Home 1959 Summary
1958 spacecrafts 1960 spacecrafts
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The 24 spacecrafts launched in 1959:
1) Lunik I / Metcha / First Cosmic Rocket -- Discoverer 0 / CORONA R&D / KH-1 prototype
2) Vanguard II 3) Discoverer 1 / CORONA R&D #1 / KH-1 prototype #1
4) Pioneer 4 5) Discoverer 2 / CORONA R&D #2 / KH-1 prototype #2
6) Vanguard  Magnetometer satellite 7) Vanguard Air density satellite
8) Discoverer 3 / CORONA R&D #3 / KH-1 prototype #3 9) "Luna" / Ye-1A #5
10) Vanguard (SLV-6) 11) Discoverer 4 / CORONA 9001 / KH-1 #1
12) Explorer (S-1) 13) Explorer 6 / “The Paddlewheel Satellite”
14) Discoverer 5 / CORONA 9002 / KH-1 #2 15) Beacon 2  / Project Beacon
16) Discoverer 6 / CORONA 9003 / KH-1 #3 17) LunK II / Second Cosmic Rocket
18) Transit 1A 19) Vanguard III
-- Pioneer P-1  / Atlas Able V #1 20) Lunik 3 / 3rd Cosmic Rocket
21) Explorer 7 22) Discoverer 7 / CORONA 9004 / KH-1 #4
23) Discoverer 8 / CORONA 9005 / KH-1 #5 24) Pioneer P-3 / Atlas Able V #1
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Historical PerspectivesSummary of 1950s Launches - U.S. Military or Peaceful Use of Space?
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Spacecraft Entries
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Warning:  Satellite descriptions that follow contained some ‘contradictory data’, notably spacecraft’s weights and orbital altitudes. This reflects the fact that data differ from source to source and changed with time. We publish these ‘inaccuracies’ to show that even simple historical facts are hard to establish.
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Lunik I / Metcha
(“First Cosmic Rocket“)
Spacecraft:  Ye-1 no. 4 (E-1 no. 4) ; the spacecraft was called the "Cosmic Rocket" in the Soviet press, popularly called Lunik I, and retroactively named Luna 1 after 1963.
Chronologies: 1959 payload #1 ; 1959-001A ; 32nd spacecraft, 112th space object catalogued.
Type: Planetary Probe (Moon)
Significant
achievements:
•  Flew by the Moon at a distance of only 6,000 km, becoming the first spacecraft to fly close to the Moon.
•  1st man-made object placed in orbit around the Sun.
•  1st official Soviet lunar probe (4th Soviet attempts).
•  In communications up to 600,350 km from Earth.
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 2 January 1959 at 16h41 UT, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by an A-1/"Vostok". (Formerly: launched by a SL-3 from Tyuratam.)
Orbit:
146 million km x 198 million km x 1° x 443 days. A&A
146.4 million km x 197.2 million km x 1° x  450 days. ESAM
0.98 a.u. x 1.32 a.u. x 0.1° x 450 days SSP
0.01 a.u. x 1.314 a.u. x 0.9766° x 450 day. TRW 
Decayed: Forever in space.
Mission: Historical reports: U.S.S.R. launched Lunik I into a solar orbit, with a total weight of reported 1,470 kg, the first man-made object placed in orbit around the Sun.  It was called Mechta (“dream”) by the Russians. Lunik I transmissions ceased on 5 January 1959 at 600,350 km from Earth.
