Collection Item Summary:
This is the first of one dozen Baker-Nunn wide-field telescopic cameras built for, and used by, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. In 1958, SAO established a worldwide network of camera stations to photograph satellites slated to be launched during the International Geophysical Year. This, the initial camera, was sited at Organ Pass, NM. It obtained the first civilian photograph of a satellite when it was still being tested at the Boller and Chivens Company in Pasadena, California. The modified Schmidt-type optics and some of the associated mechanical elements were manufactured by Perkin-Elmer while the camera and mounting proper were built by the Boller and Chivens Company. James Baker designed the optics and Joseph Nunn designed and built the mounting.
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory transferred the camera to NASM in December 1980 as part of a general suite of satellite ranging and tracking systems employed by SAO, including a laser-ranging system.