The PAGEOS space balloon: One of NASA's most successful failures

The PAGEOS space balloon: One of NASA's most successful failures ...

NASA launched the PAGEOS satellite, which was then used by the Passive Geodetic Earth Orbit Satellite (GGEOS) on July 24, 1966, and would forever make history.

This stunning satellite served as a tracking target, connecting 46 stations from across the globe, assisting in real science and with ground-shaking implications.

According to a NASA official''s website, PAGEOS ended poorly.

The massive shiny satellite was constructed from a thick mylar plastic film coated with vapor-deposited aluminum that spanned a volume of 524,000 cubic feet (14,800 cubic meters).

The primary purpose of PAGEOS

The satellite was "a 100-foot (30.48)-long inflatable sphere" onboard, according to NASA''s website. "It was the second (following GEOS 1) NASA satellite in the National Geodetic Satellites Program. PAGEOS 1 was formed up of 84 gores and two pole caps of a 0.07 percent acrylic film. The gores were [157.4 ft (1.24 m) long with a maximum length of [3.35 ft (1.02

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The satellite was built to provide a geodetic target and connected 46 stations 1,864 to 3,106 miles (3000 to 5000 km distance) from around the world with an incredible accuracy of 9.8 to 16 ft (3 to 5 m) with a specular reflectance of 0.62 and a diffuse reflectance of 0.29. The surface was capable of reflecting 97% of microwave energy in the range 17 to 4E5 kHz.


PAGEOS was removed in orbit to serve as a massive reflector of light that could be seen from the Earth. However, after being placed into a polar orbit in July 1975 with an angle of around 4,184 km, it partially fell.

PAGEOS suffered a second breakdown in January 1976, resulting in the release of a large number of fragments from the balloon, most of which re-entered the atmosphere during the following decade. Finally, in 2016, one of the largest pieces of PAGEOS de-orbited, marking the end for the balloon. However, it was still worthwhile.

Observable from everywhere

PAGEOS'' initial magnitude was 2 mag, thanks to its higher orbit. This meant the satellite could be seen across a wide area of the Earth''s surface, from Europe to North America.

PAGEOS appeared from Earth, even at night, as a slow-moving star. It boasted a high orbit and polar inclination that would enable it to avoid the Earth''s shadow, making it observable anytime of the day or night.

"To fulfill the mission requirements, the structure of the satellite''s load-bearing PET film and the reflectance of its vapor-deposited aluminum surface must be maintained for five years," NASA said. PAGEOS, however, was successful for ten years in mint condition (before disintegration began).

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