In 1958 on icebreaker MS Magga Dan in the Antarctic Brian saw his first auroras with their "divine signalling" and he dreamed of putting one of those (at the time) new-fangled satellites high above one to measure both cause and effects.
In 1959 Brian became Assistant then Associate Professor of Physics with James van Allen and his team in Iowa who had built the first 4 US satellites Explorers 1,2,3 and 4 (Explorer 2 the rocket blew up, as they often did then).
In 1960 Brian discovered various exciting phenomena with Explorer 7, and Brian’s Antarctic Dream was complete in June 1961 when his little satellite Injun 1 hitch-hiked to orbit at 1,000 km. With his team of half-a-dozen youngsters, Brian built Injun 1 in less than 5 months to meet the nosecone specifications of less than 13 inches in height and less that 40 pound weight. Many long and exhilarating stories then discoveries.
Injun 1 was the first satellite to use digital telemetry, an innovation quickly adopted globally.
On 9 June 1962, the US exploded thermonuclear 1.4 Megaton Starfish device a 400km altitude. Brian’s, dear little Injun 1 survived the intense radiation contamination from the resulting artificial radiation zone, but 8 other satellites suffered such severe damage they failed. Among Brian,s other jobs with Injun 1, he had designed the solar cells and a command-receiver control of its power use, so it was the only satellite to map before and after effects of Starfish. (O'Brien et al., Nature 1962). Brian designed the solar cells to almost cover Injun 1 to control its temperature to be a little colder than normal, to help improve the signal-to-noise performance of his auroral photometer. Brian bought many cheap solar cells, cheap because they were only 6% efficiency, and already degraded, whereas the solar cells of the 8 satellites that degraded were originally 12% efficiency.
Brian also later flew several instruments he had used on Injun 1, on first GSFC satellite Explorer 12, with a highly elliptical orbit reaching out to 120,000km. Brian made the first comparisons of identical instruments with the two satellites, so that he could enjoy revolutionary discoveries. Brian changed the original world view that trapped radiation caused a "leaky bucket" phenomena with the trapped radiation being the cause of electrons with energies sufficient to cause auroras. Instead, we showed the intensities of trapped radiation were 3 orders of magnitude less. The new situation, Brian speculated, was that magnetosphere processes more than 100,000 kilometres in the Earth's magnetosphere blown away from the Sun by the solar wind supersonic plasma, energised both electrons causing auroras and a "splash" of others that became trapped.
In December 1962 Brian and his team launched the wondrous heavier Injun 3, (his team got Navy approval to double its weight because of its unique measurements of Starfish with Injun 1). Injun 3 joined little Injun 1 (the rocket for Injun 2 had blown up). There are vast stories again there. One of the most important is a heritage issue - Don Gurnett began his fabulous long career with a Very Low Frequency detector which Brian wanted to extend further into a total systems analyses of auroral phenomena. Don's skills and determination led to his plasma probes on Voyager 1 and 2 still carrying them far beyond the solar system.