Chronology Of Major Events Leading To The Launch Of Explorer I

By Cliff Lethbridge

Literally volumes of books could be written on the complete history of developments leading to the launch of Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite. It is our desire to give the reader a general perspective of the tide leading to this historic achievement.

This work is presented in diary form, and lists what may be considered some of the most influential technical and political events leading to the launch of Explorer I.

September 29, 1945 – Wernher von Braun Arrives In U.S.

The first group of German scientists, including Wernher von Braun, arrives at Fort Strong, Boston. About 130 German scientists and technical personnel had signed temporary work contracts with the Army at the close of World War II. A decision is made to station the German scientists at Fort Bliss, Texas where an Army guided missile proving ground is established.

October, 1945 – Early Navy Satellite Studies Begin

The Navy organizes the Committee for Evaluating the Feasibility of Rocketry within its Bureau of Aeronautics. The Committee recommends the development of an instrumented Earth satellite. A variety of options are considered over the next three years, but never leave the drawing board due to a lack of funding.

March 14, 1946 – V-2 Rocket Engine Test Fired For First Time In U.S.

A static test-firing of a V-2 rocket engine is conducted at the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico. This is the first static test-firing of a V-2 rocket engine on U.S. soil.

April 16, 1946 – V-2 Rocket Is Launched For First Time In U.S.

A V-2 rocket is launched from the White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico. This is the first U.S. launch of a V-2, beginning a robust series of V-2 research flights authorized under Project Hermes, a joint effort of the Army and General Electric. A total of 47 V-2 rockets in various configurations will be launched through 1952.

May 12, 1946 – Army Satellite Study Formally Presented

A report called “Preliminary Design on an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship” is presented to the Army Air Materiel Command. Prepared by the Army Air Corps in association with Project Rand (within Douglas Aircraft), North American and Northrop, the report states that a 500-pound satellite could be launched using a multi-stage version of the V-2 as early as 1951.

October 22, 1946 – German Scientists Transported To Russia

German rocket scientists and workers who had remained in Europe at the close of World War II and continued to manufacture V-2 rockets under Soviet supervision are transported by truck and train to Russia without notice.

March 15, 1947 – Soviets Step Up Ballistic Missile Research

The Soviet Union establishes a State Commission to report on the feasibility of producing long-range ballistic missiles. The State Commission recommends that the V-2 be refined and improved into a more effective weapons system.

October, 1947 – Official U.S. Satellite Analysis Authorized

The Committee on Guided Missiles of the Joint Research and Development Board is given authorization to evaluate satellite studies produced within the various branches of service. The Committee recommends that satellite development programs not be endorsed until a definite military use for satellites is determined.

October 30, 1947 – Soviets Launch Improved V-2 Rocket

The first improved Soviet version of the V-2 is launched from Kazakhstan. The vehicle continues to be refined and is eventually deployed as the Pobeda mobile missile with a range of 500 miles. Following development of the Pobeda, all German rocket scientists and workers remaining in the Soviet Union are repatriated to Germany.

January 15, 1948 – Air Force States Its Position On Satellites

Air Force Vice-Chief of Staff Hoyt S. Vandenberg states the Air Force policy regarding satellites, saying that the Air Force would only attempt to develop satellites “at the proper time”.

September 15, 1948 – Army Authorized To Begin Satellite Research

The Committee on Guided Missiles of the Joint Research and Development Board gives official authorization for the Army, as an activity under Project Hermes, to begin feasibility studies on the launching of satellites.

November, 1948 – Rand Corporation Validates Satellite Concepts

Project Rand separates from Douglas Aircraft to become the Rand Corporation. Rand Corporation immediately begins studies on the military uses of satellites, concluding that primary uses would be in the areas of surveillance, reconnaissance, communications and the psychological warfare demonstration of superior military capability.

December 29, 1948 – Public Statement On Satellite Research Made

James V. Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense, makes the first public announcement that the U.S. military has begun feasibility studies on the launching of artificial Earth satellites. The remarks are included in his “First Report of the Secretary of Defense” and report that all three branches of service are involved.

