Encyclopedia Astronautica
TiPS


American tether technology satellite. 3 launches, 1996.05.12 (USA 123) to 1998.10.03 (USA 141). The 53 kg satellite consisted of 2 end masses connected by a 4 km tether. NRO (the National Reconnaissance Office) provided funding for the TiPS project.

The TiPS payload was placed in an 1019 x 1024 km x 63.4 deg orbit.

The Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) Naval Center for Space Technology designed, built and deployed the first in a series of small satellites to research the gravity-gradient dynamics and survivability of a tethered system in space, known as the Tether Physics and Survivability (TiPS) experiment. TiPS consisted of two end masses separated by a four-kilometer tether. The end masses were named Ralph and Norton after Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton from the 1950's Television Show "The Honeymooners". Ralph and Norton weigh 37.7 and 10.8 kilograms, respectively.

TiPS was among the first successful tether deployments in space and was the first experiment designed for long duration. The TiPS tether, made by AlliedSignal, was in two layers. The outer layer was Spectra 1000 braid for strength, the core was acrylic yarn which puffed the other braid out to a 2 millimeter diameter and give it a larger cross section to improve its resistance to debris and small micrometeoroids. The tether could be severed by a space particle as small as 1-mm traveling at a relative velocity of 14 km/s (31,318 mph).

Satellite laser ranging to TiPS was used to determine the precise orbit and attitude of the tethered system. This was the first time SLR data had been converted into attitude knowledge, in order to validate analytical models and simulations of a tethered system. TiPS SLR tracking support was discontinued 15 October 1997.

TiPS had the following instrumentation onboard:

  • Telemetry system located on Ralph
  • Turn-count recorder located on Ralph
  • Temperature sensors located on Ralph
  • Retroreflector arrays on both Ralph and Norton The TiPS RRA consisted of 18 retroreflectors were mounted on each exterior surface of both Ralph and Norton, for long-term passive monitoring of the tethered system. End-mass discrimination was accomplished by coating the retroreflectors of Ralph to reflect only the green wavelength, while the uncoated retroreflectors on Norton reflected both green and infrared wavelengths.

Advanced Tether Experiment (ATEx) was the follow-on mission to TiPS and was launched in 1998. However the tether only deployed to 21 m when it snagged and the satellite was jettisoned from its STEX mother satellite and abandoned. ATEx carried a GPS receiver, which was to be used in precision orbit determination combined with satellite laser ranging. There were three ATEx mission objectives: 1) Demonstrate tether system stability and control, 2) demonstrate end-body attitude determination and control, 3) fly a tether designed for survivability. ATEx had the following instrumentation onboard: 1) GPS receivers; 2) Retroreflector arrays.

TiPS parameters (ATEX in parentheses where different)

Sponsor: US Naval Research Laboratory
Life: 6 months design, SLR support of TiPS was discontinued on September 30, 1997. ATEX deployment failed.
Reflectors: 18 corner cubes per end mass (ATEX:43 corner cubes per end mass)
Mass: 54 kg (ATEX 53 kg)

AKA: Tether Physics and Survivability.
Gross mass: 54 kg (119 lb).
First Launch: 1996.05.12.
Last Launch: 1998.10.03.
Number: 3 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Taurus Pad-launched launch vehicle using Pegasus upper stages and Castor-120 first stage. More...
  • 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 4 American orbital launch vehicle. Developed to handle military payloads designed for launch on Shuttle from Vandenberg before the USAF pulled out of the Shuttle program after the Challenger disaster. Further stretch of core from Titan 34, 7-segment solid rocket motors (developed for MOL but not used until 25 years later). Enlarged Centaur G used as upper stage (variant of stage designed for Shuttle but prohibited for flight safety reasons after Challenger). Completely revised electronics. All the changes resulted in major increase in cost of launch vehicle and launch operations. More...
  • Titan 403A American orbital launch vehicle. Version of Titan 4 with no upper stage, configured for launch of lower-mass, higher-orbit Lacrosse, SDS and NOSS-2 payloads from Vandenberg. More...
  • Taurus American all-solid orbital launch vehicle. Pad-launched launch vehicle using Pegasus upper stages and Castor-120 first stage. First launch used slightly larger Peacekeeper ICBM first stage instead of Castor-120. Under a 2002 contract from Boeing, Orbital developed a three-stage version of Taurus to serve as the interceptor boost vehicles for the US government's missile intercept system. The firm portion of the company's contract, awarded in early 2002, was valued at $450 million and extended through 2007. More...
  • ARPA Taurus American all-solid orbital launch vehicle. Four stage version consisting of 1 x TU-904 + 1 x Orion 50 + 1 x Orion 50 + 1 x Orion 38 More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • USN American agency overseeing development of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. USN Joint Task Force 7, USA. More...
  • NRO American agency overseeing development of spacecraft. National Reconnaissance Office, USA. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Report (Internet Newsletter), Harvard University, Weekly, 1989 to Present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Launch Log, October 1998. Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Vandenberg Vandenberg Air Force Base is located on the Central Coast of California about 240 km northwest of Los Angeles. It is used for launches of unmanned government and commercial satellites into polar orbit and intercontinental ballistic missile test launches toward the Kwajalein Atoll. More...
  • Vandenberg SLC4E Titan, Atlas launch complex. First designated PALC2-4 and used to launch Atlas Agena D with KH-7 spysats. Rebuilt after MOL cancellation in 1970 to handle Titan 3D with KH-9 and KH-11 spysats. Upgraded in 1989-1990 for Titan 4. More...

TiPS Chronology


1996 May 12 - . 21:32 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC4E. LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 403A. LV Configuration: Titan 403A K-22 (45F-11).
  • USA 123 - . Payload: TIPS Ralph. Nation: USA. Agency: NRO; NRL. Class: Technology. Type: Tether technology satellite. Spacecraft: TIPS. USAF Sat Cat: 23936 . COSPAR: 1996-029E. Apogee: 1,032 km (641 mi). Perigee: 1,010 km (620 mi). Inclination: 63.4000 deg. Summary: ??? .
  • USA 124 - . Payload: TIPS Norton. Nation: USA. Agency: NRO; NRL. Class: Technology. Type: Tether technology satellite. Spacecraft: TIPS. USAF Sat Cat: 23937 . COSPAR: 1996-029F. Apogee: 1,032 km (641 mi). Perigee: 1,010 km (620 mi). Inclination: 63.4000 deg.

1998 October 3 - . 10:04 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg 576E. LV Family: Pegasus. Launch Vehicle: ARPA Taurus. LV Configuration: ARPA Taurus T3 1110.
  • USA 141 - . Payload: ATEX. Nation: USA. Agency: NRO; NRL. Class: Technology. Type: Tether technology satellite. Spacecraft: TiPS. USAF Sat Cat: 25615 . COSPAR: 1998-055C. Apogee: 766 km (476 mi). Perigee: 750 km (466 mi). Inclination: 84.9910 deg. Period: 99.90 min. NRO's ATeX (Advanced Tether eXperiment) reportedly failed on January 16. The ATeX lower end mass was meant to remain attached to the STEX parent spacecraft, but with only 21 m of tether deployed, it appeared the tether was so far off vertical that automatic safety systems jettisoned the base to protect the remainder of the STEX satellite. Thus, the upper and lower ATeX end masses were in orbit as one object connected by a 21 m tether, and designated USA 141 (1998-055C). The main STEX satellite was in orbit as a separate object, 1998-055A.

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