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  Transit IV-A: First nuclear space flight (1961)

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Author Topic:   Transit IV-A: First nuclear space flight (1961)
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-30-2011 09:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Leonard David, blogging for the Coalition for Space Exploration, notes the 50th anniversary of the first nuclear space flight.
Transit IV-A was powered both by solar cells and a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) using Plutonium 238 for fuel.

Built for the U.S. Navy by the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, Transit IV-A was lofted into orbit on June 29, 1961. The spacecraft's primary duty was to act as one of four operational navigational satellites for use by ships and aircraft - a forerunner of today's GPS constellation.

Subsequent to this launch, the use of radioisotope power has extended our reach across the solar system, enabling spacecraft to fly by and observe Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; to orbit and study the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn in greater detail; and to land and collect local surface science data on the Moon and Mars.

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