     Lunik 1 carried experiments to study gas components of interplanetary matter and corpuscular radiation of Sun, magnetic field of Earth and Moon, meteoric particles, and heavy nuclei in primary cosmic radiation. Total weight: 1,472 kg, and instrumentation: 360 kg (unofficial). First successful deep space probe; orbit the Sun in 15-month cycle. (A&A, 1961)
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At the close of 1958, Soviet authorities announced that the new year would bring the first Soviet flights to the Moon. On January 2, 1959, Luna 1 was launched on a fast flight toward the Moon, carrying a payload weight of 361.3 kilograms, plus a separated final stage carrier rocket with a weight of 1,111 kilograms, for a total weight of 1,472 kilograms, The payload had a minimum collection of geophysical instrumentation in a spherical container, and projecting antennas. Because of the high velocity and its announced package of various metallic emblems with the Soviet coat of arms, it is reasonable to conclude that it was intended to strike the Moon. It missed its target, and flew by the Moon at a distance of 5 to 6 thousand kilometers at nearest approach, had its orbit bent by lunar gravity and flew off to become the first artificial planetoid of the Sun. Its batteries gave out very soon after, on January 5, at 600 thousand kilometers from Earth. (SSP, 1976)
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Current overview: Launch to impact the Moon, this probe passed by the Moon at a distance of 6,400 kilometers about 34 hours after launch - missing its main target. Its trajectory was less than accurate due to a problem in the guidance system of the launch vehicle. It is the first human-made object to reach Earth’s escape velocity and became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around the Sun.
     The 361.3-kg (with upper stage) lunar probe was sphere-shaped with five antennae extended from one hemisphere. Instrument ports also protruded from the surface of the sphere. There were no propulsion systems on the Luna 1 spacecraft itself. The spacecraft contained radio equipment, a tracking transmitter and telemetering system, five different sets of scientific devices for studying interplanetary space, including a magnetometer, geiger counter, scintillation counter, and micrometeorite detector, and other equipment.
     On 2 January 1959, after reaching escape velocity, Luna 1 separated from its 1472 kg third stage (which then travelled along with Luna 1). On 3 January, at a distance of 113,000 km from Earth, a large cloud of sodium gas was released by the spacecraft. This glowing orange trail of gas, visible over the Indian Ocean with the brightness of a sixth-magnitude star, allowed astronomers to track the spacecraft. It also served as an experiment on the behavior of gas in outer space.  Luna 1 passed within 5,995 km of the Moon's surface on 4 January after 34 hours of flight. It went into orbit around the Sun, between the orbits of Earth and Mars.
     The measurements obtained during this mission provided new data on the Earth's radiation belt and outer space, including the discovery that the Moon had no magnetic field and that a solar wind, a strong flow of ionized plasma emmanating from the Sun, streamed through interplanetary space.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-012A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 106, 143 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; Congressional Research Service, Soviet Space Program 1971-75, 1976, p. 84, 554 ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 21-2 ; Gunter's Luna Ye-1 ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Discoverer 0 / CORONA R&D / KH-1 prototype
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload: not applicable (pad accident).
Type: Technology
Significant
achievements:
•  First truly military mission attempt
(not counting the SCORE Project).
•  1st pad accident of the Space Age.
•  Payload saved and launched as Discoverer 1.
Sponsor: U.S. Air Force
Launch: 21 January 1959, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A.
Orbit: n/a
Destroyed: 21 January 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Agena destroyed on pad, but Thor saved. Spacecraft weight: 590 kg (111 kg net).
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Current overview: The payload for this mission was a technology demonstration satellite to test of the performance capabilities of the propulsion and guidance system of the booster and to test systems for the Discoverer and Corona reconnaissance satellite program. Unlike future Discoverer flights, it did not carry a camera or film capsule. It was a 5.73-metre long, 1.52-metre diameter cylindrical Agena-A upper stage capped by a conical nosecone. The satellite casing was made of magnesium. Most of the 18-kg payload, consisting of communication and telemetry equipment, was housed in the nosecone. It included a high-frequency low-power beacon transmitter for tracking and a radar beacon transmitter with a transponder to receive command signals and allow long-range radar 
tracking. Fifteen telemetry channels were used to relay roughly 100 aspects of spacecraft performance.

     On January 21, 1959, the first Discoverer dummy craft sat on its Thor-Hustler rocket awaiting launch. The payload at the top consisted primarily of test instruments, it bore little resemblance to the intended payload of later Discoverer missions. The Thor was unfueled but the Hustler was receiving its supply of nitric acid.  The pad workers were performing the final checkout of the rocket when an alarm horn suddenly went off. Somehow, the Hustler’s internal timer had been activated. The vehicle behaved as if the Thor had burned out after boosting it high into the atmosphere. First, it fired the explosively activated collar that held the two vehicles together so that they could separate. Then it had fired its small solid-propellant ullage rockets used to push the Hustler away from its spent booster and push the propellant in its tanks to the rear so that the engine could fire. Fortunately, someone in the blockhouse reacted quickly and immediately cut power to the rocket and yanked the fuel back into its storage tanks. No one was injured. The rocket sat there for a long time as everyone waited in horror to see it might explode. Finally, the vehicle was secured and hauled back down to the horizontal and everything was made safe. Although the launch attempt had not been named beforehand, those who knew about it began calling it “Discoverer Zero.”
