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The Orbiting Radio Beacon Ionospheric Satellite - Low Altitude (ORBIS-LOW) was designed by the Cambridge Air Force Research Laboratory to perform synoptic studies of near-critical frequencies transmitted from within the ionosphere. The satellite payload comprised a two-frequency continuous wave beacon transmitting at 5.002 and 10.004 MHz with a power of 750 mW. The signal is narrow-band frequency modulated. A signal of 15.006 was also transmitted at a few milliwatts for tracking. These signals were optimized for experiments in ionospheric "ducting". The beacon was transmitted through a 7.6 m "carpenter's tape" antenna. Batteries with a lifetime of about 20 days powered the satellite.

ORBIS-LOW was launched on 18 November 1964 at 20:35:54 UT from Vandenberg AFB on a Thor Agena D rocket. It was put into an Earth orbit with altitude 188 x 368 km and an inclination of 70.02 degrees. The satellite operated until the orbit decayed and it reentered the atmosphere after about two weeks, on 6 December 1964. Some long-wave propagation, indicating ionospheric ducting, was observed at ground stations, generally in the morning and evening hours.

Alternate Names

  • 00930
  • ORBIS 2
  • KH-4A 1014

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1964-11-18
Launch Vehicle: Thor Augmented Delta-Agena D
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
Mass: 1500 kg

Funding Agency

  • Department of Defense-Department of the Air Force (United States)


  • Space Physics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



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