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Author Topic:   Juno 1/Explorer I satellite anniversaries
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 38776
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-30-2008 01:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
45th Space Wing release
Fantastic four remember Explorer 1 launch on 50th Anniversary of vital mission

When George Bernard Shaw said, "Youth is wasted on the young...," he obviously hadn't met or envisioned twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings like Norm Perry, Terry Greenfield, Ike Rigell and John Meisenheimer. All four were youthful contributors to the dynamic launch team, which on Jan. 31, 1958 launched Explorer 1 — America's first satellite.

"We were a young bunch back then," said Ike Rigell, now 85. He worked the launch from inside the blockhouse at Launch Complex 26 and was in charge of the electrical network system. Mr. Rigell believes the average age of launch team members was late twenties. "When you're young you have the attitude, 'I can do it.' We all had great confidence in each other and worked as a team... and we did it."

Above: Explorer 1 veterans (from left) Ike Rigell, Terry Greenfield, Norm Perry and John Meisenheimer Sr. reminisce recently inside the original blockhouse at Launch Complex 26 at Cape Canaveral AFS.

What they did was catapult America into the Space Age by successfully launching the modified U.S. Army Redstone ballistic missile (Jupiter-C rocket) that carried the small Explorer 1 satellite into orbit.

Given that the Soviets had beaten America into space with the launches of two Sputnik satellites in 1957, many across the globe felt America was losing the space race - including military and civilian personnel at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex. John Meiseheimer, Sr., now 74, was an Air Force lieutenant serving as a meteorologist with Det. 11, 4th Weather Group at Patrick. He was the launch weather officer for the mission.

"Everybody down here was quite upset about Sputnik," said Dr. Meisenheimer, who went on to earn a PhD in chemistry after leaving the Air Force. "The Soviets were ahead of us, but starting with Explorer 1, we caught up very, very fast and surpassed them."

On the night of the launch then-Lt. Meisenheimer provided weather forecasts to the launch management team throughout the countdown. After issuing the final forecast, he went up to the roof of the Central Control Building to watch the launch, which happened at 10:48 p.m.

"I remember it being a clear night because I could see the top of the vehicle spinning," he said. "It was a beautiful launch. To some extent, I realized I was part of history. That was the night America got into the Space Age."

Approximately two hours after launch, it was confirmed that Explorer 1 had successfully completed its first orbit around the earth.

Word of that milestone spread like wildfire across America. Norm Perry, 74, helped build and test the rocket as employee with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Ala. He said celebrations broke out in the streets of Huntsville once they heard about the successful orbit. But Mr. Perry regretted not being at the launch site. "It was like building a race car and not being able to go to Daytona to see it go," he said.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case for Mr. Greenfield, 77. He operated the cluster control panel inside the blockhouse — not very far from the fueled rocket on the launch pad. He, too, worked for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. "I wasn't worried about being so close to the pad in that blockhouse. We knew the rocket was going to work. The Redstone was the most reliable rocket we had in those days," he said. "This launch was all over the newspapers. It marked the resetting of America's commitment to space."

Added Mr. Rigell, "You couldn't get tired of hearing the breaking news that we had a satellite in orbit. The nation reacted with exuberance."

Like all of the veterans of the Explorer 1 launch team, Dr. Meisenheimer looks back fondly on that mission and the "old days" at Cape Canaveral AFS. "It was a very exciting time and place to be. The people I worked with and the things we accomplished were amazing. The experiences from that time of my life in the military toughened me up mentally and prepared me to handle anything in life," he said. "I still can't believe how far along the technology used to forecast the weather and launch rockets has come. But, I guess 50 years is a long time."

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 38776
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-30-2008 02:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Montana State University release
MSU students build satellite for 50th anniversary of Explorer 1

Montana State University students who only know about the Cold War from history books plan to launch a satellite later this year to commemorate the country's first successful satellite.

Explorer-1 was launched 50 years ago, on Jan. 31, 1958, after the Soviets sent up Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957. The U.S. satellite discovered the Van Allen Radiation Belt around Earth, a find said to be the first major scientific discovery of the space age.

