Hammaguir, Algiers....French space experts put a scientific satellite into orbit around the earth on February?
Hammaguir, Algiers....French space experts put a scientific satellite into orbit around the earth on February 17th from their launching pad in the Algerian desert.
The satellite was said to be circling the earth in a near perfect orbit. After two frustrating last second failures over the weekend, the long countdown for the launch early in the day went perfectly. There was only one brief, routine hold during the countdown.
The 62 foot, three stage Diamond (Diamant) Rocket lifted off the "Brigitte" launch pad at 0833.39 GMT, just three minutes and 39 seconds behind schedule. The stages separated and fired perfectly, and 12 minutes 19 seconds later, the gold-plated 41.8 pound (20 kgs.) satellite entered an orbit which varied only fractionally from plan. It swung from a high point of 2,753.46 Kilometers (1,710.6 miles) to a low of 503.06 kilometers (312.5 miles). Its orbit time of 118.64 minutes was only fractions out. The accuracy and the fact that all scientific equipment was functioning normally, led officials to change the name from D-1-A for the satellite to "Tuning Fork" (Diapason)-- "because it sets the tone for our space program."
France, last November, had put an experimental satellite into orbit on a Diamant rocket from Hammaguir, but it carried no scientific instruments and its orbit varied considerably from the schedule. A satellite with part French, part United States instruments orbited from California in January on a Scout rocket.
Officials said a second scientific satellite would probably be launched from the Sahara Desert base towards the end of the year, and possibly one other before the base reverts to Algeria in 1967. French rocket trials will then be carried out at a base in the south of France until the new site in French Guyana is ready, French space expert have stressed, however, that there are no plans -- even in the distant future--to put a French astronaut in space.
The instruments aboard "Diapason" include an extremely accurate quartz clock to help define more exactly the shape of the earth, instruments to measure the effect of the Van Allen radiation belt -- especially on power supplying solar cells used in most satellites and signal equipment for ??? to tracking stations.