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Space Age Archaeology

A space junk bestiary: yo-yo de-spin weights

22 Nov 2020, 09:18 UTC
A space junk bestiary: yo-yo de-spin weights
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Among the oldest pieces of space junk in Earth orbit are de-spin weights from the US series of TIROS weather and TV satellites. I've been noticing them in debris catalogues for years, and decided it was time to find out what they were really all about. TIROS 1 was launched in 1960 - just three years after Sputnik 1. The satellite is now 60 years old! TIROS stands for Television Infrared Observation Satellite Program. One aim of the satellite was to see if Earth observation from space would work, and could be used for weather reporting and prediction. The other was to test television broadcast potential - so you can see that it is one of the progenitors of two very significant satellite-based industries today.The satellite was a cylindrical drum covered in solar panels with short, angled antennas. It returned one of the earliest pictures of Earth from outside.Image courtesy of NASAThere were 10 satellites in the first TIROS series, after which they continued as TIROS-N in collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Of these 10, five are still in Low Earth Orbit as pieces of space junk.So what about these de-spin weights?When rockets are launched, ...

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