Launched April 1, 1960, NASA’s first satellite designed to determine if Earth could be studied from space was TIROS-1. The mission, managed and operated by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, was a spiritual predecessor to today’s expansive Earth-observing satellite fleet.
TIROS 1 (Television and InfraRed Observation Satellite), the first weather satellite, was designed to test the feasibility of obtaining and using TV cloudcover pictures from satellites.
The TIROS Program (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) was NASA’s first experimental step to determine if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth. At that time, the effectiveness of satellite observations was still unproven. Since satellites were a new technology, the TIROS Program also tested various design issues for spacecraft: instruments, data and operational parameters. The goal was to improve satellite applications for Earth-bound decisions, such as “should we evacuate the coast because of the hurricane?”.
The TIROS Program’s first priority was the development of a meteorological satellite information system. Weather forecasting was deemed the most promising application of space-based observations.
TIROS proved extremely successful, providing the first accurate weather forecasts based on data gathered from space. TIROS began continuous coverage of the Earth’s weather in 1962, and was used by meteorologists worldwide. The program’s success with many instrument types and orbital configurations lead to the development of more sophisticated meteorological observation satellites.