Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

MIDAS (Missile Defense Alarm System)





An obsolete and largely-unsuccessful system of United States military early-warning satellites launched between 1960 and 1966; it preceded the IMEWS (Integrated Missile Early Warning Satellite) program. MIDAS spacecraft were designed to detect ballistic missile launches from low Earth orbit using infrared sensors. They represented one arm of the first American spaceborne reconnaissance (spy) system that also included Discoverer and Samos.

The first MIDAS satellite, launched in February 1960, failed to reach orbit. MIDAS 2, launched in May 1960, did achieve orbit to become the first infrared reconnaissance satellite but its telemetry system failed after two days. MIDAS 3, successfully launched in Jul. 1961, also made it into orbit and was the heaviest American satellite up to that time. Altogether, there were 12 MIDAS launches deploying four different types of increasingly sophisticated sensors which paved the way for the development, launch, and use of IMEWS. Details of MIDAS became publicly available only on Nov. 30, 1998, when the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center declassified the information.


spacecraft launch date launch vehicle launch site orbit
MIDAS 1 Feb. 26, 1960 Atlas-Agena A Cape Canaveral launch failure
MIDAS 2 May 24, 1960 Atlas-Agena A Cape Canaveral 473 × 494 km × 33.0°
MIDAS 3 Jul. 12, 1961 Atlas-Agena B Vandenberg 3,343 × 3,540 km × 91.1°
MIDAS 4 Oct. 21, 1961 Atlas-Agena B Vandenberg 3,482 × 3,763 km × 95.9°
MIDAS 5 Apr. 9, 1962 Atlas-Agena B Vandenberg 2,784 × 3,405 km × 86.7°
MIDAS 6 Dec. 17, 1962 Atlas-Agena B Vandenberg launch failure
MIDAS 7 May 9, 1963 Atlas-Agena B Vandenberg 3,607 × 3,676 km × 87.3°
MIDAS 8 Jun. 13, 1963 Atlas-Agena B Vandenberg launch failure
MIDAS 9 Jul. 18, 1963 Atlas-Agena B Vandenberg 3,672 × 3,725 km × 88.4°
I. MIDAS 1 Jun. 9, 1966 Atlas-Agena D Vandenberg 154 × 3,678 km × 90.0°
I. MIDAS 2 Aug. 19, 1966 Atlas-Agena D Vandenberg 3,658 × 3,708 km × 89.7°
I. MIDAS 3 Oct. 5, 1966 Atlas-Agena D Vandenberg 3,656 × 3,721 km × 90.0°


Related categories

   • MILITARY RECONNAISSANCE AND SURVEILLANCE
   • SATELLITES AND SPACE PROBES