February 24, 1949 – First Man-Made Object Is Sent Into Space

Bumper #5, the fifth in a series of eight Army V-2 rockets modified to carry a WAC-Corporal second stage rocket, is launched from White Sands, New Mexico. The second stage reaches a record altitude of 244 miles, becoming the first man-made object to reach space. This was not a satellite, since the object did not orbit Earth.

October 28, 1949 – Army Missile Operations Move To Huntsville

The Army approves a plan to relocate their guided missile research and development operation from Fort Bliss to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. About 1,000 military, government and contractor personnel, including the entire German team, are transferred to the Redstone Arsenal, where the Ordnance Guided Missile Center is formed.

June, 1950 – Army Authorized To Develop Ballistic Missile

As hostilities heat up in Korea, the Ordnance Guided Missile Center at the Redstone Arsenal is authorized to develop a ballistic missile with a desired range of 500 miles. Proven V-2 technology is immediately applied to this task.

July 24, 1950 – First Rocket Is Launched From Cape Canaveral

Bumper #8 is launched from Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 3 at 9:28 a.m. Eastern Time. Bumper #8 becomes the first rocket launched from the recently established Long Range Proving Ground at Cape Canaveral. The purpose of the mission is to test methods of stage separation while a rocket is performing a near-horizontal flight. At stage separation, Bumper #8 suffers a structural failure at the point where the first stage is mated to the second stage, throwing the rocket off course. The rocket is destroyed by the Range Safety Officer and impacts the Atlantic Ocean about 48 miles downrange of Cape Canaveral. Although the second stage separates, telemetry is not received and the distance the second stage may have flown is not determined.

October 4, 1951 – Soviet Scientist Claims Scientific Advances

Soviet rocket expert M.K. Tikhonravov announces that Soviet technology is at least on a par with that of the U.S. and could well result in the launching of satellites.

April 8, 1952 – Army Ballistic Missile Is Named Redstone

After being nicknamed Ursa and Major, the first ballistic missile program of the Ordnance Guided Missile Center is officially named Redstone in honor of the Redstone Arsenal.

August 20, 1953 – First Redstone Missile Is Launched From Cape Canaveral

The first Redstone missile is launched from Cape Canaveral. The launch takes place from Launch Pad 4, which had been recently renovated to include a mobile service tower and support hardware. An engine failure occurred 109 seconds after launch, and the missile was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer after completing a nine-mile flight.

November 27, 1953 – Soviet Scientist Predicts Satellite Development

During a speech at the World Peace Council in Vienna, A.N. Nesmeyanov of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences states that the creation of an artificial Earth satellite is a real possibility.

May 24, 1954 – Navy Viking Program Achieves Its Highest Altitude

A Navy Viking research rocket launched from the White Sands Proving Ground successfully carries an 852-pound scientific payload to an altitude of 158 miles. This establishes an altitude record for the Viking research program, along with demonstrating that the Navy could place scientific payloads into space.

June 23, 1954 – Scientist Requests Joint Army-Navy Satellite Talks

Frederick C. Durant III, president of the International Astronautical Federation, requests that the Office of Naval Research set up a meeting to investigate the possibility that the Army and Navy might cooperate in the launching of a satellite. The meeting is set for two days later, when Wernher von Braun is expected to be in Washington.

June 25, 1954 – Joint Army-Navy Satellite Talks Begin

A joint Army-Navy team including military, government, technology and educational representatives meets at the Washington office of the Office of Naval Research. Wernher von Braun presents a detailed Army proposal for the launching of satellites using existing Redstone missiles mated to upper stage clusters of Loki rockets.

August 3, 1954 – Project Orbiter Research Is Authorized

As a follow-up to a meeting held two months earlier, a joint Army-Navy team meets at the Redstone Arsenal. Wernher von Braun prepares a paper for the group entitled “The Minimum Satellite Vehicle Based Upon Components Available From Missile Development Of The Army Ordnance Corps”. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is authorized to begin scientific studies. Overall leadership is assigned to George Hoover Commander of ONR. The satellite effort is named Project Orbiter.

October 4, 1954 – Satellite Development Proposed For IGY

A special International Geophysical Year (IGY) planning meeting held in Rome recommends that “thought be given to the launching of small satellite vehicles, to their specific instrumentation and to the new problems associated with satellite experiments, such as power supply, telemetering and orientation.” The IGY, scheduled to be held from July 1, 1957 through December 31, 1958 is dedicated to the international study of the Earth.

