Kirkeland anode globe

Source see also the page On Possible Electric Phenomena in Solar Systems and Nebulae By Kristian Birkeland extracted from The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902-1903 (Book)

Wikipedia's Birkeland current; History says

Proof of Birkeland's theory of the aurora only came after a probe was sent into space. The crucial results were obtained from U.S. Navy satellite 1963-38C, launched in 1963 and carrying a magnetometer above the ionosphere. In 1966 Alfred Zmuda, J.H. Martin, and F.T.Heuring 16 analysed the satellite magnetometer results and reported their findings of magnetic disturbance in the aurora.

Everywhere I look this spacecraft is called only satellite 1963-38C!

I only found one thing that suggests the name for it. In the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory 1968 report Summary of APL Satellites Volume 7, No. 4., there is gantt-chart-like Figure 2 which includes

1968-38B    5BN-1
1968-38C    5E-1

which I assume are APL internal codes for the spacecraft.

enter image description here

Fig. 2 - Operational Status History of the 36 Satellites Fabricated at APL.

Question: What is your name? What is your quest? What is the story behind Satellite 1963-38C? Did the spacecraft have a people-friendly name? Or a project codename that's since been declassified? Did it have a stated mission goal at the time?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the Old Man From Scene 24 reference. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Dec 26, 2020 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ -0 for the same. $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2020 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


It was a secondary payload launched along with the first operational Transit navigation satellite (Transit 5BN-1) and was named, mundanely enough, Transit 5E-1.

Mission goals were

  • Measure omnidirectional flux of protons and electrons above certain threshold energies in order to determine the temporal variations in the radiation environment.
  • Verify information pertinent to radiation effects on various transistors.
  • Determine the effectiveness of seven selected thermal coatings.
  • Determine the effectiveness of protective coatings on solar cells in preventing degradation due to radiation.
  • Backup Satellite Transit-5BN-1 Objective to increase knowledge of the earth's shape and gravitational field.

enter image description here

Satellite 5E-1 has become one of the most productive satellites ever launched. Data were acquired routinely for over six years and the satellite has functioned for a full solar cycle (11 years).

Source Gunter's Space Page

The source document : Artificial Earth Satellites Designed And Fabricated By The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory may also be of interest. The following diagram came from it.

enter image description here

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ It continues to amaze me how quick and spot-on your answers are. $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Dec 26, 2020 at 9:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Have you ever considered doing a presentation of sorts about your experiences? Would love to hear more about things that we don't know to ask about. $\endgroup$
    – Brad
    Dec 27, 2020 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Brad There's a website listed in my stack exchange user profile on which I blather on about stuff I did. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2020 at 15:52

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