     In a 1996 Discovery Channel documentary, Col. Frank Buzard, Corona Chief of Testing, explained: “One [failure] that got no publicity at all [was] called Discoverer 0. Thas was our very first launch attempt and we have this thing sitting on the launch pad. We’d gone through the countdown, and we’ve been very careful in preparation to test everything, to make sure that everything works wright. We pushed the automatic sequencer and, about 30 seconds later: technical hold! 
     “What had happened was there was a sneak circuit and, when we pushed the automatic sequencer, there were little rockets up on the Agena that were supposed to separate Agena from the Thor, and they fired! They were only supposed to fire when the Thor had burned out and you were up almost in orbit. But here we are, still hook up to the launch pad, and these things fired!  It was not a very good practice!”

Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1256 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Discovery Channel’s Secret Satellite, 1996, at 25:30 ; Space Review's 23 Mar 09 ; Gunter's Discoverer 1 ;
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Vanguard II
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 2E / Cloud cover satellite / Vanguard SLV 4
Chronologies: 1959 payload #2 ; 1959-002A (1959 Alpha 1) ; 33rd spacecraft, 11th space object catalogued.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Significant
achievements:
•  1st “meteorological“ satellite (preliminary R&D).
•  1st applications, rather than science, satellite.
•  Orbital mission was unfortunately a failure.
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 17 February 1959 at 15h55 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard.
Orbit:
557 km x 3,315 km x 32.86° x 125.4 min. A&A
559 km x 3,320 km x 33.88° x 125.7 min. ESAM
559 km x 3,320 km x 32.9° x 125.7 min. USCSP
559 km x 3,142 km x 32.9° x 124.1 min. TRW
557 km x 3,049 km x 32.9° x 122.80 min. Wade
Decayed: Still in orbit.
Mission: Historical reports: Vanguard II, the fifth U.S.-IGY satellite and a meteorological “cloud cover” satellite, was successfully launched into orbit. The 9.4 kg (32 kg) sphere contained photocells to produce images of the Earth’s cloud formations. Although the payload developed a precession (wobble) that scrambled the transmitted images, it proved the feasibility of the weather satellite concept. Vanguard II’s Instrumentation: cloud cover, 2 photocells designed to produce images for two weeks. Total weight in orbit (including 3rd stage): 32 kg.(USASA, 1960; A&A, 1961)
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Current overview: Vanguard 2 was a 9.8-kg satellite designed to measure cloud-cover distribution over the daylight portion of its orbit; In a sense, it was the first applications, rather than scientific, satellite. The craft was a magnesium sphere, 50.8 cm in diameter. It contained a telemetry transmitter, a minitrack beacon, a command receiver, a tape recorder, a turnstile antenna, four photocells and two optical telescopes provided by the Army Signal Research and Development Laboratory. Both transmitters functioned normally for 19 days. The satellite was spin stabilized at 50 rpm, but telemetry data were poor because of an unsatisfactory orientation of the spin axis. Although this was the second successful launch of a Vanguard satellite, spacecraft's wobble made the data on Earth's cloud cover unusable.
Notes: By the time Vanguard II was launched, NASA had been created and management of the program was officially transferred to the new agency. However one of the NASA Administrator's first acts was to transfer management of Vanguard back to NRL.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-001A ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 1 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 106, 143, 1258 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 739-40, 1256 ; Gunter's Vanguard (20in Cloud Cover) ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Discoverer 1 / CORONA R&D #1 / KH-1 prototype #1
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #3 ; 1959-003A (1959 Beta 1); 34th spacecraft, 13th space object catalogued.