November, 1954 – Project Orbiter Launch Vehicle Plans Submitted

The Army submits detailed plans for a rocket to be employed as the carrier vehicle for Project Orbiter satellites. The launch vehicle would employ a modified Redstone missile as first stage, a cluster of 24 or 32 Loki rockets as second stage, a cluster of six Loki rockets as third stage and a single Loki rocket, attached to the satellite payload, as fourth stage. Plans are submitted to the Office of Naval Research and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for analysis.

December, 1954 – Project Orbiter Launch Schedule Drafted

The Project Orbiter team prepares a detailed production and launch schedule for their first series of satellites. The schedule includes an initial series of four scientific satellites, the first of which is forecast to be launched in September, 1956 at the earliest.

January, 1955 – Radio Moscow Hints Soviet Satellite Efforts

Radio Moscow reports that the Soviet Union is in the process of developing satellites, the launching of which would be “in the not too distant future.”

March 14, 1955 – U.S. Endorses Satellite Development For IGY

With the endorsement of President Eisenhower and Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson, the U.S. National Committee for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) approves the idea of launching scientific satellites during the IGY. Selection of a suitable satellite program is assigned to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development Donald Quarles.

April, 1955 – JPL Completes Project Orbiter Rocket Review

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) completes its review of the launch vehicle proposed for Project Orbiter. Homer J. Stewart, a Caltech professor and systems analysis supervisor for JPL, recommends that Loki rockets be replaced by a new, smaller version of the Sergeant rocket, called the Baby Sergeant, to make up the upper stages. The Redstone-based first stage concept is endorsed by JPL.

April 15, 1955 – U.S.S.R. Endorses Satellite Development For IGY

An official Soviet government announcement confirms that the Council of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences had established a Permanent Interdepartmental Commission for Interplanetary Communications, with the short-term goal of launching instrumented weather satellites sometime over the next two years.

July, 1955 – Committee Meets To Select U.S. Satellite Program

Assistant Secretary of Defense Donald Quarles had already received three separate proposals for the launching of the first U.S. satellites when he decides to form an Advisory Group on Special Capabilities to settle the issue. This eight-member committee is made up of two Quarles selectees, two Army selectees, two Navy selectees and two Air Force selectees. Homer J. Stewart of JPL is appointed head of what becomes known as the Stewart Committee.

The Stewart Committee carries on an exhaustive analysis of the three plans submitted. Competition to a modified Army-Navy Project Orbiter proposal was provided by the Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) and the Air Force. NRL recommended that the Viking research rocket be adapted to carry satellites, while the Air Force recommended that the Atlas missile be adapted to carry satellites.

July 29, 1955 – Eisenhower Announces U.S. Satellite Plans

President Eisenhower, in association with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, announces that the U.S. will launch “small unmanned Earth-circling satellites” as part of the U.S. contribution to the IGY.

July 30, 1955 – U.S.S.R. Announces Soviet Satellite Plans

An official Soviet government announcement affirms a Soviet commitment to launch satellites during the IGY. The announcement comes just one day after a similar proposal is put forth by President Eisenhower.

August, 1955 – Soviet Scientist Claims Superiority Over U.S.

Speaking at the Sixth International Astronautics Congress in Copenhagen, Leonid I. Sedov, head of the Permanent Interdepartmental Commission for Interplanetary Communications within the Council of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, states that Soviet satellites were being designed in different sizes for different purposes, and were much larger than satellites being developed in the U.S.

August 3, 1955 – Stewart Committee Votes To Kill Project Orbiter

The Stewart Committee selects the Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) Viking-based plan to launch the first U.S. satellites. The vote is 5 to 2, with one member absent. Stewart himself votes in favor of Project Orbiter.

Proponents of the NRL plan claim that the program will not interfere with ongoing ballistic missile research. They also cite the fact that the Viking research rocket had already proven its worth as a scientific carrier vehicle.

NRL proponents believe the Air Force plan would not guarantee the launching of a satellite prior to the end of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and also relies on the Atlas missile, which to date had never flown.

