The Info List - Project Vanguard

--- Advertisement ---

Project Vanguard
Project Vanguard
was a program managed by the United States
United States
Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), which intended to launch the first artificial satellite into Earth
orbit using a Vanguard rocket[1] as the launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Missile Annex, Florida. In response to the surprise launch of Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
on October 4, 1957, the U.S. restarted the Explorer program, which had been proposed earlier by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency
Army Ballistic Missile Agency
(ABMA). Privately, however, the CIA and President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
were aware of progress being made by the Soviets on Sputnik from secret spy plane imagery.[2] Together with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL), ABMA built Explorer 1
Explorer 1
and launched it on January 31, 1958. Before work was completed, however, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
launched a second satellite, Sputnik 2, on November 3, 1957. Meanwhile, the spectacular televised failure of Vanguard TV3
Vanguard TV3
on December 6, 1957 deepened American dismay over the country's position in the Space Race. On March 17, 1958, Vanguard 1
Vanguard 1
became the second artificial satellite successfully placed in Earth
orbit by the United States. It was the first solar-powered satellite. Just 152 mm (6.0 in) in diameter and weighing just 1.4 kg (3.1 lb), Vanguard 1
Vanguard 1
was described by then- Soviet Premier
Soviet Premier
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
as, "The grapefruit satellite."[3] Vanguard 1, and the upper stage of its launch rocket, are the oldest artificial satellites still in space, as Vanguard's predecessors, Sputnik 1, Sputnik 2, and Explorer 1, have decayed from orbit.


1 Project history

1.1 The three services' proposals

2 The Navy's project

2.1 Sputnik and Explorer 1

3 Accomplishments 4 Launch history 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References 8 External links

Project history[edit] In the early 1950s, the American Rocket Society set up an ad hoc Committee on Space Flight, of which Milton W. Rosen, NRL project manager for the Viking rocket, became chair. Encouraged by conversations between Richard W. Porter of General Electric
General Electric
and Alan T. Waterman, Director of the National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
(NSF), Rosen on November 27, 1954 completed a report describing the potential value of launching an earth satellite. The report was submitted to the NSF early in 1955.[4] As part of planning for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) (1957–1958), the U.S. publicly undertook to place an artificial satellite with a scientific experiment into orbit around the Earth. The three services' proposals[edit] Proposals to do this were presented by the United States
United States
Air Force (USAF), the United States
United States
Army, and the United States
United States
Navy. The Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under Dr. Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
had suggested using a modified Redstone rocket (see: Juno I) while the Air Force had proposed using the Atlas rocket, which did not yet exist. The Navy proposed designing a rocket system based on the Viking and Aerobee rocket
Aerobee rocket
systems. The Air Force proposal was not seriously considered, as Atlas development was years behind the other vehicles. Among other limitations, the Army submission focused on the vehicle, while a payload was assumed to become available from JPL, and the network of ground tracking stations was assumed to be a Navy project. Meanwhile, the NRL proposal detailed all three aspects of the mission.[5] The Navy's project[edit] In August 1955, the US DOD Committee on Special
Capabilities chose the Navy's proposal as it appeared most likely, by spring 1958, to fulfill the following:[6]

Place a satellite in orbit during the International Geophysical Year. Accomplish a scientific experiment in orbit. Track the satellite and ensure its attainment of orbit.

Another consideration was that the Navy proposal used civilian sounding rockets rather than military missiles, which were considered inappropriate for peaceful scientific exploration. What went unstated at the time was that the U.S. already had a covert satellite program underway, WS-117, which was developing the ability to launch spy satellites using USAF Thor IRBMs. The US government was concerned that the Soviets would object to military satellites overflying the Soviet Union as they had to various aircraft incursions and the balloons of the Genetrix project. The idea was that if a clearly "civilian" and "scientific" satellite went up first, the Soviets might not object, and thus the precedent would be established that space was above national boundaries.[7] Designated Project Vanguard, the program was placed under Navy management and DoD monitorship. The Naval Research Laboratory
Naval Research Laboratory
(NRL) in Washington was given overall responsibility, while initial funding came from the National Science
Foundation. The director was John P. Hagen (1908–1990), an astronomer who in 1958 would become the assistant director of space flight development with the formation of NASA.[8] After a delay due to the NRL changing the shape of the satellite from a conical shape,[9] the initial 1.4 kg spherical Vanguard satellites were built at the NRL, and contained as their payload seven mercury cell batteries in a hermetically sealed container, two tracking radio transmitters, a temperature sensitive crystal, and six clusters of solar cells on the surface of the sphere.[10] NRL was also responsible for developing the Vanguard rocket
Vanguard rocket
launch vehicles through a contract to the Martin Company (which had built the Viking rockets), developing and installing the satellite tracking system, and designing, constructing, and testing the satellites. The tracking system was called Minitrack. The Minitrack stations, designed by NRL but subcontracted to the Army Corps of Engineers, were 14 stations[11] along a North-South line running along the east coast of North America and the west coast of South America. Minitrack was the forerunner of another NRL-developed system called NAVSPASUR, which remains operational today under the control of the Air Force and is a major producer of spacecraft tracking data.[12] Sputnik and Explorer 1[edit]

