Space History: a Polar Explorer


(Explorer-52, or “Hawkeye-1”. Public domain image from Wikimedia.)

Thirty-five years ago today — June 3, 1974 — Explorer-52 launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard a Scout rocket. Built by the University of Iowa, the satellite was also known as Hawkeye-1.

According to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog,

The primary mission objective was to conduct particles and fields investigations of the polar magnetosphere of the earth out to 21 earth radii. Secondary objectives were to make magnetic field and plasma distribution measurements in the solar wind, and to study Type-3 radio emissions caused by solar electron streams in the interplanetary medium.

And now you know.

Since the satellite was launched into a polar orbit, I have to believe the Thule Tracking Station — callsign POGO, which I commanded for one year of my Air Force career — downlinked at least some of the data from it. That was many years later than this launch, of course, so it’s not much of a connection … but I’ll take what I can get.

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