The NOAA Central Library (NCL) developed this website to mark NOAA's celebration of the 50th Anniversary of TIROS I, the first meteorological satellite, launched on April 1, 1960. The website gives a short history of TIROS I and offers a selection of links to significant resources highlighting environmental satellites, satellite meteorology, and related educational websites.
“Have you noticed how often in times that are past
We have used new inventions to improve the forecast?
Television is coming, it is not far away;
We'll be using that too in a not distant day.
Photographs will be made by the infra red light
That will show us the clouds both by day and by night.
From an altitude high in the clear stratosphere
Will come pictures of storms raging far if not near
Revealing in detail across many States
The conditions of weather affecting our fates.
There will then be no need for the stale weather maps
With their many blank spaces and wide open gaps
And with no information as the hours elapse. In the coming perpetual visiontone show
We shall see the full action of storms as they go.
We shall watch them develop on far away seas,
And we'll plot out their courses with much greater ease.”
TIROS I (Television Infrared Observation Satellite I) was launched on April 1, 1960 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The main objective of the TIROS program was to demonstrate the feasibility and capability of observing the Earth's cloud cover and weather patterns from space. Although the program was experimental, this first space-borne system demonstrated the capability to acquire information which meteorologists could immediately use in an operational setting.
TIROS I was the world's first weather satellite to test the experimental television techniques leading to a world-wide meteorological satellite information system. It also was the first satellite to test sun angle and horizon sensor systems for spacecraft orientation. There were several participating agencies in the test, including NASA, the US ARMY Signal Research and Development Lab, the US Weather Bureau, RCA, and the US Naval Photographic Interpretation Center.
Photo: NOAASIS home page TIROS I launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 1, 1960
The spacecraft was 42 inches in diameter, 19 inches high and weighed 270 pounds. The satellite was made of aluminum alloy and stainless steel covered by 9200 solar cells. The solar cells served to charge the nickel-cadmium (nicad) batteries. Three pairs of solid-propellant spin rockets were mounted on the base plate. Two television cameras, one low resolution and one high resolution, were housed in the craft. A magnetic tape recorder for each camera was supplied for storing photographs while the satellite was out of range of the ground station network. The antennas consisted of four rods from the base plate to serve as transmitters and one vertical rod from the center of the top plate to serve as a receiver. The craft was spin-stabilized and space-oriented (not Earth-oriented). Therefore, the cameras could only be operated while they were pointing at the Earth when that portion of the Earth was in sunlight. The video systems relayed thousands of pictures containing cloud-cover views of the Earth. Early photographs provided information concerning the structure of large-scale cloud regimes.
TIROS I was operational for 78 days and proved that satellites could be a useful tool for surveying global weather conditions from space. It was followed by nine more test satellites launched between November 23, 1960 (TIROS II) and July 2, 1965 (TIROS X) to provide routine, daily weather observations.
For more information on TIROS satellites, please consult the NASA Science Web site, under “TIROS”, and Mission and Spacecraft Library, in Quicklook index, under: "TIROS" 
Photo: NOAASIS home page First picture from Space - TIROS I satellite, April 1, 1960
“Since those first exciting days, satellite systems have become an intrinsic part of weather forecasting, oceanography, terrestrial mapping, and hazard detection. NESDIS and its ancestor organizations have processed, interpreted, and archived millions of satellite images that were acquired by those early systems and the thirty or so NOAA owned and operated satellites that have done so much to protect and warn the citizens of the United States.”