Vanguard TV3
Vanguard TV3
in previous display at the National Air and Space Museum. The antenna rods should extend radially from the body of the satellite, but are bent as a result of damage sustained in the launch failure.

Vanguard rocket
Vanguard rocket
explodes seconds after launch at Cape Canaveral (December 6, 1957).

The original schedule called for the TV3 to be launched during the month of September 1957, but because of delays this did not happen.[13] On October 4, 1957, the Vanguard team learned of the launch of Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
by the USSR while still working on a test vehicle (TV-2) designed to test the first stage of their launcher rocket. While demoralizing to the Vanguard team, Minitrack was successful in tracking Sputnik, a major success for NRL.[14] At 11:44:35 a.m. on December 6, an attempt was made to launch TV-3. The Vanguard rocket rose about four feet (1.2 m) into the air when the engine lost thrust, and the rocket immediately sank back down to the launch pad and exploded. The payload nosecone detached and landed free of the exploding rocket, the small satellite's radio beacon still beeping.[15][16] The satellite was too damaged for further use; it now resides in the National Air and Space Museum. The failure was widely and creatively derided in the press, being called a "kaputnik" in the Daily Express, a "flopnik" in the Daily Herald, a "puffnik" in the Daily Mail and a "stayputnik" in the News Chronicle.[17] After the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
launched Sputnik 2, on November 3, 1957, then Secretary of Defense Neil H. McElroy
Neil H. McElroy
directed the U.S. Army to use the Juno I
Juno I
and launch a satellite.[18] On January 31, 1958, the U.S. Army launched the Explorer 1
Explorer 1
satellite. With the launch of Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
and 2 the previous concern, the right of satellite overflight, had become moot: those satellites were launched by an early version of the Soviet R-7 rocket, the basis of the USSR's early ICBMs, and definitely military, as well as roughly 40 times larger than the Vanguard launcher. On March 17, 1958, the program successfully launched the Vanguard satellite TV-4. TV-4 achieved a stable orbit with an apogee of 3,969 kilometers (2,466 miles) and a perigee of 650 kilometers (400 miles). It was estimated that it would remain in orbit for at least 240 years, and it was renamed Vanguard I, which in addition to its upper launch stage remains the oldest human-made satellite still in orbit. In late 1958, with responsibility for Project Vanguard
Project Vanguard
having been transferred to NASA, the nucleus of the Goddard Space Flight Center was formed. After 4 failed orbits, the program once again succeeded with SLV-4, renamed Vanguard II.[19] After two more failures, the program ended with the launch of Vanguard III in 1959. Accomplishments[edit] Despite being overshadowed by Sputnik, and having to overcome the widespread humiliation of its unsuccessful early attempts, the Vanguard Project eventually met its scientific objectives, providing a wealth of information on the size and shape of the Earth, air density, temperature ranges, and micrometeorite impact.[20] The Vanguard 1 radio continued to transmit until 1964, and tracking data obtained with this satellite revealed that Earth
is not quite a perfect sphere: it is slightly pear-shaped, elevated at the North Pole
North Pole
and flattened at the South Pole. It corrected ideas about the atmosphere's density at high altitudes and improved the accuracy of world maps. The Vanguard program was transferred to NASA
when that agency was created in mid-1958. The Vanguard " Satellite
Launch Vehicle", a term invented for the operational SLV rockets as opposed to the Test Vehicle TV versions, was a much smaller and lighter launcher than the Redstone-based Jupiter-C/ Juno 1
Juno 1
rocket which launched the Explorer satellites, or the immense R-7 that the Soviets used to launch the early Sputniks. NRL space scientists say that the Vanguard 1
Vanguard 1
program introduced much of the technology that has since been applied in later U.S. satellite programs, from rocket launching to satellite tracking. For example, it validated in flight that solar cells could be used for several years to power radio transmitters. Vanguard's solar cells operated for about seven years, while conventional batteries used to power another on-board transmitter lasted only 20 days. Although Vanguard's solar-powered "voice" became silent in 1964, it continues to serve the scientific community. Ground-based optical tracking of the now-inert Vanguards continues to provide information about the effects of the Sun, Moon and atmosphere on satellite orbits. Vanguard I marked its 50th year in space on March 17, 2008.[21] In the years following its launch, the small satellite has made more than 196,990 revolutions of the earth and traveled 5.7 billion nautical miles, the distance from Earth
to beyond the dwarf planet Pluto
and halfway back. Original estimates had the orbit lasting for 2000 years, but it was discovered that solar radiation pressure and atmospheric drag during high levels of solar activity produced significant perturbations in the perigee height of the satellite, which caused a significant decrease in its expected lifetime to only about 240 years.[22] Launch history[edit]

