OV1 series satellite
Mission typeEarth science
SATCAT no.S02121
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerGeneral Dynamics
Launch mass87.6 kg (193 lb) with Altair
Start of mission
Launch date30 Mar 1966 09:20:12 (1966-03-30UTC09:20:12) UTC
RocketAtlas D
Launch siteVandenberg 576-B-3[1]
Orbital parameters
RegimeLow Earth Orbit
Perigee altitude887.00 km (551.16 mi)
Apogee altitude1,011.00 km (628.21 mi)
Period104.10 minutes [2]
Epoch1966-03-30 09:21:00
← OV1-2
OV1-5 →

Orbiting Vehicle 1-4 (also known as OV1-4), launched 30 Mar 1966, was the fourth, and second successful, satellite in the OV1 series of the United States Air Force's Orbiting Vehicle program. OV1-4 was a long-term bioscience and materials science satellite, designed to return data relevant to long-term human presence in space. Its launch marked the first time two satellites (the other being OV1-5) were placed into orbit side-by-side with each other.


The Orbiting Vehicle satellite program arose from a US Air Force initiative, begun in the early 1960s, to reduce the expense of space research. Through this initiative, satellites would be standardized to improve reliability and cost-efficiency, and where possible, they would fly on test vehicles or be piggybacked with other satellites. In 1961, the Air Force Office of Aerospace Research (OAR) created the Aerospace Research Support Program (ARSP) to request satellite research proposals and choose mission experiments. The USAF Space and Missiles Organization created their own analog of the ARSP called the Space Experiments Support Program (SESP), which sponsored a greater proportion of technological experiments than the ARSP.[3]:417 Five distinct OV series of standardized satellites were developed under the auspices of these agencies.[3]:425

The OV1 series was an evolution of the 2.7 m "Scientific Passenger Pods" (SPP), which, starting on 2 October 1961, rode piggyback on suborbital Atlas missile tests and conducted scientific experiments during their short time in space. General Dynamics received a $2 million contract on 13 September 1963 to build a new version of the SPP (called the Atlas Retained Structure (ARS)) that would carry a self-orbiting satellite. Once the Atlas missile and ARS reached apogee, the satellite inside would be deployed and thrust itself into orbit. In addition to the orbital SPP, General Dynamics would create six of these satellites, each to be 3.66 m (12.0 ft) long with a diameter of .762 m (2 ft 6.0 in), able to carry a 136 kg (300 lb) payload into a circular 805 km (500 mi) orbit.

Dubbed "Satellite for Aerospace Research" (SATAR), the series of satellites was originally to be launched from the Eastern Test Range on Atlas missions testing experimental Advanced Ballistic Re-Entry System (ABRES) nosecones. However, in 1964, the Air Force transferred ABRES launches to the Western Test Range causing a year's delay for the program. Moreover, because WTR launches would be into polar orbit as opposed to the low-inclination orbits typical of ETR launches, less mass could be lofted into orbit using the same thrust, and the mass of the SATAR satellites had to be reduced.[3]:417

The first OV1 satellite to be launched was OV1-1 on January 21, 1965. Though OV1-1's Atlas booster performed properly, the satellite's onboard Altair rocket did not fire, and the probe was lost. OV1-1 was the only satellite launched on an ABRES mission. Starting with OV1-3, launched and lost May 27, 1965, the remaining OV1 satellites all flew on Atlas D and F missiles that had been decommissioned from ICBM duty. OV1-2, the first successful satellite in the OV1 series, was launched 5 October, 1965.[3]:418–419

Spacecraft design

OV1-4 was, like the rest of the OV1 satellite series, 1.387 m (4 ft 6.6 in) long and .69 m (2 ft 3 in) in diameter, consisting of a cylindrical experiment housing capped with flattened cones on both ends[4] containing 5000 solar cells producing 22 watts of power. Two .46 m (1 ft 6 in) antennae for transmitting telemetry and receiving commands extended from the sides of the spacecraft. 12 helium-pressurized hydrogen peroxide thrusters provided attitude control.[3]:418

OV1-4 weighed, with its attached Altair booster, 87.6 kg (193 lb).[2]


OV1-4 carried an experiment package provided by the Aerospace Medical Division at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas. Two of the experiments monitored the growth and oxygen production/carbon dioxide absorption properties of several generations chlorella algae and duckweed plants. The data collected over the course of the 30-day mission was applicable to future life support systems incorporating live plants in microgravity.[3]:419

Another experiment investigated the thermal-control properties of various paints and metallic substances produced by the Materials Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.[3]:419

There was also equipment for measuring the long term radiation dose received inside the satellite.[5]


Launched from Vandenberg's 576-B-3 launch pad at 30 Mar 1966 09:20:12 UTC via Atlas D rocket,[1] OV1-4 and the co-launched OV1-5 were the first satellites to be placed into orbit side-by-side (as opposed to serially.[6] OV1-4 and OV1-5 had similar but not identical low orbits.[7] The OV1-4 mission was successful, and several journal articles incorporating data from the radiation detecting instruments were published.[5][8]

Legacy and status

As of 23 March 2021, OV1-4 is still in orbit, and its position can be tracked on-line.[9]

The OV1 program ultimately comprised 22 missions, the last flying on 19 September 1971.[3]:421


  1. ^ a b McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Report. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b "OV1-4". NASA. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Powell, Joel W.; Richards, G.R. (1987). "The Orbiting Vehicle Series of Satellites". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. Vol. 40. London: British Interplanetary Society.
  4. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "OV1". Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b Janni, Joseph F.; Kopf, Christopher R. (June 1974). "Measurements of Geomagnetically Trapped Radiation and Galactic Cosmic Ray Dose from the OV1-4 Satellite". Aerospace Medicine.
  6. ^ Andrew LePage (21 January 2015). "Riding Piggyback on an ICBM". Drew ex Machina. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  7. ^ William R. Corliss (1967). Scientific Satellites. Washington D.C.: Science and Technical Information Division, Office of Technology Utilization, NASA. pp. 770–1. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  8. ^ "(OV1-4 search)". National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  9. ^ "OV1-4". Retrieved 23 March 2021.