OV1-8 PASCOMSAT Gridsphere.jpg
Mission typeEarth science
COSPAR ID1966-063A
SATCAT no.S02324
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerGeneral Dynamics
Launch mass10.4 kg (23 lb) with onboard rocket.
BOL mass3.2 kilograms (7.1 lb)
Dimensions9.1-meter (30 ft) sphere
Start of mission
Launch date14 July 1966 02:10:02 (1966-07-14UTC02:10:02) UTC
RocketAtlas D
Launch siteVandenberg 576-B-3[1]
End of mission
Decay date4 January 1978[2]
Orbital parameters
RegimeMedium Earth Orbit
Perigee altitude998.00 km (620.13 mi)
Apogee altitude1,013.00 km (629.45 mi)
Period105.20 minutes[3]
Epoch14 July 1966 02:09:00
← OV1-7
OV1-6 →

Orbiting Vehicle 1-8 (also known as OV1-8, OV1-8P,PasComSat,[4]: 419 and Gridsphere[5]), launched 14 July 1966, was the seventh satellite launched (fourth successfully) in the OV1 series of the United States Air Force's Orbiting Vehicle program. OV1-8 was designed to test the passive communications utility of an aluminum grid sphere versus a balloon satellite (e.g. NASA's Project Echo).


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.[4]: 417 Five distinct OV series of standardized satellites were developed under the auspices of these agencies.[4]: 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.[4]: 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.[4]: 418–419 OV1-2 pioneered the back-to-back launch configuration under which two OV1 satellites could be carried on the same rocket, although OV1-2 flew alone. This configuration was used in the successful co-launch of OV1-4 and OV1-5 on 30 March 1966.[6]

Spacecraft design

OV1-8 was unique among the OV1 satellites in not possessing their standardized cylindrical, solar-powered form. OV1-8 was a 9.14 m (30.0 ft), 3.2 kg (7.1 lb) open spherical grid of fine aluminum wires mounted in an inflatable balloon, produced by Goodyear Aerospace, of polybutyl methacrylate. With its specially modified propulsion module,[4]: 420 OV1-8 massed 10.4 kg (23 lb).[3]


The entire satellite, OV1-8, was an experiment prepared by the Avionics Laboratory of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to test the utility of the aluminum grid sphere as a passive communications satellite versus prior balloon satellites (e.g. NASA's Project Echo).[4]: 419–420 It was calculated that an open grid would encounter less drag from the upper atmosphere than a solid balloon.[5]


Launched from Vandenberg's 576-B-3 launch pad on 14 July 1966 at 02:10:02 UTC via Atlas D rocket,[1] alongside the unsuccessful solar x-ray, nightglow, and charged particles satellite OV1-7. 100 seconds after its solid motor had burned out, delivering OV1-8 to a nearly circular 1,000 km (620 mi) orbit, the satellite separated from its rocket and inflated with helium. With an hour, the plastic had been completely disintegrated by solar ultraviolet radiation, as planned, leaving a spherical aluminum grid behind. Subsequent tests determined that the aluminum grid had a reflectivity five times higher than that of an ordinary balloon.[5]

OV1-8's retrograde orbit was chosen to accentuate the drag and perturbation caused by the upper atmosphere to analyze their effect on the satellite's motion. Despite the increased drag, OV1-8 remained in orbit for more than 11 years, reentering the Earth's atmosphere on 4 January 1978.[2]

Legacy and status

The OV1 program ultimately comprised 22 missions, the last flying on 19 September 1971.[4]: 421


  1. ^ a b McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Report. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathon's Space Report. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  3. ^ a b "OV1-8". NASA. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c Krebs, Gunter. "PasComSat (OV1 8)". Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  6. ^ Jos Heyman (September 2010). "Intel... The Orbiting Vehicle Series (OV1)". MilsatMagazine. Satnews. Retrieved 15 May 2021.