Project Orbiter is rejected primarily because the program is considered to offer a poor tracking system and inferior scientific value. In addition, Project Orbiter employed Redstone and Sergeant military rockets, violating the desire of President Eisenhower that U.S. scientific satellite research be distanced from the military.

Scientific management of the NRL program is subsequently assigned to the National Academy of Sciences, with funding through the National Science Foundation. The Navy is assigned the role of developing the Viking-based carrier vehicle. NRL and civilian managers are forbidden from soliciting scientific data from existing military ballistic missile programs.

August 15, 1955 – Army Demands Second Hearing On Project Orbiter

In addition to asserting that Project Orbiter could be revised to address weaknesses perceived by the majority of the Stewart Committee, the Army issues a memorandum critical of the Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) satellite program, citing its low probability for success and an overly lengthy time frame to develop a launch vehicle. NRL quickly rebuts this memorandum.

September 9, 1955 – Project Orbiter Officially Killed

The Army, Navy and Air Force are formally notified that the Stewart Committee has approved the Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) satellite program, named Project Vanguard. Project Orbiter is killed, and the Army is forbidden from attempting the launching of satellites. Not long afterward, Homer J. Stewart reportedly tells Wernher von Braun, “We have pulled a great boner!”

September 13, 1955 – Jupiter Missile Program Authorized

A committee headed by James R. Killian, Jr., advisor on science and technology to President Eisenhower, recommends that the Army and Navy cooperate in the development of the Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) to be deployed by the Army on land and the Navy at sea.

Just days after the death of Project Orbiter, the Army is given a chance to develop their four-stage version of the Redstone, not to launch satellites, but to support Jupiter nosecone high-speed re-entry tests. Called Jupiter C for “Jupiter Composite Re-Entry Test Vehicle”, the first Jupiter C is expected to be launched by September, 1956.

November 8, 1955 – Formal Jupiter Missile Committee Established

Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson gives approval for the formation of the Joint Army-Navy Ballistic Missile Committee to oversee development of the Jupiter missile.

November 17, 1955 – Navy Special Projects Office Established

The Navy side of the Jupiter development program is established as the Special Projects Office under the command of Rear Admiral William F. Raborn.

February 1, 1956 – Army Ballistic Missile Agency Established

The Army side of the Jupiter IRBM development program is established as the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under the command of Major General John B. Medaris. Based at the Redstone Arsenal, ABMA inherits the Wernher von Braun scientific team and ballistic missile projects already underway at Huntsville, including the Redstone missile.

September 20, 1956 – First Jupiter C Shatters Cape Records

ABMA launches the first Jupiter C from Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 5. On its first application, the Jupiter C breaks existing Cape Canaveral altitude and range records, achieving an altitude of 682 miles and distance of 3,350 miles.

By directive, the Jupiter C carries a dummy payload and the fourth stage motor is filled with sand ballast instead of solid fuel. This is to prevent the “accidental” launching of a satellite prior to officially sanctioned Project Vanguard.

November 26, 1956 – Army Forbidden To Deploy Jupiter Missile

Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson issues a “roles and missions” memorandum that strips the Army of all missiles with a range of over 200 miles. With a range which never exceeded 200 miles, Redstone is retained by the Army. Jupiter deployment is assigned to the Air Force with ABMA acting as contract supplier only.

December 8, 1956 – Navy Pulls Out Of Jupiter Missile Program

The Navy decides to pull out of the Jupiter IRBM program. The advent of small, high-yield nuclear warheads makes long-range solid-fueled missiles feasible, thus alleviating Navy fears that the liquid-fueled Jupiter would be too hazardous to handle at sea.

December 18, 1956 – ABMA Continues Redstone And Jupiter Development

The Joint Army-Navy Ballistic Missile Committee is dissolved. However, ABMA remains intact, continuing the development of Redstone and Jupiter missiles as well as a number of research projects.

April, 1957 – ABMA Renews Request To Begin Satellite Program

With Jupiter C performance data in hand, ABMA officials prepare and present a follow-up to Project Orbiter calling for the launching of six instrumented satellites aboard Jupiter C rockets. According to ABMA, the first of these satellites could be launched as early as September, 1957. The proposal is rejected.

