Passive Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite (PAGEOS)
OperatorNASA Office of Space Applications
COSPAR ID1966-056A
SATCAT no.02253
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass56.7 kg (125 lb)
Dimensions30.48 m (100.0 ft) diameter
Start of mission
Launch date00:14:00, June 24, 1966 (UTC) (1966-06-24T00:14:00Z)
RocketThrust augmented Thor-Agena D
Launch siteVandenberg AFB
End of mission
Destroyedpartially disintegrated July 1975 (1975-07)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric[1]
Perigee altitude4,207 km (2,614 mi)
Apogee altitude4,271 km (2,654 mi)
Period181.43 min
Epoch24 June 1966
Test inflation of PAGEOS

PAGEOS (PAssive Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite) was a balloon satellite which was launched by NASA in June 1966.[2]


PAGEOS had a diameter of exactly 100 feet (30.48 m), consisted of a 0.5 mils (12.7 μm) thick mylar plastic film coated with vapour deposited aluminium enclosing a volume of 524,000 cubic feet (14,800 m3) and was used for the Weltnetz der Satellitentriangulation (Worldwide Satellite Triangulation Network) – a global cooperation organized by Hellmut Schmid (Switzerland & USA) 1969-1973.

Finished in 1974, the network connected 46 stations (3000–5000 km distance) of all continents with an accuracy of 3–5 m (approx. 20 times better than terrestrial triangulations at that time).


The PAGEOS spacecraft was placed into a polar orbit (inclination 85–86°) with a height of approx. 4000 km, which had gradually lowered during its 9 years of operation. The satellite partly disintegrated in July 1975, which was followed by a second break-up that occurred in January 1976 resulting in the release of a large number of fragments. Most of these re-entered during the following decade.[3] PAGEOS data has been tracked 11 times.[4]

PAGEOS' predecessors in satellite triangulation were the balloons Echo 1 (1960, 30 m) and Echo 2 (1964, 40 m) which were also used for passive telecommunication. Their apparent magnitude (brightness) was 1 mag, that of Pageos 2 mag (like Polaris) due to its higher orbit. Pageos could therefore be observed simultaneously e.g. from the ground in places such as Europe and North America. PAGEOS appeared as a slow-moving star (at first glance it would appear to be stationary). Its orbital period was approximately three hours. Because of its high orbit and polar inclination it would avoid the Earth's shadow and be observed any time of the night (low-orbit satellites are only observable shortly after sunset and before sunrise). In the early 1970s PAGEOS varied from 2nd apparent magnitude to beyond visibility over a period of a few minutes.

In 2016, one of the largest fragments of PAGEOS de-orbited.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "NSSDCA - PAGEOS 1 - Trajectory Details". NASA. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  2. ^ "PAGEOS 1". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  3. ^ "PAGEOS 1". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  4. ^ "Data Collection Search Results". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Archived from the original on October 18, 2008. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  5. ^ J.-C. Liou (February 1, 2017). "USA Space Debris Environment, Operations, and Research Updates" (PDF). 54th Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, United Nations, 30 January – 10 February 2017, Vienna. Retrieved February 5, 2017.

External links

  • NASA technical note: The fabrication and testing of PAGEOS I