Orbiting Vehicle 2-1 (COSPAR ID: 1965–82C, also known as OV2-1), the first satellite of the second series of the United States Air Force's Orbiting Vehicle program, was an American life science research satellite. Its purpose was to determine the extent of the threat posed to astronauts by the Van Allen radiation belts. Launched 15 October 1965, the mission resulted in failure when the upper stage of OV2-1's Titan IIIC booster broke up.[2]

Image of Orbiting Vehicle (OV) 2-1
Mission typeLife science
COSPAR ID1965-082C Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.01641Edit this on Wikidata
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass170.097 kg (375.00 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date15 October 1965, 17:23:59 (1965-10-15UTC17:23:59) UTC
RocketTitan IIIC
Launch siteCape Canaveral LC40[1]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude706 km (439 mi)
Apogee altitude792 km (492 mi)
Period99.7 minutes[2]
Epoch15 October 1965
OV2-3 →


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 OV2 series of satellites was originally designed as part of the ARENTS (Advanced Research Environmental Test Satellite) program, intended to obtain supporting data for the Vela satellites, which monitored the Earth for violations of the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty. Upon the cancellation of ARENTS due to delays in the Centaur rocket stage, the program's hardware (developed by General Dynamics) was repurposed to fly on the Titan III[3]: 422  (initially the A,[4] ultimately the C) booster test launches.[3]: 422  The USAF contracted Northrop to produce these satellites, with William C. Armstrong of Northrop Space Laboratories serving as the program manager.[4]

Spacecraft designEdit

OV2-1 satellite diagram

OV2-1 was built to the configuration standard to all of the OV2 satellites, with a roughly cubical structure of aluminum honeycomb, .61 m (2.0 ft) in height, and .58 m (1.9 ft) wide. Four 2.3 m (7.5 ft) paddle-like solar panels, each with 20,160 solar cells, were mounted at the four upper corners of the main body. The power system, which included NiCd batteries for night-time operations, provided 63 W of power. As with the other craft in the OV2 series, experiments were generally mounted outside the cube while satellite systems, including tape recorder, command receiver, and PAM/FM/FM telemetry system, were installed inside. Four small solid rocket motors spun, one on each paddle, were designed to spin the OV2 satellites upon reaching orbit, providing gyroscopic stability. Cold-gas jets maintained this stability, receiving information on the satellite's alignment with respect to the Sun via an onboard solar aspect sensor, and with respect to the local magnetic field via two onboard fluxgate magnetometers. A damper kept the satellite from precessing (wobbling around its spin axis). Passive thermal control kept the satellite from overheating.[3]: 422  The entire satellite weighed 170.097 kg (375.00 lb).[5]


OV2-1 with experiments labeled, one month before launch

OV2-1 was designed to evaluate the long-term hazards of the Earth's Van Allen Belts to astronauts and satellites.[6] Over the course of a year-long mission, the solar-powered satellite would measure nuclear particles, electromagnetic field strength, very low frequency radio waves, and radiation effects on tissue equivalents.[4]

The Air Force's Cambridge Research Center, Weapons Laboratory, and Aerospace Corporation[4] designed the 59 kg (130 lb) scientific and engineering experiment package of fourteen instruments.[3]: 422  They included the "Phantom" tissue-equivalent ion chamber (comprising gas-filled tubes simulating the heart, kidneys and lung tissue topped with a Plexiglass cover simulating skin),[5] as well as a Cerenkov counter, a charged particle flux counter, a Faraday Cup electrometer, a magnetic spectrometer, an omnidirectional spectrometer, a scintillation spectrometer, and a plasma wave detector.[2]

Also included as an engineering experiment on OV2-1 was a low-thrust, subliming solid rocket type, developed by Rocket Research Corporation in Seattle,[4] to manage OV2-1's rate of spin.[3]: 422 


Lift-off of the Titan IIIC rocket carrying OV2-1 and LCS-2 satellites

In its original conception, OV2-1 was to have been launched via Titan 3A rocket to an apogee of 2,400 nmi (4,400 km) and a perigee of 100 nmi (190 km).[4] OV2-1 ultimately was scheduled for launch on the second Titan IIIC test flight[5] on 8 October 1965. However, tests at the Martin/Denver plant determined that there might be issues with the Transtage's pressurization valves; a malfunction of one of the valves had caused a premature shutdown of a Titan 3A test the prior year. The flight was thus delayed one week.[7] A further delay, from 14 October to 15 October, was caused both by bad weather and battery problems in the two "stage zero" solid -propellant side boosters of the Titan IIIC rocket.[8]

OV2-1, along with LCS-2, a 1.12 m (3.7 ft), 34 kg (75 lb) radar calibration sphere,[9] finally made it to space after its Titan IIIC took off on 15 October 1965 at 17:23:59 UT from Cape Canaveral LC40.[1] Once in orbit, the Titan IIIC's Transtage (upper stage) was scheduled to fire ten times, ultimately boosting OV2-1 into its operational orbit. 56 minutes and 10 seconds into the mission,[6] however, at the end of a 24-second burn, one of the two Transtage engines failed to shut down. The booster tumbled and then exploded,[3]: 422  stranding the satellite amidst the debris in a nearly circular orbit about 750 km (470 mi) above the Earth.[2]

Legacy and statusEdit

The satellite and large pieces of the transtage are still in orbit as of February 2020, and LCS-2 reentered on 25 August 1982.[10] Though its mission was a failure, seven of OV2-1's experiments were reflown on the successful (smaller)[11] OV3-3 mission,[3]: 423  launched 4 August 1966.[1]

Two follow-on satellites (OV2-2 and -3) with different mission objectives were originally planned when the OV2 program began.[4] The OV2 series was ultimately expanded to five satellites, all with different goals. Only one, the radiation and astronomical satellite OV2-5, achieved a degree of success.[12]


  1. ^ a b c McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Report. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "OV2-1". NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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. ^ a b c d e f g "OV2-1A Readied for Titan 3 A Test". Aviation Week and Space Technology. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Company. February 8, 1965. p. 26. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "OV2-1 Will Seek to Determine Extent of Van Allen Belt Threat". Aviation Week and Space Technology. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Company. 27 September 1965. pp. 113, 115. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b Hillger, Don; Toth, Garry. "OV". Collective Philatelic Works (of Two Meteorologists). Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  7. ^ "Titan 3C Delayed". Aviation Week and Space Technology. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Company. 11 October 1965. p. 34. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  8. ^ "Telemetry may Locate Titan 3 Malfunction". Aviation Week and Space Technology. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Company. 25 October 1965. p. 68. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  9. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "LCS 1, 2, 3, 4". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  10. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathan's Space Report. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  11. ^ William R. Corliss (1967). Scientific Satellites. Washington D.C.: Science and Technical Information Division, Office of Technology Utilization, NASA. p. 774. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  12. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "OV2". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved February 12, 2019.

External linksEdit

  • Current orbital information for OV2-1/LCS2. heavens-above.com