Alouette 1

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Alouette 1
Alouette 1.jpg
The Alouette 1 satellite
Mission type Ionospheric
Operator DRDC
Harvard designation 1962 Beta Alpha 1
SATCAT № 424
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass 145.7 kilograms (321 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date 29 September 1962, 06:05 (1962-09-29UTC06:05Z) UTC
Rocket Thor DM-21 Agena-B
Launch site Vandenberg LC-75-1-1
End of mission
Deactivated 1972 (1973)
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Semi-major axis 7,381.48 kilometres (4,586.64 mi)
Eccentricity 0.0023719
Perigee 992 kilometres (616 mi)
Apogee 1,027 kilometres (638 mi)
Inclination 80.46 degrees
Period 105.19 minutes
Epoch 4 December 2013, 19:55:17 UTC[1]

Alouette 1 is a Canadian satellite that studied the ionosphere. Launched in 1962, it was Canada's first satellite, and the first satellite constructed by a country other than the USSR or the United States. Canada was the fourth country to operate a satellite, as the British Ariel 1, constructed in the United States by NASA, preceded Alouette 1 by five months.[2]

The name "Alouette" came from the French for "skylark" suggesting flight.[3]


Satellite launch and mission progress[edit]

Alouette 1 was launched by NASA from the Pacific Missile Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA at 06:05 UTC on September 29, 1962, into orbit around the earth. Alouette was used to study the ionosphere, an area of the upper atmosphere where many future satellites would be placed into orbit, using over 700 different radio frequencies to investigate its properties from above.[4] Alouette‍ '​s mission lasted for 10 years before the unit was deliberately switched off. The mission brought a modicum of fame to its Program Manager, John E. Jackson,[5] Canadian director, John Herbert Chapman and its Chief Electrical Engineer, Colin Franklin.[clarification needed] Alouette 1 remains in orbit and some[who?] suggest there is a slim chance it might turn on if the right signals were transmitted. In 1966, it was estimated that Alouette 1 would remain in orbit for 1000 years.[6]

Duplicate construction[edit]

Two satellites were built for redundancy in case of a malfunction; if the first unit failed, the second could be launched with only a couple of months delay. It took 3½ years after Alouette‍ '​s proposal to have it developed and built.[7] The satellites S27-2 (prototype), S27-3 (which became the launched satellite), and S27-4 (which became the backup) were assembled by Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE) Electronics Lab in Ottawa. The mechanical frame and the deployable STEM antennas were made by the Special Products and Applied Research (SPAR) division of de Havilland Canada (DHC) in Downsview, Ontario, in a building which many years later (until 2012) housed the Canadian Air and Space Museum. The batteries used for Alouette were developed by the Defence Chemical, Biological, and Radiation Laboratory (DCBRL), another branch of DRB, and were partially responsible for the long lifetime of the satellite. The "Storable Tubular Extendable Member" antennas used were the first of DHC's STEM antennas used in space, and at launch were the longest (125 feet tip to tip).[8] When completed Alouette weighed 145 kg (320 lb) and was launched from a Thor-Agena-B two-stage rocket. Alouette 1‍ '​s backup was later launched as Alouette 2 in 1965 to "replace" the older Alouette 1.


Alouette 1 carried four scientific experiments:

  • Sweep-Frequency Sounder. This experiment measured the electron density distribution in the ionosphere by measuring the time delay between the emission and return of radio pulses.[9]
  • Energetic particle detectors. An arrangement of Geiger counters and scintillators for detecting energetic particles.[10]
  • VLF Receiver. An experiment for measuring both artificial and natural VLF signals.[11]
  • Cosmic Radio Noise. Two long radio antennas for detecting radio noise from the Sun and the Galaxy.[12]

The satellite did not have a tape recorder to store data.[13] It was only possible to obtain data when the satellite was in range of a receiving station.[14]

Post mission[edit]

After Alouette 1 was launched, the upper stage of the rocket used to launch the satellite became a derelict object that would continue to orbit Earth for many years. As of September 2013, the upper stage remains in orbit.[15]

The satellite itself became a derelict after circa 1972.[citation needed] It too remains a derelict in Earth orbit as of September 2013.[16]

The Alouette 1 was named an IEEE Milestone in 1993.[17] It is featured on the Amory Adventure Award.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peat, Chris (4 December 2013). "ALOUETTE 1 (S-27) - Orbit". Heavens Above. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Palimaka, John. "The 30th Anniversary of Alouette I". IEEE. 
  3. ^ Helen T. Wells, Susan H. Whiteley, and Carrie E. Karegeannes. Origin of NASA Names. NASA Science and Technical Information Office. p. 10. 
  4. ^ Gainor, Chris (2012), Alouette 1 - Celebrating 50 Years of Canada in Space, SpaceRef 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Space trash, and an inventory of hardware in orbit". LIFE 61 (6). 1966. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Al Bingham, S27-3 Electronics Technologist
  9. ^ "Sweep-Frequency Sounder". NASA. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Energetic Particles Detectors". NASA. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "VLF Receiver". NASA. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "Cosmic Radio Noise". NASA. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  13. ^ Angelo, Joseph A. (2006). Encyclopedia of Space and Astronomy. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-8160-5330-8. 
  14. ^ Grayzeck, Ed (26 August 2014). "Alouette 1". NASA. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  15. ^ "Alouette 1 Rocket - Satellite Information". satellite database. Heavens-Above. Retrieved 2013-09-25. 
  16. ^ "Alouette 1 - Satellite Information". satellite database. Heavens-Above. Retrieved 2013-09-25. 
  17. ^ "Milestones:Alouette-ISIS Satellite Program, 1962". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 

External links[edit]