellite, launched February 16, 1961, is similar
and surround the globe are called the Van Allen t o Explorer XIX. I t burned up during re-entry
Radiation Region. on April 9, 1964.
Ultraviolet radiation i s part of a family The polar areas were chosen for study of
called the electromagnetic spectrum. Among temperature variations due to particles because
the other members of this family are X-rays, energetic particles penetrate the atmosphere
radio waves, and visible light. Most of the over these areas more deeply than they do
ultraviolet radiation streaming t o earth i s ab- regions closer to the equator. This stems from
sorbed by earth's atmosphere. For a long the fact that the lines o f force o f earth's mag-
time, scientists believed that ultraviolet rays netic field tend to become nearly vertical, instead
were chiefly responsible for heating of the upper of horizontal, at the poles. As a result, the
atmosphere.
,. 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.
NASA FACTS VOL. 11-2 Page 5

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.

LAUNCH AND ORBITAL INFORMATION

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, com-
pressed 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 world-
wide Baker-Nunn network, which i s operated by
the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

IQSY
I N T E R N A T I O N A L Q U I E T S U N YEAR
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 Geo-
physical Years, a study of t h e earth and space con-
ducted 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 min-
imum solar activity when the sun is relatively free of
F
Scout launch vehicle rockets Explorer XIX from Point Arguello, solar flares, sunspots, and other eruptions. During
California.
Page 6 NASA FACTS VOL. 11-2

I C Y , the sun was i n the most active time of its cycle The spacecraft monitors solar radiation and mag-
of activity. netic fields at widely separated points in space. Their
A major goal of lQSY is to compare its observa- experiments are designed t o provide basic data on the
tions with those of IGY. Such comparisons and other interplanetary environment and measure solar effects
; IQSY studies are expected Po yield increased under- upon the environment.
standing of how the sun behaves and how it governs Data Prom NASA scientific satellites and sounding
natural events on and near earth. rockets are already contributing information relating
The major NASA effort supporting U.S. participa- t o the IQSY. Among such satellites are Explorer XIX
tion in IQSY will be the launching of a series of Pioneer (described in Phis NASA FACTS) and Explorer XVIIB, #he
spacecraft on long-duration missions during which they first of a series of InterplanePary Explorer Satellites.
will cover millions of miles of interplanetary space. (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.

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