Above: Cory Wiltshire holds part of a satellite under construction recently at MSU. Pictured in the background, from left, are Scott Kratochvil, Celena Byers, Nick Moholt, David Racek and Danny Jacobs.

MSU students from a variety of disciplines have been building a namesake of Explorer-1 for about three years. They hope to launch the Explorer-1 (Prime) in December, said David Klumpar, director of MSU's Space Science and Engineering Lab. He added that the satellite will probably launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and collect information for four months. Ham operators from all over the world should be able to track it as it orbits about 440 miles above them, making one loop around the Earth every 90 minutes.

"It's just a fantastic opportunity for the students to apply their basic engineering and science and mathematics skills to a sophisticated practical project where they have to work together, bringing all their individual capabilities together to solve a complex problem," Klumpar said.

Project manager Danny Jacobs said, "The main goals of the mission are education, outreach and historical context."

It's also to encourage a new generation of space scientists.

"All those people are old now," Jacobs said of the scientists inspired by Explorer-1. "If they were 10 years old then, they are in their 60s and approaching retirement. They are extremely knowledgeable, but they are fading away. There hasn't been nearly as much interest in space and those accomplishments since then."

Klumpar said he worked on space projects while studying for his bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Iowa and wanted to make such opportunities available to MSU students. Klumpar took classes from the late James Van Allen and worked in his lab. The Van Allen Radiation Belt is named after the Iowa physicist who directed the design and creation of instruments on Explorer-1.

"When I came here to Montana State, it was because of that opportunity that I had been given as an undergraduate that I felt like I wanted to share and give the current generation of students that same opportunity," Klumpar said.

Explorer-1 (Prime) is being built by the Space Science and Engineering Lab and its students for the Montana Space Grant Consortium. The satellite -- an aluminum cube that measures about four inches per side -- will hold instruments to detect radiation and a power supply to run those instruments. It will also contain one of the original Van Allen Geiger tubes that Van Allen provided MSU a few months before he died.

"It's an enormous resume builder," Jacobs commented. "People that leave SSEL with more than one year of experience have had more success than I would have imagined."

Former students who worked on the project have gone on to work for NASA or aerospace companies. Others are in graduate school or work for small engineering firms in Montana.

Once the satellite is completed, it will go to California Polytechnic State University where it will be placed in a container with two other satellites the same size, Jacobs said. The container will then be mounted on a rocket and launched into space above the Earth's atmosphere.

The original Explorer-1 contained a cosmic ray detector, radio transmitter, and temperature and micrometeroite sensors. While orbiting the earth, the satellite encountered a band of radiation that was so strong that it saturated the satellite's instruments, Jacobs said. Only later did the scientists realize the significance of the band and called it the Van Allen Radiation Belt. The belt is made of energetic charged particles held in place by the earth's magnetic field.

"That was a huge milestone for the American space race and understanding the connection between the sun and the Earth," Jacobs said. "Particles trapped in the Van Allen Radiation Belt could have been coming from the sun or Earth. It turns out they were coming from a combination of the two. These particles are one of the main hazards to space flight. Luckily, we learned about them early."

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 38776
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-31-2008 02:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology release
Explorer I Resolution Introduced to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of the Birth of the U.S. Space Program

January 31, 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. satellite — Explorer I — and the dawn of the U.S. space program. Leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology marked that anniversary with the introduction of a U.S. House Resolution late yesterday remembering the landmark day and the remarkable advances the U.S. space program has yielded.

Resolution author Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics was joined by cosponsors Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL) and Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX) in introducing the commemorative measure.

Moreover, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the House Science and Technology Committee, which was also established in 1958 as a response to the Soviet Sputnik satellite launch. It was then the first new permanent House committee since 1892. Initially the Committee was focused on space exploration and efforts like Explorer I, but over time the jurisdiction expanded to include almost all non-defense federal scientific research and development.

