This day in TI space: from 1958 to today


When we say that our space products are out of this world, we mean it. Our heritage in space exploration is rich, dating as far back as 1958 with the launch of the U.S.’s first satellite, Explorer I, several months before our very own Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit. Since, then, TI semiconductors have been instrumental in a number of major space applications, missions, explorations and discoveries.

From that first satellite to the first moon landing and first comet landing to exploring the planets, TI was there. This year, we will be highlighting and updating this blog post with some of the significant space missions that included TI devices in the last 60-plus years, on the anniversaries of their respective launches.

March 2, 2004: Rosetta and Philae
Rosetta and Philae facts and figures:

  • First spacecraft to orbit a comet.
  • First spacecraft to perform a successful soft landing on a comet.
  • First spacecraft to obtain pictures from a comet’s surface
  • Traveled nearly 5 billion total miles in nearly 13 years.

On March 2, 2004, the space probe Rosetta, along with its accompanying lander module Philae, began its 10-year fact-finding mission to the comet “67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.” Built by the European Space Agency with support from NASA and TI parts, Rosetta passed Mars in 2007 before reaching the comet and becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet on Aug. 6, 2014. Three months later (Nov. 12), Philae performed the first successful soft landing on a comet and obtained the first images from a comet’s surface. Rosettas’ mission concluded in September 2016 with a controlled impact onto the comet after two years of operations at the comet.

Jan. 31, 1958: Explorer I
Explorer I facts and figures:

  • First satellite launched by the United States and the first satellite to carry science instruments.
  • Designed to measure the radiation environment in Earth’s orbit.
  • Orbited Earth more than 58,000 times, averaging one orbit every 114 minutes, or 12.5 orbits per day.
  • Built in less than three months as a response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I in October 1957.

Sixty-one years ago, Explorer I was instrumental in the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt. Originally scheduled to launch Jan. 28, a jet-stream-related issue postponed it for three days. With an original expected lifetime of three years, Explorer I made its final transmission on May 23, 1958, but remained in orbit for more than 12 years, re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere on March 31, 1970.

Be sure to check back on April 24 when we highlight the Hubble telescope.

Upcoming anniversaries
April 24: Hubble telescope
June 10: Mars Rover – Spirit
July 10: Telstar
July 16: Apollo 11
July 27: Mariner 2
Aug. 5: Juno
Sept. 5: Voyager I and II
Oct. 1: NASA’s 61st birthday
Nov. 5: Mars orbiter mission
Nov. 20: International Space Station

Additional resources