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.

In a separate section on Historical Resources on TIROS I and Satellite Meteorology in the NOAA Libraries Network over 300 unique documents from the 1950s to the present are offered online. These full text documents are also accessible online via the TIROS Bibliography published as LISD Current Reference Series 2007-1 (Updated as of September 2009).

In addition a Photo and Video Gallery offers a selection of digital videos and over 530 still images on TIROS and various aspects of satellite meteorology. The images originate from the NOAA in Space digital image album which is part of the NOAA Photo Library.

TIROS I - April 1, 1960 (video clip)

View the entire movie


TIROS I - History

"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.

[Excerpt from: The Raymete and the Future, poem by George M. Mindling, Offiial in Charge, Weather Bureau Office, Atlanta, Georgia, March 29, 1939. In: NOAA History. Weather Man Poems]

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”[1], and Mission and Spacecraft Library, in Quicklook index, under: "TIROS" [2]

Photo: NOAASIS home page
First picture from space - TIROS I satellite, April, 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.”[3]

To view the pictorial history of TIROS and other NOAA satellites consult the NOAA in Space album of images at: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/space/index.html

“Today, the nation's environmental satellites are operated by NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service in Suitland, MD. NOAA's environmental satellite system is composed of two types of satellites: geostationary operational environmental satellites for national, regional, short-range warning and now-casting; and polar-orbiting environmental satellites for global, long-term forecasting and environmental monitoring. Both GOES and POES are necessary for providing a complete global weather monitoring system. Both also carry search and rescue instruments to relay signals from aviators and mariners in distress.”[4]

Photo: NOAASIS home page
TIROS I - during preliminary test stage; TIROS I - Construction

[1] TIROS. In: NASA Science. Missions.

[2] TIROS, Television Infrared Observation Satellite. In: Mission and Spacecraft Library.

[3] Theberge, Jr., Albert E. NOAA in Space. In: NOAA Photo Library.

[4] Viets, Pat. 2000. April 1 marks 40th anniversary of first weather satellite. In: NOAA 2000-023 [press release]


[All URL addresses listed below were viewed for their accuracy during the month of March 2010]

NOAA Resources:

NOAA Satellites
NESDIS Satellite and Information Services
NESDIS Satellite Products
NESDIS Office of Systems Development
STAR - Center for Satellite Applications and Research
NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory
Geostationary Satellite Imagery
NOAA Comprehensive Large Array-Data Stewardship System (CLASS)
NOAA in Space
NOAA Central Library
NOAA Space Weather home page
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (NWS)
NOAA Satellite Imagery Products
NOAA Office of Satellite Operations
NOAA Satellite and Information Service
NOAA Photo Library: NOAA in space
NODC Coastal Water Temperature Guide (CWTG)
Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)
National Hurricane Center (National Weather Service)
Pioneer in Satellite Meteorology: David Simonds Johnson
David Simond Johnson - Pioneer in Satellite Meteorology
Polar Environmental Satellite Services Division
TIROS Bibliography

U.S. Resources:

NASA home page
The Landsat program
NASA Earth Observatory home page
NASA History Division home page
Goddard Space Flight Center
GOES-R Program Office (NOAA/NASA)
National Air and Space Museum
Satellite Meteorology (Naval Research Laboratory. Marine Meteorology Division)
SeaWiFS Project (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
U.S. Centennial Flight Commissionm. Meteorological Satellites

International Resources:

Asian-Pacific Regional Space Forum (APRSAF)
Austrian Space Applications Program (ASAP)
Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)
British National Space Centre
Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
China National Space administration (CNSA)
European Space Agency (ESA)
French Space Agency (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales CNES))
German Aerospace Center
Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)
Iran Space Agency (ISA)
Israel Space Agency (ISA)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAEA)
Korea Aerospace Research Institute (Korea-South)
Met Office (United Kingdom)
Meteo France International
Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC)
Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON)
National Space Agency of Pakistan (SUPARCO)
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)
Polish Space Research Centre (PAN-CBK)
Russian Federal Space Agency
Swedish Space Corporation (SSC)
Swiss Space Office (SSO)
World Climate Research Programme
World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Satellite Meteorology - Education:

Astrophysics Science Project Integrating Science & Education (ASPIRE)
Coral Reef Watch (Lesson Plans, Grades 4-6)
Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)
Learning about Satellites and Remote Sensing (NOAASIS)
Met Office Education (All about Weather)
MetEd: Satellite Meteorology (UCAR - COMET Program)
NCDC Educational Activities
NESDIS Education and Outreach
NOAA Education
NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory
NOAA Photo Library: NOAA in space
Planet Quest (NASA - JPL)
Pioneer in Satellite Meteorology: David Simonds Johnson
Satellite Meteorology for grades 7 -12 (University of Wisconsin)
STAR Training and Education (NOAA)
Verner Edward Suomi - The Father of Satellite Meteorology (University of Wisconsin)

Other Related Links:

CIMSS GOES Activities
The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHR): Brief Reference Guide (by David A. Hastings, William H. Emery)
Automatic Weather Station Project and Antarctic Meteorological Research Center
COMET (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, National Center for Atmospheric Research - UCAR)
GOES-R Bibliography (University of Wisconsin, The Schwerdtfeger Library)
TIROS 1's 50th Anniversary Celebration website



Funding for this project was provided by the NOAA Climate Database Modernization Program (CDMP), National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC. Please credit the NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project when using these documents. Please credit the NOAA Photo Library when using photos, and the NOAA Central Library when using online videos.


For additional information, questions or comments on this home page, please contact our Team:
Anna.Fiolek@noaa.gov, 301-713-2607, ext. 147
Library.Reference@noaa.gov, 301-713-2607 ext. 124