As noted by Rep. Udall in his introduction of the Explorer I resolution, "On January 31, 1958, the U.S. successfully launched its first satellite into space and began a 50 year journey of exploration and achievement in space that continues to this day. Yet the launch of Explorer I was not just a 'photo-op.' Explorer I carried a scientific package that included a cosmic ray detector and marked the first ever use of a satellite to carry out scientific research in outer space. Because of that detector, developed by Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa, the United States made a significant discovery about the Earth's environment — namely, the discovery of regions of energetic charged particles trapped in the Earth's magnetic field — later referred to as the Van Allen radiation belts."

Explorer I was also the first in a succession of small scientific spacecraft that continue to be an integral component of the U.S. space science program and an invaluable training ground for young scientists and engineers. Rep. Udall and Committee leaders extended their thanks and appreciation for the contributions of the late Dr. James Van Allen and his team — as well as those of the individuals at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency who made possible the success of Explorer I and ushered in the birth of our space program.

"I'm pleased to be an original cosponsor of this resolution," added Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). "Our space program is one of the crown jewels of the nation's R&D enterprise, and we need to work hard to ensure that the next 50 years of America's efforts in space will continue to deliver significant benefits to our citizens, inspire our young people, and push back the frontiers of our knowledge."

"I think that America's space program has been a vital contributor to the nation's well being and standing in the world, as well as to significant scientific and technological advances over the last five decades. It is fitting and proper that we pause to celebrate and honor the anniversary of Explorer I and the birth of the U.S. space program — and to rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of a robust and vital space program over the next fifty years," concluded Rep. Udall.


Posts: 3146
From: San Diego
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 01-31-2008 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The San Diego Air & Space Museum's Education Specialist, Marketing and Development Coordinator, and Head Archivist in a moment of deep academic reflection at the historical moment of the Explorer 1 50th Anniversary.


And Happy 50th, America's space program!

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 2560
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 02-01-2008 08:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Cape Air Force Station, including launch complex 26A, "was officially declared a historic aerospace site by the AIAA on Jan. 31, 2008. There was an official ceremony held at the launch site of Explorer 1 with about 100 people in attendance.

Speakers for the noon ceremony were Jim Banke, secretary of the USAF Space & Missile Museum Foundation, B/Gen. Susan Helms, a former shuttle astronaut, now commander of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, and M/Gen. Robert Dickman, Ret., executive director of the AIAA. The invitation-only ceremony included original launch team members of Missile #29/Explorer 1 from the ABMA, JPL, and a few other participating agencies and companies.

There was an unveiling of a special plaque that would later be placed near the complex blockhouse. It was an exciting day, perfect weather for the all-around open house on the pad grounds, with lunch served after the ceremony.

I was able to meet for the first time with members of the original Army team that put America into orbit on this special golden anniversary day, along with others that I have not seen in quite a while.

Earlier, in the morning, the pioneers were treated to a special tour of the Cape that ended with a banquet dinner in their honor that evening.

Joe Frasketi

Posts: 191
From: Florida USA
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 02-06-2008 09:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Probably the majority of cS members weren't around in January 1958.

I not only remember it but I was fortunate to have participated in tracking it. I was stationed at one of the Atlantic Missile Range stations called Grand Turk (the island which later became famous with the splashdown of John Glenn in nearby waters, but thats another story). I was working in telemetry manning the bank of radio receivers. Details about tracking preparations for the launch escapes me due to failing memory (and no notes), but after the disappointing failure of the Vanguard satellite in Dec of 1957, our tracking group was elated to say the least when Explorer 1 got off the ground and we tracked it into orbit.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 38776
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-07-2008 04:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology release
Resolution Commemorating 50th Anniversary of Explorer I Among Three S&T Bills Passed by House

A bipartisan House resolution marking the 50th anniversary of the launch of the United States' Explorer I satellite - the world's first scientific spacecraft - passed the House of Representatives today along with two other Committee on Science and Technology resolutions.

On January 31, 1958, the U.S. successfully launched Explorer 1, the first satellite into space. That day marked the beginning of the U.S. space program. Fifty years later, leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology joined to remember the landmark day and celebrate the remarkable advances the U.S. space program has yielded in the five decades since the launch of Explorer 1.

