AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 2 History of Space Science
HAD Special Session, Sunday, 2:00-5:00pm, January 8, 2006, Maryland C

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[2.02] Wisconsin's Role in the First Orbiting Astronomical Observatory

A. Code (Steward Observatory and Univ. of Wisconsin)

The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO-II) launched on December 7, 1968, was the first optical observatory to be operated above the earth's atmosphere. It contained two major instruments, the Smithsonian Celescope and the Wisconsin Experiment Package (WEP), composed of ultraviolet photometers and spectrometers. In 1957 the Soviet “Sputnik” Satellite started the race to space. The National Academy of Science circulated a letter drafted by Lloyd Berkner soliciting suggestions for scientific payloads for a 100 lb satellite. The University of Wisconsin was one of the organizations that responded with a proposal for an ultraviolet photometer. Shortly afterwards when NASA came into existence Wisconsin was one of those that received funding for a study of a 100 lb UV photometric telescope. By the time our preliminary design was completed NASA had developed a plan for an astronomical platform to support all varieties of experiments requiring pointing, power and command and data capability and payload weights over 1000 lbs. To adapt to this new dimension we clustered our telescopes and shared the volume with the four telescope of the Smithsonian Celescope. Celescope would look out one end of the spacecraft and the Wisconsin Experiment Package WEP would look out the other end. Since no one had ever done this before both NASA and ourselves had a lot to learn. One feature of our design was redundancy. The clustering contributed to this approach but there was both hardware and software redundancy throughout. This paper will describe elements of the origin of WEP, it's fabrication, operation and scientific yield

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