Encyclopedia Astronautica

American infrared astronomy satellite. One launch, 1999.03.05. WIRE was designed to survey the celestial sky in the infrared bands and build on the results of the IRAS mission.

WIRE was one of two missions selected in 1994 as part of NASA's Small Explorer Program (SMEX). The specific objectives of the WIRE mission were to: (1) determine what fraction of the luminosity of the universe at a red shift of 0.5 and beyond was due to starburst galaxies; (2) determine whether luminous protogalaxies were common at red shifts less than 3; (3) amass a catalogue larger than the IRAS Point Source Catalogue; and (4) make a survey more than 500 times fainter than the IRAS Faint Source Survey at 12 and 25 m.

The spacecraft used the Small Explorer bus. It was 3-axis stabilized, using a momentum biased control system with 2 arc-minutes pointing. This used reaction wheels, gyros, a star tracker, torque rods, and sun-sensors. The non-articulated solar array provided 170 W orbit average power using GaAs cells and recharged one 9 AHr Super NiCd battery. The control system used an 80386 processor with 88 MBytes memory. Uplink was at 2 kbps, downlink at 18.75, 900, and 1800 kbps using a 5 W S-Band transponder.

Payload was a 30 cm aperture Cassegrain telescope, diffraction limited at 25 m, with no moving parts or reimaging optics, feeding two 128 x 128 Si: As BIB focal plane arrays. Optics were cooled to less than 19 Kelvin and detectors were cooled to less than 7.5 Kelvin using 3 kg of solid hydrogen. Instrument power was 35 watts, with an average data rate of 9 kbps. Each exposure lasted 32 - 128 seconds.

The contract for 2 units + options was issued on 17 April 1995.

AKA: Wide Field Infrared Explorer.
First Launch: 1999.03.05.
Number: 1 .

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Pegasus Privately-funded, air-launched winged light satellite launcher. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Pegasus American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Privately-funded, air-launched winged light satellite launcher. More...
  • Pegasus XL American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Uprated version of Pegasus air-launched winged light satellite launcher. 4 stage vehicle consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Pegasus XL stage 1 + 1 x Orion 50XL + 1 x Orion 38. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • JPL American agency;manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, USA. More...
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Wide-Field Infrared Explorer (Wire):Surveying Starburst Galaxies, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Wide-Field Infrared Explorer (WlRE), Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Point Arguello WADZ Air-launched rocket drop zone known to have been used for 28 launches from 1990 to 2007, reaching up to 4539 kilometers altitude. More...

WIRE Chronology

1995 April 17 - .
  • WIRE contract issued - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: WIRE.

1999 March 5 - . 02:56 GMT - . Launch Site: Point Arguello WADZ. Launch Pad: 36.0 N x 123.0 W. Launch Platform: L-1011. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL. LV Configuration: Pegasus XL F26/M-22.
  • WIRE - . Nation: USA. Agency: NASA Greenbelt. Class: Astronomy. Type: X-ray astronomy satellite. Spacecraft: WIRE. Decay Date: 2011-05-10 . USAF Sat Cat: 25646 . COSPAR: 1999-011A. Apogee: 582 km (361 mi). Perigee: 537 km (333 mi). Inclination: 97.5000 deg. NASA's long-delayed WIRE (Wide Field Infrared Explorer) astronomy satellite was the fifth Small Explorer (SMEX) mission managed by NASA-Goddard. The L-1011 Stargazer launch aircraft took off from Vandenberg's runway 30/12 at 01:55 GMT on March 2 for the first launch attempt. The planned 02:56 GMT launch was cancelled at T-46 seconds due to a problem with the tail fin release mechanism of the Pegasus XL launch vehicle. The second attempt was successful, with the Pegaus XL being dropped at 36 degrees N x 123 degrees W over the Pacific Ocean at 02:56 GMT. However the WIRE ran into serious trouble shortly after orbit injection. The cover of the solid hydrogen telescope ejected prematurely, and the cryogenic coolant evaporated and vented, spinning the satellite out of control. WIRE was going to make an infrared photometry survey, generating a large catalog of galaxies and quasars.

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