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Alouette 1



Alouette 1 was a small ionospheric observatory instrumented with an ionospheric sounder, a VLF receiver, an energetic particle detector, and a cosmic noise experiment. The satellite had a mass of 145.7 kg. It had a generally ovoid shape, 107 cm in diameter and 86 cm high. Extended from the satellite shell were two dipole antennas (45.7 m and 22.8 m long, respectively) which were shared by three of the experiments on the spacecraft. The surface was covered with 6500 solar cells, charging nickel-cadmium batteries. The satellite was spin-stabilized at about 1.4 rpm after antenna extension.

After about 500 days, the spin slowed more than had been expected, to about 0.6 rpm when satellite spin-stabilization failed. It is believed that the satellite gradually progressed toward a gravity gradient stabilization with the longer antenna pointing earthward. Attitude information was deduced only from a single magnetometer and temperature measurements on the upper and lower heat shields. Attitude determination could have been in error by as much as 10 degrees.

There was no tape recorder, so data were available only from the vicinity of telemetry stations. Telemetry stations were located to provide primary data coverage near the 80 degree W meridian and in areas near Hawaii, Singapore, Australia, Europe, and Central Africa. Initially, data were recorded for about six hours per day.

In September 1972, spacecraft operations were terminated. A data restoration effort began in the late nineties and successfully saved a considerable portion of the high-resolution data before the telemetry tapes were discarded. More information about this effort and access to the data on CDAWeb be found at

It is possible the Alouette 1 solar cells were damaged by the Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test, but the mission was designed to operate even with 40% degradation of the solar celss. Whatever damage may have occurred appears not to have affected the spacecraft operations.

Starfish Prime

Starfish Prime was an American high-altitude nuclear test that took place on 9 July 1962. Launch took place from Johnston atoll in the Pacific Ocean (about 1330 km southwest of Honolulu) at 8:46:28 UT on 9 July 1962 (10:46:28 pm, 8 July local time) on a Thor rocket carrying a W49 thermonuclear warhead. Detonation of the warhead occurred at 09:00:09 UT on 9 July (11:00:09 pm local time, 8 July) at an altitude of 400 km. Total yield was 1.4 megatons. The explosion, occurring at a geomagnetic latitude 10.5 degrees, generated an electromagnetic pulse and large quantities of charged particles. These had the effect of damaging many operating satellites, both at the time of the blast and later, as the energetic particles remained trapped in the Earth's magnetic field, forming an artificial radiation belt that persisted for many weeks after the explosion. These damaged satellites include TRAAC, Transit-4B, Ariel 1, Cosmos 5, Telstar 1, Explorers 14 and 15, and possibly Injun 1, OSO-1, Alouette 1, and ANNA-1B.

Alternate Names

  • 00424
  • 1962 Beta Alpha 1
  • Alouette-A
  • Alouette1
  • S 27
  • S 27A

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1962-09-29
Launch Vehicle: Thrust Augmented Thor-Agena B
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
Mass: 145.7 kg

Funding Agencies

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)
  • Defence Research Board-Defence Research Telecommunications Establishme (Canada)


  • Space Physics
  • Solar Physics
  • Astronomy

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. Dieter K. Bilitza



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Mr. J. S. JohnsonProgram ManagerDepartment of Communications/Communications Research Centre
Dr. Eldon S. WarrenProject ScientistDepartment of Communications/Communications Research Centre
Mr. Frank W. GaetanoProgram ManagerNASA Headquarters
Mr. R. Keith BrownProject ManagerDefence Research Board - Defence Research Telecommuncations Establish
Dr. Erwin R. SchmerlingProgram ScientistNASA Headquarters
Dr. John H. ChapmanProgram ScientistDepartment of Communications/Communications Research Centre
Dr. J. H. WhittekerGeneral ContactDepartment of Communications/Communications Research Centre
Dr. C. A. FranklinProject EngineerDepartment of Communications/Communications Research Centre
Alouette 1 model at the Smithsonian Air and Space Udvar-Hazy Center.

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