Ariel 1

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Ariel 1
Thor Delta with Ariel 1 (Apr. 26, 1962).jpg
Launch of Ariel 1 on a Thor-Delta rocket
Mission typeIonospheric
OperatorSERC / NASA[1]
Harvard designation1962 Omicron 1
COSPAR ID1962-015A
SATCAT no.285
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerGoddard Space Flight Center
Launch mass62 kilograms (137 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date26 April 1962, 18:00:16 (1962-04-26UTC18:00:16Z) UTC
RocketThor DM-19 Delta
Launch siteCape Canaveral LC-17A
End of mission
Decay date24 May 1976
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee397 kilometres (247 mi)
Apogee1,202 kilometres (747 mi)
Inclination53.8 degrees
Period100.86 minutes
Epoch14 June 1962[2]

Ariel 1 (also known as UK-1 and S-55), was the first British satellite, and the first satellite in the Ariel programme. Its launch in 1962 made the United Kingdom the third country to operate a satellite, after the Soviet Union and the United States. It was constructed in both the UK and the United States by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and SERC, under an agreement reached as the result of political discussions in 1959 and 1960.


Ariel 1 satellite, London Science Museum

In late 1959, the Science and Engineering Research Council proposed the development of Ariel 1 to NASA, following an offer made by the United States at a meeting of the Committee on Space Research to provide assistance to other countries with the development and launch of scientific spacecraft. By early the following year the two countries had decided upon terms for the programme's scope and which organisations would be responsible for which parts of the programme.

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan named the satellite after the sprite in Shakespeare's The Tempest.[3] Construction occurred at the Goddard Space Flight Center. SERC provided the experiments, conducted operations, and later analysed and interpreted the results. Six experiments were carried aboard the satellite. Five of these examined the relationship between two types of solar radiation and changes in the Earth's ionosphere. They took advantage of techniques developed in the Skylark programme.

Launch, operation, orbit[edit]

US Delta 9 rocket with UK first satellite Ariel 1, 26 April 1962

Ariel 1, the first satellite from a nation besides the United States or the Soviet Union,[4] was launched aboard an American Thor-Delta rocket from Launch Complex 17A at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, at 18:00:16 GMT on 26 April 1962. Ariel 1 was among several satellites inadvertently damaged or destroyed by the Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test on July 9, 1962, and subsequent radiation belt. It decayed from orbit on 24 April 1976.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ariel 1 NSSDC Master Catalog. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  2. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  3. ^ Ley, Willy (June 1964). "Anyone Else for Space?". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 110–128.
  4. ^ Ley, Willy (December 1967). "Astronautics International". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 110–120.