History Timeline 1960's

Photo above: Astronaut John Glenn pictured above with President John F. Kennedy looking inside the Mercury Space Capsule in 1962. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Soyuz TMA-7 Spacecraft. Courtesy NASA.

Outer Space Treaty

U.S. Timeline - The 1960s

Civil Rights and Turmoil



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  • Timeline

  • 1960 - Detail

    April 1, 1960 - Tiros I, the first weather satellite, is launched by the United States. Twelve days later, the navigation satellite, Transit 1-b is launched.

    Tiros 1 Weather Satellite


    The space race was on, and it was on, not only in the manned race to catch up to Sputnik and the Russians, but in the area of communication, weather, and navigation. Satellites were being developed by the men and women at NASA headquarters at Cape Canaveral, as well as defense and private laboratories around the nation.

    The TIROS (Television Infrared Observation Satellite Program) program was the first satellite step to study the earth. Developed by NASA, the U.S. Army Signal Research and Development Laboratory, RCA, the U.S. Weather Bureau, and the U.S. Naval Photographic Interpretation Center, the satellite would perform weather observations and allow for increased weather forecasting based on satellite images.

    Tiros 1 was launched on April 1, 1960 at 6:40 EST from Cape Canaveral. Weighing two hundred and seventy pounds, forty-two inches in length, and nineteen inches high, Tiros 1 was made of an aluminum alloy and stainless steel. It had nine thousand two hundred solar cells. It was a success, the first low orbit weather satellite and first of the Television Infrared Observation Satellites in orbit, albeit for only seventy-eight days. The initial image from outer space of the Earth was captured by Tiros 1 soon after launch from one of its two cameras.

    Tiros 2 would be launched on November 23, 1960, and last three hundred and seventy-six days. Tiros 3 had its maiden voyage on July 12, 1961, and ran for two hundred and thirty days. Tiros 4 spent one hundred and sixty-one days in orbit from February 8, 1962. Additional launches and use of new versions of the Tiros satellite continued through 1967. Beginning in 1962, Tiros satellites began continuous coverage of the weather on Earth.




    Transit Program


    Twelve days after the launch of the Tiros weather satellite, NASA launched its second navigation prototype, Transit 1-b. Transit 1A had been a failure, failing to reach orbit on September 17, 1959. The Transit program had been pushed by the 1957 success of Sputnik 1, the first orbiting satellite, as physicists from the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins considered the application of doppler shifts in positioning. William Guier, George Weiffenbach, Dr. Richard Kershner, and Frank McClure of APL, as well as scientists from the Navy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, began development of the system in 1958.

    Upon the successful launch of Transit 1-b, the systems were tested throughout the early years from 1960-1963, and they were made operational by the Navy in 1964. One of the major successes of the original 1960 launch was proof the first engine restart in space. From 1967 to 1991, thousands of warships and private ships used the Transit system for navigation. Forty-one satellites under the Transit name were launched. The traditional setup of the system included six satellites with three in use at one time and three as spares.

    Photo above: Tiros 1 weather satellite prototype circuitry being shown to President Lyndon Johnson by William Shroud, head of NASA, April 4, 1960, Warren K. Leffler. Courtesy Library of Congress. Photo below: Transit 1-a Navigation Satellite, U.S. Air Force. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Info source: "The Story of GPS," Catherine Alexandrow; Wikipedia Commons; Science.NASA.gov.


    Transit 1 Navigation Satellite






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