NASA’s First Ever Satellite OGO-1 to Return to Earth after Spending More Than 50 Years in Space

NASA's first satellite is set to return to Earth after 50 years | Image credit: NASA

NASA’s first satellite is set to return to Earth after 50 years | Image credit: NASA

University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) on August 25 observed a small object appearing to be on an impact trajectory with our planet. After verification, it was confirmed that the object was not an asteroid but an old NASA scientific spacecraft, OGO-1.

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NASA’s Orbiting Geophysics Observatory 1 spacecraft (OGO-1), which was launched in September 1964, is expected to return to Earth this weekend. According to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), earlier the satellite was thought to be an asteroid.

University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) on August 25 observed a small object that appears to be on an impact trajectory with our planet. The University of Hawaii’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) also noticed the object and followed up observation to ensure what CSS was claiming was indeed true.


Finally, the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory carried out orbit calculations and corroborated them with the European Space Agency’s NEO Coordination Center. After all the verification processes, it was confirmed that the object was not an asteroid but an old NASA scientific spacecraft, OGO-1.

The satellite was built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It was blasted off into an eccentric orbit around Earth. Due to which, “it took the spacecraft approximately two days to complete one orbit and allowed the spacecraft to sweep through Earth’s radiation belts to study our planet’s magnetosphere.” Magnetosphere is the region of space that surrounds Earth and it is controlled by our planet’s magnetic field.

OGO-1 was first of the series of six missions lifted off each year from 1964 to 1969. Each year during the six-year period, one satellite was launched to study Earth. The satellite sent scientific data until 1969, after which it was placed in standby mode. Scientists ended all support for the mission in 1971.

“It will be the last to return home as all other five spacecraft have already decayed from orbit and safely re-entered Earth’s atmosphere,” said NASA. OGO-1 is predicted to re-enter on one of its next three perigees. The points in the spacecraft’s orbit closest to Earth are called perigees.

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