Fifteen years ago today — August 22, 1997 (local time) — the Lewis spacecraft launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle.
(An LMLV on the pad at Vandenberg. NASA image.)
Lewis was a small satellite built under NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Initiative and part of the “Mission to Planet Earth.” a long-term research program designed to study the Earth’s land, oceans, air, and life as a total system.
This launch (on August 23, by GMT) was the first success for the LMLV, also known as an Athena rocket, and also the first successful launch from SLC-6 — Space Launch Complex Six — at Vandenberg.
Unfortunately, Lewis encountered attitude control problems: “telemetry received early August 26 indicated that the spacecraft was spinning at approximately two revolutions per minute. The spinning resulted in the spacecraft shutting down after its solar panels could not capture enough sunlight to properly recharge onboard batteries.” The satellite burned up in the atmosphere on September 28.by
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