Explorer 10

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Explorer 10
Explorer 10.jpg
Mission typeSpace plasma physics
OperatorNASA / OSSA
Harvard designation1961 Kappa 1
COSPAR ID1961-010A
SATCAT no.98
Mission duration52 hours
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerGoddard Space Flight Center · MIT
Launch mass35 kilograms (77 lb)
Start of mission
Launch dateMarch 25, 1961, 15:17:04 (1961-03-25UTC15:17:04Z) UTC[1]
RocketThor DM-19 Delta
Launch siteCape Canaveral LC-17A
End of mission
Last contactMarch 27, 1961 (1961-03-28)
Decay dateJune 1, 1968
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeHighly elliptical
Perigee altitude220 kilometers (140 mi)
Apogee altitude180,999 kilometers (112,468 mi)
Inclination33 degrees
Period83.50 hours
EpochMarch 25, 1961[2]
magnetometers, plasma probe
← S-45

Explorer 10 (also known as Explorer X or P14) was an American Earth-orbital satellite that investigated Earth's magnetic fields and nearby plasma. Launched on March 25, 1961, it was an early mission in the Explorer program and was the first satellite to measure the "shock wave" generated by a solar flare.


The objective was to investigate the magnetic fields and plasma as the spacecraft passed through Earth's magnetosphere and into cislunar space. The satellite was launched into a highly-elliptical orbit and was spin-stabilized with a spin period of 0.548 s. The direction of its spin vector was 71 degrees right ascension and minus 15 degrees declination.

Because of the limited life of the spacecraft batteries, the only useful data were transmitted in real time for 52 hours on the ascending portion of the first orbit. The distance from the Earth when the last bit of useful information was transmitted was 42.3 Earth radii, and the local time at this point was 2200 h. All transmission ceased several hours later.


Explorer 10 inspection

Explorer 10 was a cylindrical, battery-powered spacecraft instrumented with two fluxgate magnetometers and one rubidium vapor magnetometer extending from the main spacecraft body, and a Faraday cup plasma probe. The magnetometers were produced by Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provided the plasma probe.

Sun-Moon-Earth aspect sensor[edit]

The optical aspect sensor consisted of a Sun-Moon-Earth sensor and associated electronics. The Earth-Moon part of the sensor consisted of a fan field of vision, 3 degrees wide and 120 degrees long, which swept through the sky as the probe rotated in space. The appearance of the Moon or Earth in the sensor's field of view caused a step change in subcarrier frequency. The Sun part of the sensor consisted of a digital coded slit 2 deg wide and 100 deg long. The appearance of the Sun in the field of view of the slit caused a discrete frequency on the subcarrier which corresponded to the position of the Sun in the field of view.


  1. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
  2. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved December 17, 2013.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

External links[edit]