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The purpose of the Atmospheric Explorer D (AE-D, or Explorer 54) mission was to continue the investigation begun by AE-C of the chemical processes and energy transfer mechanisms that control the structure and behavior of the earth's atmosphere and ionosphere in the region of high absorption of solar energy. This mission was planned to sample the high latitude regions at the same time that the AE-E mission was sampling the equatorial and low latitude regions. The same type of spacecraft as AE-C was used, and the payload consisted of the same types of instruments except for deletion of the extreme solar UV monitor and the Bennett ion mass spectrometer, which were part of the AE-E payload. The polar orbit provided the sampling of all latitudes and the perigee moved through all latitudes in 3 months and all local times in 4 months. Unfortunately, a failure in the solar power panels resulted in the termination of operations on January 29, 1976, after slightly less than 4 months of useful life. However, all the regions at the perigee altitudes were sampled during this time. The spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere about 1 month after cessation of telemetry. To continue the correlated observations with the AE-E mission, AE-C was reactivated on February 28, 1976, to replace AE-D. More details can be found in A. Dalgarno et al., Radio Sci., v. 8, n. 4, p. 263, 1973.

Alternate Names

  • 08353
  • Atmosphere Explorer-D
  • Explorer 54
  • PL-723B
  • S 6D

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1975-10-06
Launch Vehicle: Delta
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
Mass: 681 kg

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Space Physics
  • Engineering
  • Solar Physics
  • Earth Science

Additional Information

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



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Mr. Frank W. GaetanoProgram ManagerNASA Headquarters
Mr. David W. GrimesProject ManagerNASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Dr. Nelson W. SpencerProject ScientistNASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Dr. Erwin R. SchmerlingProgram ScientistNASA Headquarters

Other AE Data/Information at NSSDCA


Explorer 17 diagram

Diagram of Explorer 17 (AE-A) (Corliss, NASA SP-133, 1967).

Explorer 17 replica

Replica of Explorer 17 (AE-A) at the Smithsonian Air and Space Udvar-Hazy Center.

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