May 15, 1957 – Second Jupiter C Rocket Launched

A Jupiter C rocket carrying a one-third scale version of a Jupiter missile nosecone is launched from Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 6. A guidance error causes the upper stages to be fired at the wrong angle. The nosecone fails to separate from the spent third stage motors.

The nosecone and attached third stage achieves a maximum altitude of 354 miles and eventually impacts the ocean 689 miles downrange. Intended for recovery, the nosecone recovery system fails and the nosecone sinks before crews can arrive.

June, 1957 – Scientist Says U.S.S.R. Ready To Launch Satellite

Soviet rocketry expert A.N. Nesmeyanov states that both a carrier vehicle and satellite are being readied for launch. The launch date is not specified, only that the launch should occur within a few months, and no details about the carrier vehicle or satellite are revealed.

June 10, 1957 – Document Supports U.S.S.R. Satellite Readiness

Lloyd V. Berkner of the U.S. National Committee for the IGY acquires a Soviet document stating that a satellite would be launched from the U.S.S.R. within a few months.

August 8, 1957 – Third Jupiter C Rocket Launched

A Jupiter C rocket carrying a one-third scale version of a Jupiter missile nosecone is launched from Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 6. Although the nosecone fails to separate from the spent third stage as planned, it does break free during re-entry.

The nosecone achieves a maximum altitude of 300 miles, and is successfully recovered 1,160 miles downrange. This marks the first recovery of an object that has flown in space. It also marks a successful Jupiter nosecone test, proving that ablative-type nosecones could survive the intense heat of re-entry.

August 21, 1957 – Remaining Jupiter C Hardware Placed In Storage

Major General J.B. Medaris, head of ABMA, orders that remaining Jupiter C components be placed in protective storage. Just three of a planned 12 Jupiter C rockets had been launched to date. This was a move aimed directly at providing an as yet unauthorized Army back-up to Project Vanguard.

Medaris orders that the two Jupiter C rockets in the most advanced state of readiness be maintained in case a satellite launch is approved. The rockets would be maintained so that the first could be launched not more than four months after authorization to launch a satellite is given. The second could be launched about a month later.

Army officials also allow Medaris to consign and store the necessary Baby Sergeant upper stage rockets as part of a “long-term life test” which sought to determine the useful life of these solid-fuel rocket motors. Underlying ABMA aspirations to launch satellites with these Jupiter C components are, for the time being, kept secret.

August 26, 1957 – Soviet News Agency Promotes Soviet ICBM

The Soviet news agency Tass reports that, “a super long-range intercontinental multi-stage missile was launched a few days ago. The tests of the rocket were successful. They fully confirmed the correctness of the calculations and the selected design.”

September 18, 1957 – Radio Moscow Announces Satellite Readiness

Radio Moscow reports that the Soviet Union was ready to launch a satellite. No launch date was specified, only that the launch would be soon.

October 1, 1957 – Soviet Union Releases Satellite Frequencies

The Soviet government releases to the world public the frequencies to be transmitted from a Soviet satellite whose launch is described as imminent.

October 4, 1957 – Soviet Union Launches Sputnik I

The Soviet Union successfully launches Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite.

ABMA officials, including Major General J.B. Medaris and Wernher von Braun, are busy entertaining Secretary of Defense designate Neil McElroy at the Redstone Arsenal. When the news of Sputnik I reaches the gathering, a hastily prepared plea is made to McElroy to allow ABMA to schedule satellite launches using stored Jupiter C rockets.

Army Secretary Wilber M. Brucker quickly submits a proposal requesting that ABMA be allowed to prepare six Jupiter C vehicles for the launching of six instrumented satellites. Brucker asks for $12,752,000 in non-military funds and estimates the first satellite could be launched four months from the date of authorization.

Medaris secretly instructs Wernher von Braun to remove Jupiter C hardware from protective storage in preparation for the launching of satellites. This instruction is given before ABMA is authorized to launch satellites. Medaris would later write, “I stuck my neck out.”

Medaris, von Braun and William Pickering, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, subsequently begin a series of discussions on the best way to develop a suitable satellite for the Jupiter C.

October 9, 1957 – Eisenhower Holds Post-Sputnik News Conference

After the launching of Sputnik I fuels public fears that the Soviet Union possesses ballistic missiles which could threaten the United States, President Eisenhower states in a news conference, “the effect of Sputnik does not raise my apprehension, not one iota.”

