NASA launched the first geosynchronous weather satellite, SMS-1

May 17, 1974, NASA’s first geosynchronous weather satellite, SMS-1 threw the It was the first satellite designed to monitor weather conditions from a geostationary orbit.


Both satellites of this series, SMS-1 and SMS-2, were carried into orbit by Delta-2914 rockets. This program was initiated after the successes achieved by the Applied Technology Research Satellites (ATS). ATS demonstrated the possibility of using satellites in geosynchronous orbit for meteorology.

Geosynchronous orbit refers to orbits around the earth where the angular velocity of the satellites’ rotation on these orbits is equal to the earth’s rotation speed. This type of orbit allows the satellite to remain fixed above one location while the Earth rotates.

SMS-1 cylindrical satellite.

SMS was specifically designed to conduct atmospheric observations. Operational prototypes of this weather satellite were launched in 1974 and 1975. Ground operational environmental satellite program Goes which now supports weather forecasting, severe storm tracking and meteorological research in the United States, followed soon after the SMS program.


SMS-1 carried instruments for visual and international remote imaging, data collection from automated remote platforms, relaying weather conditions, and measuring a number of properties of the near-space environment.

An image of the Earth taken by a synchronous weather satellite.

One of the spacecraft’s instruments was a Visible Infrared Spin Scanning Radiometer (VISSR), which provided high-quality cloud cover data 24 hours a day. The satellite also had a data acquisition and transmission system that allowed data to be transmitted from the central weather facility to smaller regional stations. Another device, known as the Space Environmental Monitor, measured charged particles in Earth’s radiation belts and the solar wind.

SMS-1 was in orbit for about seven years before being replaced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new GOES satellite.

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