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Sphinx was a self-contained satellite which was designed to obtain engineering data necessary to design high-voltage systems that could be exposed directly to a space environment. For this project, a single satellite launch was planned. During ascent, the Sphinx spacecraft was to be supported on top of the Viking Dynamic Simulator (VDS), the prime payload for this flight. The Sphinx satellite was to be ejected from the VDS at a velocity greater than two feet per sec and at a spin rate of approximately 30 rpm. The satellite would have been positioned initially so that the spin vector was toward the sun. The release of the sphinx was to be after the third burn of the Centaur, and was controlled by the Centaur event timer. The following specific areas were to be investigated: (1) measuring the plasma coupling current between the space plasma and surfaces elevated to various electrical potentials; (2) determining the short-term and long-term effectiveness of insulating conductors biased to various voltages; (3) determining the effect of the operating voltage on solar cell performance; (4) studying the influence of the space plasma on the surface resistance of various dielectrics; and, (5) performing long-duration studies on the electrical breakdown of and the stability of imperfections in insulating materials. The spacecraft failed to achieve orbit following launch on due to Centaur second stage malfunction.

Alternate Names

  • Space Plasma Hivolt.Int.

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1974-02-11
Launch Vehicle: Titan IIIE-Centaur
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 3610 kg

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology (United States)


  • Engineering

Additional Information

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



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Mr. R. R. LovellProject ManagerNASA Lewis Research Center
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