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TiPS 1a, 1b (Ralph, Norton)

TiPS 1a & 1b [NRL]

The TiPS (Tethers in Space Physics Satellite) satellite is a tether physics experiment consisting of two end masses connected by a 4 km non-conducting tether. The satellite was deployed on 20 June 1996 at an altitude of 1,022 kilometers.

This experiment is designed to increase knowledge about gravity-gradient tether dynamics and the survivability of tethers in space. TiPS consist of two end masses separated by a four kilometer tether. The End masses, named Ralph (1a) and Norton (1b), weigh 37.7 and 10.8 kilograms, respectively. The TiPS tether, made by AlliedSignal, is in two layers. The outer layer is Spectra 1000 braid for strength, the core is acrylic yarn which will puff the other braid out to the 2 millimeter diameter and give it a larger cross section to improve its resistance to debris and small micrometeoroids.

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

While tethers have been theoretically studied as a means for satellite stabilization, propulsion, and electricity generation for some time, TiPS is among the first successful tether deployments in space and is the first experiment designed for long duration.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Tether technology
Operator: Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)
Contractors: Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)
Equipment: ?
Configuration: 2 end bodies connected by a 4 km tether
Propulsion: None
Power: Batteries
Mass: 53 kg (total); 38 kg (#1a); 10 kg (#1b); 5.5 kg (Tether)
Orbit: 1019 × 1024 km, 63.4
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
TiPS 1a (Ralph, USA 123) 1996-029E 12.05.1996 Va SLC-4E Titan-4(03)A with SLDCOM 4, Intruder 4A, Intruder 4B, Intruder 4C
TiPS 1b (Norton, USA 124) 1996-029F 12.05.1996 Va SLC-4E Titan-4(03)A with SLDCOM 4, Intruder 4A, Intruder 4B, Intruder 4C


  • Praxis Inc. Website