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (December 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Test vehicle launches

The first Vanguard flight, a successful suborbital test of the Vanguard TV0
Vanguard TV0
single-stage vehicle, was launched on December 8, 1956. On May 1, 1957, the two-stage test vehicle TV-1 was successfully launched. Vanguard TV-2, another successful suborbital test, was launched October 23, 1957. The Vanguard rocket
Vanguard rocket
launched three satellites out of eleven launch attempts:

Vanguard TV3
Vanguard TV3
- December 6, 1957 - Failed to orbit 1.36 kg (3 lb) satellite - low tank pressure caused engine cutoff T+2 seconds Vanguard TV3
Vanguard TV3
Backup - February 5, 1958 - Failed to orbit 1.36 kg (3.0 lb) satellite - control failure caused vehicle breakup T+55 seconds Vanguard 1
Vanguard 1
- March 17, 1958 - Orbited 1.47 kg (3.2 lb) satellite Vanguard TV5
Vanguard TV5
- April 28, 1958 - Failed to orbit 9.98 kg (22.0 lb) satellite - 3rd stage separation failure Vanguard SLV-1
Vanguard SLV-1
- May 27, 1958 - Failed to orbit 9.98 kg (22.0 lb) satellite - 2nd stage attitude control failure prevented the 3rd stage from entering the correct angle for orbital insertion Vanguard SLV 2 - June 26, 1958 - Failed to orbit 9.98 kg (22.0 lb) satellite - 2nd stage lost thrust after only 8 seconds of burning due to fuel line obstruction Vanguard SLV 3 - September 26, 1958 - Failed to orbit 9.98 kg (22.0 lb) satellite - 2nd stage insufficient thrust for orbital insertion due to fuel line obstruction Vanguard 2
Vanguard 2
- February 17, 1959 - Orbited 10.8 kg (24 lb) satellite Vanguard SLV 5 - April 13, 1959 - Failed to orbit 10.3 kg (23 lb) 11 oz) satellite - 2nd stage hydraulics failure led to loss of control Vanguard SLV 6 - June 22, 1959 - Failed to orbit 10.3 kg (22 lb 11 oz) satellite - 2nd stage exploded due to stuck helium vent valve Vanguard 3
Vanguard 3
- September 18, 1959 - Orbited 22.7 kg (50 lb) satellite

See also[edit]

