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The first true U.S. weather satellite was the Television and Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS), which had evolved in the late 1950s from concepts developed by the U.S. Army, the Rand Corporation, RCA Corporation, and Mr. Harry Wexler of the U.S. Weather Bureau. TIROS, an R&D program, was sponsored initially by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
When the NASA was formed in 1959, the TIROS project was transferred to NASA, and the first TIROS weather satellite was launched in April 1960. TIROS was in a polar orbit, permitting the satellite to monitor the entire surface as the earth rotated slowly beneath the orbiting satellite. TIROS was successful from its inception. The data the satellite collected were so valuable that military and civilian forecasters used the processed information, even though the program was categorized as a "research" effort. The TIROS imagery, essentially high-definition television, was processed at the U.S. Weather Bureau Meteorology Satellite Laboratory in Maryland and telefaxed to the U.S. Navy and other users. Ten first-generation TIROS satellites were launched from 1960-1965.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was formed in 1970, and their first weather satellite was launched in December 1970; the design was based on the TIROS satellites.