Steve Durst, SU 4379
The Explorer I satellite is launched into Earth orbit at 10:48 pm EST, LC-26, at Cape Canaveral Missile Annex, Florida. The cover above is a bona fide space cover in that the satellite orbited over Summers, Arkansas, the evening (PM) of January 31, 1958, the cancelation date on this Explorer I cover.
Similar to the cover above, the Vanguard I satellite rockets into Earth orbit from LC-18A, at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The cover also is an authentic space cover in this early period as it orbited over Summers, Arkansas, the evening (PM) of March 17, 1958, the cancellation date on this additional example, a Vanguard I cover.
Space Cover #129: Early Arkansas Space Covers? Really?
When you think about finding an early, great space cover, you would probably check covers mailed from the Kennedy Space Center, or the Космодром Байконур (Baikonur Cosmodrome). Recently at the Baltimore Philatelic Society's annual stamp show in Baltimore, Maryland, September 2-4, 2011, I found two interesting early space covers from Summers, Arkansas. While not usually in the mainstream of locations that would tweek my interest in Arkansas as a venue for finding early U.S. space covers, this time I took a closer, second look.
The first cover for Explorer I was canceled January 31, 1958, PM, Summers, Arkansas, and the cover cachet really gives the cover away, providing this information. "This cover commemorates the launching of the satellite Explorer I. The illustration below was copied from a picture shown on a TV screen on the night of the launching. This satellite was launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla., January 31, 1958."
The second cover found at the stamp show is similar, but canceled March 17, 1958, PM, Summers, Arkansas. The cover cachet, states this information. "Today, March 17, 1958, the United States launched Vanguard I, the first of that class. Shown above is a hand-drawn copy from a TV picture." The cover is for the launch of Vanguard I, but very much like the earlier Explorer I cover in appearance, cachet, and the satellite in the cachet is drawn from its likeness as seen on television.
So, if you are lucky enough to find one of these Summers, Arkansas, covers, you might want to take a closer, second look. They are the not too distant prototypes of the present space covers that we have learned to know and love. And, the covers are legitimate space covers in their own right at the dawn of the Space Age when early satellites for both the Explorer program and the Vanguard program were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, into Earth orbit and crossed over Summers, Arkansas, in early 1958. The Summers, Arkansas, space covers are legitimate space covers and very worthy of collecting for one's space cover collection. I don't know who made the covers or what additional covers were made for later satellite missions. If the readers of this "Space Cover of the Week" posting know, please feel free to add this information as a reply to this week's offering. As a footnote, a year or so before this, I had found an earlier Summers, Arkansas, cover for the launch of Sputnik I, and canceled October 4, 1957, on the USSR's satellite orbit date over the U.S. If you see a Summers, Arkansas, space cover, take the time to take a closer, second look. You're looking at a great, early U.S. space cover!