Eisenhower announces that Project Vanguard will attempt the launching of a satellite before the close of 1957. Project Vanguard managers had not planned to launch an instrumented satellite until early 1958, with only test launches planned through the close of 1957.

While the first test launch of a Vanguard rocket with operational upper stages had indeed been planned for late 1957, the rocket would carry a grapefruit-sized tracking satellite only. Orbiting of this small tracking satellite on first attempt, using an as yet untested rocket, is viewed by insiders as a possible windfall only.

October 31, 1957 – Eisenhower Considers ABMA Satellite Plans

At the request of Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy, President Eisenhower agrees that an ABMA satellite program should be officially considered as a back-up to Project Vanguard.

November 3, 1957 – Soviet Union Launches Sputnik II

The Soviet Union successfully launches Sputnik II, the second artificial Earth Satellite. Sputnik II places the first living creature in orbit, a female dog named Laika. The launch prompts a flurry of domestic criticism of U.S. satellite efforts.

November 7, 1957 – Eisenhower Shows Jupiter Nosecone On Television

In a televised news conference held to ease domestic fears of Soviet superiority in ballistic missile and satellite technology, President Eisenhower reveals the one-third scale Jupiter missile nosecone launched and recovered by ABMA on August 8, 1957. However, ABMA is not mentioned in the course of this news conference.

November 8, 1957 – ABMA Authorized To “Prepare” Satellite Launch

The Department of Defense issues a press release stating that the Army is authorized to launch a series of instrumented satellites aboard Jupiter C rockets as a supplement to Project Vanguard. The press release is placed on national wire services even before Major General J.B. Medaris of ABMA receives his official orders.

Medaris reacts strongly when the orders only authorize ABMA to “prepare” for the launching of satellites. A clear mandate to “proceed” with satellite launches is not given. Medaris receives an explanation from Army officials that ABMA satellite efforts may be canceled without notice if Project Vanguard is successful.

Within hours, Wernher von Braun, William Pickering and Medaris tender their resignations to Army Secretary Wilber Brucker pending an official authorization to proceed with satellite launches, regardless of the outcome of Project Vanguard.

November 21, 1957 – Medaris Establishes ABMA Satellite Policy

Major General J.B. Medaris, after receiving late word from Army officials that ABMA would be allowed to launch satellites regardless of the outcome of Project Vanguard, presents a position statement on ABMA satellites to his staff.

Medaris states that ABMA is not in competition with any other agency, and ABMA satellite development is officially assigned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As per forecasts prepared over a month earlier, the first ABMA attempt to launch a satellite is officially scheduled for January 29, 1958.

December 6, 1957 – First Project Vanguard Satellite Attempt Fails

Vanguard rocket TV-3, the first Vanguard rocket with fully operational upper stages, explodes on Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 18A just seconds after first stage ignition. The first U.S. attempt to launch a satellite is a dramatic failure, although the grapefruit-sized payload is recovered in fair condition after the fire is extinguished.

Mid-December, 1957 – ABMA Presents Vision For Space Exploration

ABMA, based largely on projections from Wernher von Braun, presents a forecast of space exploration to a selected number of scientists and military leaders. The ABMA plan predicts 2,000 pound Earth-satellites and an unmanned soft lunar landing by the end of 1960 as well as 5,000-pound Earth-satellites before the close of 1961.

The report also predicts unmanned circumnavigation of the Moon with complete photographic coverage and a two-man Earth-satellite by the close of 1962. It predicts 20,000-pound Earth-satellites and a manned expedition to circumnavigate the Moon before the close of 1963.

Before the close of 1965, a 20-man Earth-orbiting space station is predicted, as well as a three-man lunar landing by the close of 1967. ABMA also predicts the establishment of a 50-man permanent lunar outpost before the close of 1971.

Cost of these programs is estimated at $1.5 billion per year.

December 20, 1957 – Juno I First Stage Arrives At Cape Canaveral

Shipped in two pieces, the Redstone first stage of the Juno I launch vehicle to be used in the first ABMA attempt to launch a satellite arrives at the Cape Canaveral skid strip aboard a Douglas C-124 Globemaster aircraft. The first stage hardware is transported under strict secrecy to Hangar D, Pit A in the Cape Canaveral Industrial Area for pre-launch processing.