Type: Technology
Significant
achievements:
•  1st truly military mission attempt
(relaunch of the 'Discoverer 0' payload).
•  Orbit insertion claimed, but probably not achieved.
•  Reported as the 1st satellite put into polar orbit
(but orbit not achieved).
1st launch from the Pacific Missile Range (PMR), the Vandenberg AFB military space launch center, California.
1st launch of a Thor-Agena (failed).
Sponsor: U.S. DARPA
Launch: 28 February 1959 at 21h49 UT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A. (First launch from Vandenberg AFB.)
Orbit:
233 km x 835 km x -3° x 95.57 min. A&A
163 km x 968 km x 89.7° x 96 min. ESAM
(196 km) x (968 km) x 89.7° x (96 min.)
(Orbit claimed but doubtful.)
USCSP
163 km x 968 km x 90.0° x 96.0 min. TRW 
163 km x 968 km x 89.7° x 96.00 min. Wade
Decayed: 3 March 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer I, ARPA satellite weighing 635 kg, successfully launched, but stabilization difficulties hampered tracking acquisition. First satellite in polar orbit. Total weight: 590 kg, instrumentation: 111 kg. (A&A, 1961) 
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As reported by the New York Times: “The United States tried to put a new satellite into orbit today [Feb. 28] as the first step in a new program of space research. But hours after the successful launching, the outcome of the effort was uncertain. The Air Force reported that special tracking stations in Alaska and Hawaii had failed to locate the Discoverer I satellite during the interval of its first projected circuit of the Earth. Rear Admiral John Edward Clark said the rocket had been tracked for only six minutes.
     “The Discoverer I shoot was the first satellite rocket launching on the West Coast [that is:  Vandenberg AFB]. It was also the first attempt to achieve a new-type of orbit, over the North and South Poles, in which subsequent television. eyes satellites might scrutinize the whole surface of the globe. 
     “The launching was the first of a dozen projected satellites in the Discoverer program announced last December.  The program aims at sending mice and monkeys into space as precursors of human voyagers. The Discoverer program is an off-shoot of the Air Force's Weapons System 117L project, nicknamed Big Brother because of its surveillance motif.”
     The day after, the NYT reports: “Sporadic radio signals tend to indicate that the Discoverer rocket launched last night from the California coast has achieved orbit, the Air Force said tonight. Tracking stations have since picked up random signals on the frequency of the Discoverer's radio beacon, which approximates the predicted position of the satellite. The Air Force said attempts to track the Discoverer were continuing and additional contacts should assist in defining the precise orbit. Officials speculated something may have gone wrong with the antenna system in the rocket.”
     Then, the NYT reports: “The Air Force said tonight that new signals were received today from the Discoverer I polar rocket. It said they "substantiate our earlier belief that it is in orbit." They were "sporadic" signal bursts of from four to six seconds lasting for a period of about six minutes, the statement said. 'The Air Force and Lockheed scientists believe that an unprogrammed oscillation in space by the satellite is responsible for the erratic reception," the statement said. Spokesmen said this meant the satellite was "tumbling" in space. Asked whether this statement meant that trackers definitely had established that Discoverer I was in orbit, a spokesman would say only that "this substantiates our earlier belief that it is in orbit." The spokesman also referred to a Defense Department announcement in Washington earlier today that the department expected to reach a definite conclusion tomorrow on whether Discoverer I went into orbit as planned.”  That conclusion was that the satellite launching attempt was “definitely successful.”
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Current overview: First launch attempt of a Discoverer satellite and first launch of a spacecraft from Vandenberg AFB, the Pacific Missile Range (PMR), in California. Discoverer 1 was a 5.73-metre-long, 1.52-metre-diameter cylindrical Agena A upper stage capped by a conical nosecone. Most of the 18-kg payload, consisting of communication and telemetry equipment, was housed in the nosecone. It included a beacon transmitter for tracking and a radar beacon transmitter, to receive command signals and allow long-range radar tracking. Unlike future Discoverer flights, this one did not carry a camera or film capsule.
