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Vanguard I has spent six decades in orbit, more than any other craft

Vanguard I has spent six decades in orbit, more than any other craft
From Engadget - March 16, 2018

The first two attempts to launch the first Vanguard satellite failed, but on March 17th, 1958, Vanguard I was successfully placed into orbit. It was manufactured by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), which published a lookback this week honoring the satellite's 60 years of service, and was part of a project that aimed to study Earth's geophysical phenomena from space. The Vanguard Project was established as part of the US contribution to the International Geophysical Year -- a multi-national effort to study geophysical phenomena during a period of time when the sun's sunspot activity would be at a peak.

Once in orbit, Vanguard I began collecting a trove of data. "Vanguard's orbital data proved invaluable toward the understanding of upper atmospheric physics, geodesy, geodynamics, solar terrestrial relationships, dynamical astronomy and exospheric structure," said the NRL. "Additionally, Vanguard I returned a wealth of information on air density, temperature ranges and micrometeorite impacts as well as revealing that the earth is slightly pear-shaped rather than round."

Vanguard I was the first satellite with solar electric power and while its batteries lasted just 20 days, its solar cells kept the satellite powered for seven years. Vanguard I stopped sending signals back to Earth in 1964, but since then, researchers have still used it to glean insight into how the sun, moon and Earth's atmosphere affect orbiting satellites.

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