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IUE: ten years and still working.

IUE: Ten years and still working

When the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite (IUE) was launched on Jan. 26, 1978, it was planned to operate for three years, with an optimistic hope that it might hold on for five. It has just completed a decade on the job.

IUE is the only astronomy satellite to have been placed in a geosynchronous orbit, where it is positioned more than 22,000 miles above a fixed point on earth, notes Theodore Snow, director of the University of Colorado's Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy. This has enabled the satellite to be in use 24 hours a day. The telescope that is essentially its entire payload has been described by some astronomers as the most productive ever built, and Yoji Kondo of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., notes that its data have contributed to more than 1,400 refereed scientific papers. According to Kondo, nearly 1,600 different observers have used IUE, virtually all of them "guest observers" rather than members of an official "project team".

IUE was launched with six gyroscopes (half of them spares) in its aiming and stabilization system, but four of them subsequently failed, leaving the craft dependent on two gyros and its "sun sensor." Since then, however, engineers have determined that it could operate with only a single gyro, or possibly none. According to Kondo, it is possible that the hardy craft could keep working until as late as 1995 or 1996.
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Title Annotation:International Ultraviolet Explorer astronomy satellite
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 6, 1988
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