     Officially, it is reported that, after first stage burnout, the rocket coasted to orbital altitude where the second stage engine put the satellite into a polar orbit, where it remained until re-entry on 17 March 1959. Discoverer 1 thus became the first satellite ever put into a polar orbit. But difficulty was encountered receiving signals after launch and it was reported that the satellite broadcast intermittently later in the flight.
     It is otherwise reported that the launch proceed normally until after second-stage rocket ignition and that, at 8,5 minute, all contact with the vehicle was lost. Based upon their initial calculations, Lockheed engineers determined that the vehicle should have entered an orbit. However, Frank Buzard, an Air Force officer in charge of the Discoverer launch program, explained: “The Air Force announced that it was in orbit based on tracking and telemetry data from Cooke Tracking Station, but it never showed up at the Alaskan or any other tracking stations.” None of the tracking stations ever picked up the signals. Thus, the launch was reported to have been successful at the time and announced as the first satellite launch into polar orbit, but it transpired later that no signals of the satellite were picked up in orbit. It is now generally believed that the satellite did not reach orbit and impacted in the Antarctic. Dwayne A. Day analyzed this mission in “Lost over the horizon: Discoverer 1 explores Antarctica,“ in Space Review of 13 April 2009.
     Discoverer 1 is thus one of a kind. It seems that the spacecraft failed to reach orbit (never transmitting data), but it was considered a success, even receiving an international designation (1959-003A) and a NORAD number (13th space object catalogued). It looks as if the Department of Defense needs to score a success for its inaugural launch from Vandenberg of its flagship Discoverer program.
     In a 1996 Discovery Channel documentary, Col. Frank Buzard, Corona Chief of Testing, explained that, for Discoverer 1, “everything goes great. It take off, everything is fine, and so the Air Force hold a big press conference to say that Discoverer I is in orbit. Unfortunately, the tracking station never heard it, nor anybody else. But we’d already said it’s in orbit! 
     “Then, we got back and look at the facts, and the facts are that the tracking station got only about half of the Agena burn, so it can only track halfway and assumed that, if everything was right half the way, everything continued to be right to the rest of the way.  But that’s a bad assumption!  And so, we learn that you’ll never say it’s in orbit until you get acquisition by a tracking station. 
     “And then, we spend three weeks trying to prove that it went into orbit - I’ve sign the report that it said it went in orbit -, but I’m really convinced that it did went in the South Pacific.
Notes: On 25 November 1957, USAF awarded contract for a surveillance satellite to Lockheed. DOD announced details of Project Discoverer, series of polar orbiting satellites, on 3 December 1958.
     “The Discoverer project involves a series of vehicle launchings to further to develop new systems and techniques for production and operation of military space vehicles. The first launchings will be primarily to test the Discoverer vehicle and its subsystems, including propulsion and guidance. Later vehicles in the series will carry biomedical experiments to seek data on environmental conditions useful to Project Mercury.” (USASA, 1959)
     “The Department of Defense placed special emphasis on its Discoverer Satellite Program in 1959. Its objective: the testing of components, propulsion and guidance systems, and techniques for several U.S. space projects. A capsule-recovery operation, so far unsuccessful, is a principal technique being tested in the program. ” (USASA, 1960)
          “During 1959, particular emphasis was placed on the Discoverer Satellite Program which has as its objective the testing of components, propulsion and guidance systems and techniques to be utilized in various United States space projects. Foremost among the techniques being tested is the capsule recovery operation. Although no successful recovery has been effected to date, much has been learned concerning the many complex problems associated with the technique which is so vital to military space efforts. In the near future, biomedical specimens will be carried in the Discoverer satellite for the purpose of gaining more knowledge on the effects of space travel. 
     “Eight of the nine military space launches made during 1959 were Discoverer vehicles, Six of these successfully attained orbit. The first Discoverer satellite successfully achieved orbit, propulsion and guidance performance was satisfactory and test of capability for polar launch from the Pacific Missile Range was assured.” (USASA, 1960)
     The Discoverer program was managed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force. The real primary goal of the program was to develop a film-return photographic surveillance satellite to assess how rapidly the Soviet Union was producing long-range bombers and ballistic missiles and where they were being deployed, and to take photos over the Sino-Soviet bloc to replace the the U2 spyplanes. It was part of the secret Corona program which was also used to produce maps and charts for the Department of Defense and other U.S. government mapping programs. 
