The Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WIRE) was a two-color, solid hydrogen-cooled, infrared imaging telescope designed to study starburst galaxies and to search for protogalaxies. The science goals of WIRE were to: (1) determine what fraction of the luminosity of the universe at a redshift of >0.5 is due to starburst galaxies; (2) assess how fast and in what ways starburst galaxies evolve; and, (3) examine whether luminous protogalaxies are common at redshifts <3. In order to accomplish these goals, WIRE was to conduct a four month survey at 12 and 25 micrometers over an area of between ten and several hundred square degrees of the sky.
The WIRE telescope itself had an entrace aperture of 30 cm and a 32 x 32 arc-minute field of view. It was of a Ritchey-Chretien design with no moving parts and no reimaging optics.
Shortly after launch, while the spacecraft was still tumbling early after orbit insertion, the telescope cover came off prematurely. This resulted in the exposure of the cryogenic materials to light, warming them at a high rate causing outgassing and increasing the rate of spin of the spacecraft beyond the ability of the reaction wheels to slow it. Although ground controllers began work to decrease the excess spin of the spacecraft, they were not able to do so in time to prevent the total loss of the frozen hydrogen used to cool the primary science instrument. Attempts to recover control of the spacecraft were successful, though as a result of the coolant loss no science data were obtainable.
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