NASA-MSFC / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA-MSFC / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Explorer 6 launch. Explorer 6 satellite being launched aboard a Thor Able 3 rocket from Cape Canaveral (now Kennedy Space Centre), Florida, USA, on 7 August 1959. The spherical satellite had four paddle-like solar panels that were to recharge its batteries during orbit. However, only three of the paddles erected fully, cutting the power supply dramatically. Explorer 6 was able to take the first image of Earth from orbit on 14 August, but due to the reduced power, noise in the data was amplified and the picture of poor quality. Explorer 6 also carried instruments to test deep-space communication, to measure charged particles trapped in the Van Allen radiation belt, and to measure cosmic rays. The last contact with the satellite was on 6 October 1959.
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