     The goal of the program was not revealed to the public at the time, it was presented as a program to orbit large satellites to test satellite subsystems and investigate the communication and environmental aspects of placing humans in space, including carrying biological packages for return to Earth from orbit. In all, 38 Discoverer satellites were launched by February 1962, although the satellite reconnaissance program continued until 1972 as the Corona project. The program documents were declassified in 1995. Mass: 618.0 kg
Source: onathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-002A ; The New York Times' 1 Mar 59, 2 Mar 59, 3 Mar 59, 3 Mar 59, 6 Mar 59, 6 Mar 59, 6 Mar 59 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 1st Annual Report to Congress, 1959, p. 30-1 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. vi, 21-2 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 92, 104, 107, 143, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Discovery Channel’s Secret Satellite, 1996, at 26:55 ; Space Review's 13 Apr 09 ; Gunter's Discoverer 1 ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Pioneer 4
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #4 ; 1959-004A (1959 Nu 1) ; 35th spacecraft, 113th space object catalogued.
Type: Planetary Probe (Moon)
Significant
achievements:
•  Passed within 59,500 km of the Moon.
•  1st American lunar probe success.
•  1st American probe put into Solar orbit (2nd such a probe).
•  Radio contact maintained to a record distance of 654,250 km.
Sponsor: NASA / AMBA
Launch: 3 March 1959 at 5h11 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-5, by a Juno II.
Orbit:
147.5 million km x 173.6 million km x 0.127° x 406.9 days A&A
147.4 million km x 173.6 million km x 0.127° x 406.9 days ESAM
0.9171 a.u. x 1.142 a.u. x 1.3° x 398 days. USCSP
0.9871 a.u. x 1.142 a.u. x 1.30° x 398 days. TRW 
Decayed: Forever in space.
Mission: Historical reports: Pioneer IV, fourth U.S.-IGY space probe, a joint ABMA-JPL project under direction of NASA, achieved Earth-Moon trajectory, passing within 59,500 km of the Moon before going into permanent solar orbit. Radio contact was maintained to a record distance of 654,250 km - a new communications record. It was the first U.S. sun-orbiter. Pioneer IV, weighting 6.1 kg, carries radiation measurements in space on Earth-Moon trajectory, and photoelectric scanner for use in vicinity of Moon. Yielded data on radiation in space, tracked for 82 hours to a distance of 655,000 km and is in Solar orbit. (A&A, 1961) Weight: 6 kg (4 kg net).
     The 6.1-kg Pioneer IV probe passed within 60,000 km of the Moon on 4 March 1959. thus achieving its primary mission. ON a Earth-Moon trajectory, it yielded excellent radiation data and provided valuable tracking experience. It was tracked for a total of 82 hours and four minutes, to 655,000 km, the greatest distance a man-made object had been tracked up to that time. The probe is now orbiting the Sun; it reached its perihelion (at 147,540,000 km) on 17 March 1959, and its aphelion (at 170,715,000 km) on 1 October 1959. (USASA, 1960)
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The original second Army’s Pioneer flight would carry the complete camera on a looping trajectory around the Moon, with the aim of returning one good photograph of the far side. However, the data returned by Pioneer 3's radiation experiments, and the discovery of the second radiation shell, heightened scientific interest in charged particles in near-Earth space all the more. So, in early 1959, James Van Allen and his associate George Ludwig of the State University of Iowa urged that their radiation package be flown again in place of the television system on Pioneer 4 to obtain more radiation data and to further refine information already secured. Space officials approved the change. Pioneer 4 would also be launched on a lunar flyby trajectory rather than on a circumlunar trajectory for photographic purposes, so as to measure radiation between the Earth and the Moon. 
     Pioneer 4, the last of the ARPA-initiated lunar probes, rose from Cape Canaveral without incident on March 3, 1959, carrying scientific instruments virtually identical to those of Pioneer 3. The only distinctive new feature was a small amount of lead shielding, added to one of the two Geiger tubes to screen out low-intensity charged particles. 
