Encyclopedia Astronautica
Advanced Vela


American nuclear detection surveillance satellite. 6 launches, 1967.04.28 (Vela 7) to 1970.04.08 (Vela 11).

Like its predecessor, the Vela (meaning "watchman" in Spanish) , the Advanced Vela series of spacecraft were designed to monitor world-wide compliance with the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty.

The Vela Nuclear Detection Satellites were launched in pairs into high altitude orbits to detect possible nuclear explosions in space and on earth. The original Vela satellites were so successful, each operating for at least 5 years, that a planned acquisition of a fourth and fifth set of pairs was cancelled. Instead, TRW was awarded a further contract in March 1965 for an Advanced Vela spacecraft series. The Advanced series added atmospheric nuclear detonation detection to its capabilities. Additionally, it monitored solar activity (providing radiation warnings for manned missions), terrestrial lightning activity and celestial X/gamma-ray radiation. The project was directed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense; the USAF Space and Missile Systems organization was responsible for the development of the-spacecraft. Prime Contractor was TRW Systems Group of TRW Inc. The first of a pair of Advanced Velas was launched in April 1967. All six spacecraft operated for more than 10 years. Their nuclear detection role was assumed by IMEWS in the 1970s. Touted as the longest continuously operating space system in 1985 when USAF shut down the last 3 spacecraft.

The spacecraft used the first dual-spin, zero momentum attitude control system. In launch configuration, two 26-sided polyhedron spacecraft were connected by a central cylinder containing an apogee motor. Body mounted solar cells generated 120 watts. Advanced Velas were 26-sided polygons 1.42 m in diameter and 1.17 m high, weighed 231 kg in orbit. Total payload mass was 63 kg. Two optical bhangmeters observed the Earth. Twelve external X-ray detectors and 18 internal neutron and gamma-ray detectors detected high-altitude or space nuclear explosions.

Gross mass: 317 kg (698 lb).
First Launch: 1967.04.28.
Last Launch: 1970.04.08.
Number: 6 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Titan The Titan launch vehicle family was developed by the United States Air Force to meet its medium lift requirements in the 1960's. The designs finally put into production were derived from the Titan II ICBM. Titan outlived the competing NASA Saturn I launch vehicle and the Space Shuttle for military launches. It was finally replaced by the USAF's EELV boosters, the Atlas V and Delta IV. Although conceived as a low-cost, quick-reaction system, Titan was not successful as a commercial launch vehicle. Air Force requirements growth over the years drove its costs up - the Ariane using similar technology provided lower-cost access to space. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Titan American orbital launch vehicle. The Titan launch vehicle family was developed by the United States Air Force to meet its medium lift requirements in the 1960's. The designs finally put into production were derived from the Titan II ICBM. Titan outlived the competing NASA Saturn I launch vehicle and the Space Shuttle for military launches. It was finally replaced by the USAF's EELV boosters, the Atlas V and Delta IV. Although conceived as a low-cost, quick-reaction system, Titan was not successful as a commercial launch vehicle. Air Force requirements growth over the years drove its costs up - the Ariane using similar technology provided lower-cost access to space. More...
  • Titan 3C American orbital launch vehicle. Titan 3A with five segment solid motors. Man-rated design originally developed for Dynasoar spaceplane. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • USAF American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. United States Air Force, USA. More...
  • TRW American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. TRW Corporation, Redondo Beach, CA, USA. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Aerospace Yearbook, 1966,

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC40 Titan launch complex. Constructed as part of the Titan Integrate-Transfer-Launch (ITL) facility at the north end of Cape Canaveral in the early 1960s. Supported a wide variety of military space missions involving Titan IIIC, Titan 34D and Titan IV vehicles. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC41 Titan, Atlas V launch complex. Complexes 40 and 41 were constructed as part of the Integrate-Transfer-Launch (ITL) Titan launch facility at the north end of Cape Canaveral in the early 1960s. Over the next three decades, the complexes supported a wide variety of military space missions involving Titan IIIC, Titan 34D and Titan IV. Complex 41 was deactivated at the end of 1977, then upgraded for the Titan IV program in the 1986-88 period. In October 1999, Complex 41 was demolished with high explosives in order for a new pad for launch of the Atlas 5 rocket to be erected. By then it had been the starting point for 27 Titan flights. More...

Advanced Vela Chronology


1965 March - .
  • TRW awarded contract for the Advanced Vela spacecraft - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Advanced Vela. Summary: The Advanced series added atmospheric nuclear detonation detection to its capabilities. Additionally, it monitored solar activity, terrestrial lightning, and celestial X/gamma-ray radiation..

1967 April 28 - . 10:01 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC41. LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 3C. LV Configuration: Titan IIIC 3C-10.
  • Vela 7 - . Payload: Vela 4A / OPS 6638. Mass: 317 kg (698 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Nuclear detection surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Advanced Vela. USAF Sat Cat: 2765 . COSPAR: 1967-040A. Apogee: 112,627 km (69,983 mi). Perigee: 108,948 km (67,697 mi). Inclination: 32.1000 deg. Period: 6,652.10 min. Summary: Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A)..
  • Vela 8 - . Payload: Vela 4B / OPS 6679. Mass: 317 kg (698 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Nuclear detection surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Advanced Vela. USAF Sat Cat: 2766 . COSPAR: 1967-040B. Apogee: 114,578 km (71,195 mi). Perigee: 107,372 km (66,717 mi). Inclination: 33.1000 deg. Period: 6,668.10 min. Summary: Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A)..

1969 May 23 - . 07:57 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC41. LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 3C. LV Configuration: Titan IIIC 3C-15.
  • Vela 9 - . Payload: Vela 5A / OPS 6909. Mass: 317 kg (698 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Nuclear detection surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Advanced Vela. Decay Date: 1992-12-31 . USAF Sat Cat: 3954 . COSPAR: 1969-046D. Apogee: 145,638 km (90,495 mi). Perigee: 77,082 km (47,896 mi). Inclination: 61.6000 deg. Period: 6,700.90 min. Summary: Solar flare particle detectors. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A). .
  • Vela 10 - . Payload: Vela 5B / OPS 6911. Mass: 317 kg (698 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Nuclear detection surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Advanced Vela. Decay Date: 1992-12-31 . USAF Sat Cat: 3955 . COSPAR: 1969-046E. Apogee: 150,633 km (93,598 mi). Perigee: 72,080 km (44,780 mi). Inclination: 61.0000 deg. Period: 6,700.70 min. Summary: Radiation, low-energy particle, solar flare data. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A). .

1970 April 8 - . 10:50 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC40. LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 3C. LV Configuration: Titan IIIC 3C-18.
  • Vela 12 - . Payload: Vela 6A / OPS 7044. Mass: 317 kg (698 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Nuclear detection surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Advanced Vela. Decay Date: 1992-12-31 . USAF Sat Cat: 4366 . COSPAR: 1970-027A. Apogee: 121,227 km (75,326 mi). Perigee: 101,261 km (62,920 mi). Inclination: 61.2000 deg. Period: 6,691.00 min. Summary: Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A)..
  • Vela 11 - . Payload: Vela 6B / OPS 7033. Mass: 317 kg (698 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Nuclear detection surveillance satellite. Spacecraft: Advanced Vela. Decay Date: 1992-12-31 . USAF Sat Cat: 4368 . COSPAR: 1970-027B. Apogee: 119,313 km (74,137 mi). Perigee: 103,570 km (64,350 mi). Inclination: 57.4000 deg. Period: 6,707.90 min. Summary: Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A)..

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