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Satellite Drag Atmospheric Density

NSSDCA ID: 1959-007A-04

Mission Name: Vanguard 3
Principal Investigator:Dr. Luigi G. Jacchia


Because of its symmetrical shape, Vanguard 3 was selected by the experimenters for use in determining upper atmospheric densities as a function of altitude, latitude, season, and solar activity. This experiment was not planned prior to launch. Density values near perigee were deduced from sequential observations of the spacecraft position, using optical (Baker-Nunn camera network) and radio and/or radar tracking techniques. This experiment obtained reasonable density values. Vanguard 3 has an expected lifetime of 300 yr.

Alternate Names

  • Vanguard3/SatelliteDragAtmosphericDensity

Funding Agencies

  • Department of Defense-Department of the Air Force (United States)
  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Earth Science: Atmospheric Dynamics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this experiment can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Jack W. SloweyOther InvestigatorSmithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Dr. Luigi G. JacchiaPrincipal InvestigatorSmithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Selected References

  • King-Hele, D. G., and D. M. C. Walker, Density of the upper atmosphere and its dependence on the sun, as revealed by satellite orbits, Nature, 186, 928-931, doi:10.1038/186928a0, June 1960.
  • Jacchia, L. G., and J. Slowey, Accurate drag determinations for eight artificial satellites atmospheric densities and temperatures, SAO, SR-100, Cambridge, MA, July 1962.
  • Jacchia, L. G., The atmospheric drag of artificial satellites during the October 1960 and November 1960 events, Smithsonian Contributions to Astrophys., 6, 133-138 Wash., D.C. 1963.
  • King-Hele, D. G., and D. M. C. Walker, Atmospheric densities at heights of 180-700 km, Ann. Geophys., 17, No. 2, 162-171, Apr.-June 1961.
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