     In this flight, the launch vehicle provided the spacecraft Earth-escape velocity, and the craft passed by the Moon at a distance of 60,000 kilometers. The shielded Geiger counter showed a lower level of radiation in the low-altitude shell than that detected by Pioneer 3, and almost no radiation in the high-altitude shell. The second monitor, acting as a counter and scaler, also detected both bands, but the peak radiation was slightly broader in extent. These scientific data added further support to the hypothesis that the Earth's magnetic field acted as a trap for charged particles that accumulated, slowly dispersed, and then built up again as a function of activity on the surface of the Sun. (NASA SP-4210, 1977)
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During the period 1958-1960, eight spin-stabilized Pioneer spacecraft were launched to study the Moon, but only one of these, Pioneer IV, accomplished this mission, the others suffering various launch vehicle failures. Although only one of the probes accomplished its intended mission, important information was provided in other scientific disciplines, such as the discovery of a second radiation belt by Pioneer III. This surprise discovery led to a change in mission for Pioneer IV, which had originally been planned as a lunar orbiting mission to take photographs of the Moon. Following the Pioneer III mission, Pioneer IV's mission was changed to investigate radiation between the Earth and Moon and then to fly on past the Moon and enter a heliocentric orbit. These objectives were successfully met. (USCSP)
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Current overview: Pioneer 4 carried a payload similar to Pioneer 3: a lunar radiation environment experiment using a Geiger-Mueller tube detector and a lunar photography experiment. It became the first U.S. spacecraft to reach Earth's escape velocity, but it did not achieve its primary objective of photographing the Moon during a flyby. The spacecraft was a cone-shaped probe 51 cm high and 23 cm in diameter at its base. A photoelectric sensor protruded from the center of the base. The sensor was designed with two photocells which would be triggered by the light of the Moon when the probe was within about 30,000 km. During the launch, the second stage did not cut off on time and caused the trajectory to change. Consequently, the probe passed by the Moon at a range of 59,545 kilometers at a speed of 7,230 km/hr – instead of the planned 32,000 kilometers – not close enough for the imaging scanner to function. No lunar radiation was detected. The closest approach was on 4 March 1959 at 10h25 UT. The spacecraft’s tiny radio transmitted information for 82 hours before contact was lost at a distance of 655,000 kilometers from Earth, the greatest tracking distance for a human-made object to date. Pioneer 4 eventually entered heliocentric orbit and became the first American spacecraft to do so. Scientists received excellent data on radiation in space. The 6.1 kg craft was developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched for NASA by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA).
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-013A ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 1 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 107, 143, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; Origins of NASA Names (NASA SP-4402) Chapter 3 p. 88-89 ; Lunar Impact: A History of Project Ranger, 1977, Chapter 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 783, 784, 1257 ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 22 ; Gunter's Pioneer 3, 4 ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Discoverer 2 / CORONA R&D #2 / KH-1 prototype #2
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #5 ; 1959-005A (1959 Gamma 1) ; 36th spacecraft, 14th space object catalogued.
Type: Technology
Significant
achievements:
•  1st military payload put into orbit.
•  1st satellite placed into polar orbit.
•  First attempt to recover a capsule (failed).
•  Recovery failure gave rise to legends.
Sponsor: U.S. DARPA
Launch: 13 April 1959 at 21h19 UT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor Agena A.
