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Context of 'August 28, 1964: Nimbus Satellites Use PV Array'

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The US’s Vanguard I space satellite uses a small solar array, generating less than one watt, to power its radios. Later that same year, the Explorer III, Vanguard II, and Sputnik-3 satellites all use PV-powered systems (see 1956-1958) to power its systems. While commercial uses for solar energy in the United States (see 1955) is less than successful during this period, silicon solar cells become a mainstay of satellites and subsequent space exploration vehicles. In 1962, Bell Telephone Laboratories launches the first telecommunications satellite, Telstar. This satellite generates 14 watts of electricity via its PV cells. (US Department of Energy 2002 pdf file; Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum 2013)

NASA begins the Nimbus satellite program by launching the first Nimbus satellite, powered by a 470-watt PV array. The Nimbus satellites are primarily for research into more complex satellite systems, and for collecting atmospheric data. (US Department of Energy 2002 pdf file; National Space Science Data Center 12/3/2009)

NASA launches its Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO), powered by a 1-kilowatt PV array. The satellite platform provides astronomical data in the ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths that is normally filtered out by Earth’s atmosphere. (US Department of Energy 2002 pdf file)


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