That effort, via H. Con. Res. 287, was shepherded by Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO). Udall was joined by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL) and Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX) in cosponsoring the commemorative resolution.

"As we pause to recognize the American space program and all that has been accomplished over the past five decades since Explorer I, we cannot help but acknowledge the countless ways it has benefited our nation. A healthy and active space program breeds innovation and strengthens the scientific, technological, and engineering foundation that is crucial to our economic growth and global competitiveness," said Rep. Udall. "We must make a commitment to continue to invest in our space program so that we can look forward to another fifty years of U.S. achievements in space exploration and continued leadership in science and technology."

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 38776
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-30-2018 10:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
60 Years Ago: Explorer 1 Becomes America's First Satellite

The year 1958 held much promise for the United States space program. Both the US and the Soviet Union were preparing to orbit a satellite as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), a series of activities planned between July 1957 and December 1958, intended to allow scientists around the world to study the Earth and space through coordinated observations. Given the Cold War competition between the two superpowers, the first to launch a satellite could claim technological pre-eminence. The Soviet Union leaped ahead of the US and stunned the world when they orbited Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, on October 4, 1957.

The US response to Sputnik was two-fold. The first was to accelerate the Vanguard program, a joint National Academy of Sciences/US Naval Research Laboratory project, which unfortunately resulted in the spectacular and embarrassing launch failure of Vanguard TV3 on December 6. By that time, the Soviets had already achieved their second success with Sputnik 2, carrying a dog named Layka, the first live animal in space.

The second response was to resurrect the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Jupiter-C rocket program, which had involved Wernher Von Braun's team and the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) testing reentry vehicles in sub-orbital launches. JPL designed and built the Explorer satellite. The ABMA and JPL completed the job of modifying the Jupiter-C to the Juno rocket and building Explorer 1 in 84 days, and it was hoped that 1958 would start off much better than 1957 had ended.

The Juno rocket could trace its ancestry back to the German V-2 rocket, which Von Braun had also designed. Once working in the US after World War II, he used the V-2 to develop the Redstone intermediate range ballistic missile, from which he developed the Jupiter-C as a high-performance three-stage rocket. The addition of a fourth stage created the Juno rocket, capable of launching a satellite into orbit.

Explorer 1 successfully launched from Cape Canaveral's Pad 26 on January 31, 1958. A team of women mathematicians at JPL computed Explorer's trajectory and were able to confirm that it was indeed in orbit around the Earth, although its orbit of 224 miles by 1,575 miles was somewhat higher than planned.

Explorer 1 weighed 30 pounds of which more than 18 pounds were scientific instruments developed under the direction of James Van Allen of the University of Iowa. The instrumentation consisted of a cosmic-ray detector, five temperature sensors and two micrometeoroid detectors. The cosmic ray detector indicated a much lower cosmic ray count than expected. Van Allen postulated that the instrument was giving these readings because it was actually saturated by energetic charged particles originating mainly in the Sun and trapped by Earth's magnetic field. Explorer 1's discovery of these trapped radiation belts, subsequently named after Van Allen, is considered one of the outstanding scientific discoveries of the IGY.

Explorer 1 continued to record and transmit data until its batteries died on May 23, 1958. By then it had been joined in orbit by Explorer 3, also launched on a Juno rocket on March 26 (Explorer 2 failed at launch). Although no longer active, Explorer 1 remained in orbit until March 31, 1970, when it burned up on reentry over the Pacific Ocean. It was not only America's first satellite in orbit, but also the first of a long-running series of scientific satellites that returned a wealth of useful information about the Earth, its environment, and interactions with the Sun.

The competition between two separate groups to independently develop and orbit the first American satellite contributed to the recognition for the need of a single civilian space organization to plan future efforts. Following lengthy committee hearings, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 on July 16, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it July 29, establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA officially began operating on October 1, 1958.

A fully-instrumented flight backup of Explorer 1 is on display at the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery, as is a model of a Juno rocket. A mockup of a Juno rocket is on display at Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center.

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