January 15, 1958 – Juno I First Stage Arrives At Launch Pad 26A

The Juno I first stage is trucked to Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 26A from Hangar D in the Cape Canaveral Industrial Area.

January 16, 1958 – Juno I First Stage Hoisted To Vertical Position

The Juno I first stage is hoisted too its vertical position atop a four-legged steel firing table. Azimuth and vertical alignments are checked, electrical and pneumatic connections are made and power plant tests are begun.

January 17, 1958 – Juno I First Stage Power Plant Checks Completed

Tests of the Juno I first stage power plant are completed. Additional component testing of the first stage is also conducted.

January 20, 1958 – Juno I First Stage Pressurization Tests Made

Control and pressurization tests of the Juno I first stage are performed.

January 21, 1958 – Juno I First Stage Radio And Gyro Tests Made

Radio frequencies linking the Juno I to the Cape Canaveral Range Safety Office are checked, as is the rocket’s gyroscopic guidance system.

January 23, 1958 – Juno I First Stage Overall Test Completed

An overall test of Juno I first stage components is completed, clearing the vehicle for launch.

January 24, 1958 – Juno I Upper Stages Arrive At Launch Pad 26A

Under strict secrecy and under cover of darkness, the clustered Juno I Thiokol Baby Sergeant upper stage rockets are trucked to Launch Pad 26A and hoisted to their position atop the Redstone first stage already there. The work is performed inside the closed sections of the launch gantry to aid in security.

January 25, 1958 – Juno I Safety Wiring Installed

Safety wiring is installed aboard the Juno I rocket as preparations are made for a countdown dress rehearsal two days later.

January 27, 1958 – Juno I Countdown Dress Rehearsal Goes Smoothly

A countdown dress rehearsal is conducted in preparation for the first official satellite launch attempt two days later. The countdown dress rehearsal goes smoothly.

January 28, 1958 – Weather Looks Poor For January 29 Launch Attempt

Weather forecasters predict unacceptably strong high-altitude winds during an ABMA attempt to launch a satellite the next day. The southern tip of the jet stream is forecast to move over Cape Canaveral, producing high-altitude winds of 165 to 175 knots.

January 29, 1958 – First ABMA Satellite Launch Attempt Scrubbed

Due to a prediction for unacceptable high-altitude winds, ABMA calls a scrub of their first scheduled satellite launch attempt. The scrub is issued in the morning, prior to the start of the countdown.

January 30, 1958 – Second ABMA Satellite Launch Attempt Scrubbed

Although high-altitude winds are considered marginal early in the day and the countdown is begun on schedule, ABMA calls a scrub due to unacceptable high-altitude winds about one hour prior to a planned 10:30 p.m. launch.

January 31, 1958 – ABMA Launches First U.S. Satellite

Bypassing several technical glitches and marginal high-altitude winds, the first U.S. satellite is launched at 10:48 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 26A. Shortly after launch, the satellite is given the name “Explorer” at the suggestion of Richard Hirsch, a member of the National Security Council Ad Hoc Committee for Outer Space.

February 1, 1958 – First U.S. Satellite Is Confirmed

At approximately 12:48 a.m. EST, the first listening stations begin reporting that they have received radio signals from the “Explorer” satellite. The first station to confirm the signals is the San Gabriel Valley Amateur Radio Club near Pasadena, California.

However, ABMA officials are waiting for confirmation from the Goldstone radio tracking station in Earthquake Valley, California. This confirmation is finally relayed to ABMA officials in the form of the simple phrase, “Goldstone has the bird!”

Radio signals are received from the “Explorer” satellite about eight minutes later than anticipated due to a higher orbit than expected, at a perigee of 225 miles and an apogee of 1,594 miles with an orbital period of 114.78 minutes.

Shortly after these radio signals are confirmed, President Eisenhower makes a radio announcement from his vacation home in Augusta, Georgia. At 2:00 a.m. EST in Washington, D.C. a press conference is held featuring Wernher von Braun, William Pickering, James Van Allen and Army Secretary Wilber Brucker.

An official announcement is made that “Explorer I” has reached orbit.