Vanguard rocket Explorer program Sputnik program Sputnik crisis


^ "The Vanguard Satellite
Launching Vehicle — An Engineering Summary". B. Klawans. April 1960, 212 pages. Martin Company Engineering Report No 11022, PDF of an optical copy. ^ PBS.org - NOVA:Sputnik Declassified ^ "Vanguard I - the World's Oldest Satellite
Still in Orbit". Spacecraft Engineering Department, U.S. Navy. Archived from the original on 2008-09-19.  ^ Vanguard — A History, Chapter 1. Constance M. Green and Milton Lomask, NASA
SP-4202. NASA
Historical Reference Collection, NASA History Office, NASA
Headquarters, Washington, DC. and http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4202/begin.html ^ Green & Lomask, 1970 loc cit, Chapter 3 ^ "Stand By Satellite
For Take Off." Popular Mechanics, July 1957, pp.65-69/216 ^ McDougall, Walter A., (1985) ... the Heavens and the Earth ^ "John P. Hagen". NASA. Retrieved 2012-12-05.  ^ Bille, Matt; Lishok, Erika (2003). "Setting the Record Straight". Proceedings of the 41st AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit: 5.  ^ "Stand By Satellite
For Take Off." Popular Mechanics, July 1957, p.67 ^ Bille, Matt; Lishok, Erika (2003). "Setting the Record Straight". Proceedings of the 41st AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit: 3.  ^ "Stand By Satellite
For Take Off." Popular Mechanics, July 1957, pp.68-70 ^ "Stand By Satellite
For Take Off." Popular Mechanics, July 1957, p.66 ^ Green, Constance McLaughlin; Lomask, Milton. "Vanguard: A History". NASA
History. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 28 April 2015.  ^ Stehling, Kurt (1961) Project Vanguard ^ Ley, Willy (October 1968). "The Orbit
of Explorer-1". For Your Information. Galaxy Science
Fiction. pp. 93–102.  ^ "Sputnik - Word Origin & History". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 27 January 2011.  ^ http://history.redstone.army.mil/space-explorer.html ^ Green, Constance McLaughlin; Lomask, Milton. "Vanguard: A History". NASA
History. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 28 April 2015.  ^ Bille, Matt; Lishok, Erika (2003). "Setting the Record Straight". Proceedings of the 41st AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit: 10.  ^ "Public Affairs Office - U.S. Naval Research Laboratory".  ^ " NASA
- NSSDCA - Spacecraft - Details". 


Vanguard a History, Constance Green and Milton Lomask, NASA
SP-4202, Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., 1970 Project Vanguard, Kurt Stehling, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, NY, 1961 Nova - Sputnik Declassified, Ref:Paul Dickson, Author - Sputnik: The Shock of the Century Vanguard a History, Constance Green and Milton Lomask, NASA
SP-4202, Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., 1970 McDougall, Walter A. (1985). ... Walter A. Garden City, New York: Basic Books NY. pp. 119–124.  Stehling, Kurt R. (1961). Project Vanguard. Boston: Doubleday & Company. pp. 17–25. 

External links[edit]

Vanguard - A History ( NASA
SP-4202, 1970) online book NASA
History Series Publications (many of which are on-line) NOVA - Sputnik Declassified - PBS.org

v t e

Project Vanguard


TV-0 TV-1 TV-2 TV-3 TV-3BU TV-4 TV-5 SLV-1 SLV-2 SLV-3 SLV-4 SLV-5 SLV-6 SLV-7


Vanguard 1 Vanguard 2 Vanguard 3

v t e

Orbital meteorological and remote sensing systems


observation satellite Geographic information system
Geographic information system
(GIS) Weather satellite

Current projects

Observing System (EOS)

GPM TRMM Landsat 7 QuikSCAT Terra ACRIMSAT NMP/EO-1 Jason-1 OSTM/Jason-2 Jason-3 Meteor 3M-1/Sage III GRACE Aqua SORCE Aura CloudSat CALIPSO NPOESS Megha-Tropiques SARAL IRS ESSP Aquarius Landsat 8 SMAP JPSS NISAR ICESat-2 Weather System Follow-on Microwave

A-train satellites

Aqua Aura CALIPSO CloudSat GCOM-W1 (Shizuku) OCO-2

Copernicus programme

Sentinel-1 Sentinel-2 Sentinel-3 Sentinel-4 Sentinel-5 Precursor Sentinel-5

Geostationary meteorological satellites

Elektro-L Fengyun-2 GOES INSAT Meteosat Himawari-8

Other satellites

CBERS COSMO-SkyMed DMSP DMC EROS Fengyun-3 GOSAT (Ibuki) Landsat MetOp Meteor POES RADARSAT-2 RapidEye Resurs-P SMOS SPOT TerraSAR-X THEOS

Former projects


(Midori 2) COSMIC (FORMOSAT-3) Envisat ERS FORMOSAT-1 FORMOSAT-2 Geosat GMS (Himawari) ICESat IKONOS JERS-1 (Fuyo-1) Nimbus PARASOL QuickBird RADARSAT-1 Seasat SeaWiFS TIROS TOPEX/Poseidon UARS Vanguard


OCO Glory