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ITOS Meteorological Satellite


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Looking at Earth exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

The Improved TIROS Operational Satellite (ITOS) inaugurated the second generation of a space-based system to provide continuous, day-to-day observations of the Earth's weather systems. ITOS launched a total of six satellites from 1970 through 1976, continuing the mission of the TIROS and the TIROS Operational Satellite programs.

ITOS flew in a polar, sun-synchronous orbit and used improved stabilization techniques that allowed the spacecraft always to point its cameras and other sensors at the Earth. The satellite carried Automatic Picture Transmission cameras to provide instant weather data to ground stations around the world; Advanced Vidicon Camera Subsystems for detailed observations; and scanning radiometers for imaging the earth at night.

ITOS 1 had an operational life of 510 days, taking more than 100,000 images of the Earth. This artifact is a prototype of ITOS-1; NASA transferred it to the Museum in 1976.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


Credit Line

Transferred from NASA


Aluminum, copper, glass


Overall: 4 ft. tall x 3 ft. 4 in. wide x 3 ft. 4 in. deep (121.92 x 101.6 x 101.6cm). Weight: 681 lbs (309 kilograms)

Country of Origin

United States of America



Inventory Number