Naval Research Laboratory
Space Technology Milestones

6/1/1998 - mile-st
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1951 - First radio signals reflected off the moon (world's largest parabolic antenna used as a first step toward satellite communications)

1954 - First voice transmission made over the moon radio circuit

1956 - First radio communications using the moon as a passive relay station

1955 - Project Vanguard, the first solar-powered satellite, established at NRL

1958 - First satellite-surveillance system (Minitrack) placed in operation

1958 - First determination of the density of the upper atmosphere by Minitrack observations of U.S. and Soviet satellites

1958 - Thermal-equilibrium problems of space satellites solved

1958 - Placed Vanguard I in Earth orbit

1959 - World's first satellite-communication system put into operation

1959 - Development of automatic-data-reduction equipment for satellites

1960 - Launch of the first orbiting-solar-observatory satellite, Solar Radiation I

1960 - First payload of multiple satellites placed in orbit by single launch vehicle

1962 - First successful communications relay from shore to ship by using the Moon's surface as a passive relay

1963 - First completely automatic computation system developed for satellite-surveillance systems

1964 - Development of the first practical hydrogen-maser radio-frequency standard

1965 - Moon radar system placed in operation

1967 - NRL Timation I satellite placed in orbit (forerunner of the GPS navigation system)

1970 - First time transfer via satellite

1974 - Activation of the world's first orbiting rubidium-vapor atomic oscillator (TIMATION III Satellite)

1982 - Portable satellite communications antenna developed

1983 - NRL plays major role in the upgrade of the NAVSPASUR System (originally based on the NRL Minitrack System)

1983 - First successful launch of the the LiPS research satellites, which were developed from launch vehicle protective shields usually jettisoned in space

1984 - NRL gyrodynamic motion simulator developed to aid in spacecraft design

1986 - Development of first star tracker to be radiation hardened to greater than 100 kilorads

1990 - Launch and operation of the SDIO-sponsored (LACE) satellite in support of two Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (then SDIO) experiments

1994 - Launch of the NRL-developed Deep Space Program Science Experiment (DSPSE), also known as Clementine 1, on January 25 as the first unmanned lunar mission in 25 years

1995 - Development of a mission planning and analysis tool for Earth-orbiting satellites called OATS

1995 - Demonstration of a key design advance in clock technology for use in future GPS satellites, providing reduced or eliminated error sources and control instability.

1996 - Deployment of the Tether Physics and Survivability (TiPS) experiment satellite to research the gravity-gradient dynamics and survivability of a tethered system in space

1997 - Revamping of the NRL-developed Titan Launch Dispenser to the Interim Control Module for NASA's International Space Station

1998 - NRL's Naval Center for Space Technology named to U.S. Space Foundation's Space Technology Hall of Fame

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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of nearly 2,800 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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