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TIROS 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:

TIROS (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) I, launched in April 1960, was the world's first weather satellite. TIROS imaged large swaths of the Earth's surface, allowing forecasters and scientists to see directly for the first time the large-scale features of our planet's weather systems. Operating for three months, the satellite transmitted thousands of images of cloud patterns and other phenomena to ground stations.

TIROS I, and a series of successor test satellites, provided the technical experience to start separate civilian and military space-based weather observation programs. By the mid 1960s, the civilian TIROS program launched a series of satellites to provide routine, daily weather observations. The program is still in operation today and, in conjunction with other weather satellites, has made space-based weather observations a commonplace of contemporary life.

This spacecraft was a backup for TIROS I and II and was used in ground testing. NASA transferred the artifact to the Museum in 1965.

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


3ft 6in. diameter x 2ft 1in. (106.7 x 63.5cm) height. Weight: 122.5kg (270lb.)

Country of Origin

United States of America



Inventory Number