Orbit:
251 km x 362 km x  0.2° off N-S axis x 990.4 min. A&A
239 km x 349 km x 89.9° x 90.4 min. ESAM
239 km x 346 km x 89.9° x 90.4 min. USCSP
239 km x 346 km x 90.0° x 90.6 min. TRW 
239 km x 346 km x 89.9° x 90.40 min. Wade
Decayed: 26 April 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer II successfully launched into polar orbit, but capsule ejection malfunctioned, causing it to impact in vicinity of Spitzbergen on April 14, instead of vicinity of Hawaii. It was first vehicle known to have been placed in a polar orbit and was the first attempt to recover an object from orbit. Discoverer II was the first satellite to carry a recoverable instrument package. Total weight: 725 kg/743 kg, including 110 kg instrumentation for communication and performance and a 88.5-kg recoverable data capsule. Capsule impacted near Spitsbergen in 14 April 1960, and payload decayed on 26 April 1960. (A&A, 1961
* * * * *
Current overview: Discoverer 2 was a KH-1 ('Key Hole') prototype reconnaissance satellite to test capsule recovery techniques (did not carry camera). It was designed to gather spacecraft engineering data and to attempt ejection of an instrument package from orbit for recovery on Earth. The craft was 1.5 meter in diameter, 5.85 meters long and had a mass of roughly 3,800 kg (including propellants; dry mass 743 kg). It included 111 kg for the instrumentation payload and 88 kg for the reentry vehicle. The capsule section of the reentry vehicle was 84 cm in diameter and 69 cm long and held a parachute, test life-support systems, cosmic-ray film packs to determine the intensity and composition of cosmic radiation (presumably as a test for storage of future photographic film), and a tracking beacon. The capsule was designed to be recovered by a specially equipped aircraft during parachute descent, but was also designed to float to permit recovery from the ocean.
     After 17 orbits, on 14 April 1959, a reentry vehicle was ejected. It was planned that the capsule would reenter over the vicinity of Hawaii for recovery, but a timer malfunction caused premature capsule ejection and reentry over the north polar region. The capsule was never recovered. The main instrumentation payload remained in orbit and carried out vehicular performance and communications tests.
     The Discoverer 2 mission successfully gathered data on propulsion, communications, orbital performance, and stabilization. All equipment functioned as programmed except the timing device. It was the first satellite to be stabilized in orbit in all three axes, to be maneuvered on command from the Earth, to separate a reentry vehicle on command, and to send its reentry vehicle back to Earth.
     The  Discoverer reentry vehicle — without any classified material aboard — had reportedly come down on Spitzbergen Island, north of Norway, in the Arctic Circle. Air Force officers raced to the scene, but did not locate the craft and they suspected that the Soviet Union might have retrieved it. This incident formed the basis for the novel and later movie Ice Station Zebra
     In the winter of 1960/1961, a Discovery capsule was reportedly found by loggers near Kalinin, 200 km north of Moscow. (Some said it was found as early as the winter of 1959.) It was a polished aluminium sphere, 30 cm in diameter, gilded on the exterior. The loggers cracked it open with an axe. Sergei Khrushchev (son of Premier Khrushchev) believed this to be the Discoverer 2 capsule. What was left was examined by Soviet engineers but didn’t reveal much information.
     However, neither the Soviet Union nor the later Russian government has ever confirmed that they retrieved a capsule. More to the point, a key Air Force official involved in the launch doubted that it was ever recovered. He noted that it was highly unlikely that the vehicle could have come down and hit the only bit of dry land amid millions of square kilometers of ocean.
     In a 1996 Discovery Channel documentary, Col. Frank Buzard, Corona Chief of Testing, explained that “With Discoverer II, we tough that everything was great, but we made a mistake at a tracking station at Kaena Point: they miss-set the timer (which was very easy to do), and we never could talk to it again.  And because we were very paranoid about the Russians taking control of the satellite, we only turn on the com system when it was supposed to be in range of a tracking station.  So. It’s gone and the only thing we can do is to sit and worried where this thing is going to come down.” 
     By studying the capsule’s trajectory, the Corona team guess that the film pod would land near the Arctic territory of Spitzbergen, perilously close to the U.S.S.R. 
    “Did Discoverer II really go down near Spitzbergen?  
    “A bunch of guys jump into an airplane and flew to Norway, and than they were to go out and see if they can find it. But there is no way to get from Norway to Spitzbergen; there are no landing fields in Spitzbergen - it not big enough. So, they flew over and saw a lot of tracks in the snow and they said: ‘Ah, that must be the Russians getting the capsule.’” 
     Luckily, Discoverer II didn’t carry a camera.  The mission payload was a pair of artificial mice, part of the biomedical cover-up story. 
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-003A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 108, 143, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 6 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Discovery Channel’s Secret Satellite, 1996, at 27:40 ;  Space Review's 18 Jan 08 ; Gunter's Discoverer 2, 3, 12, 13 ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Vanguard Magnetometer satellite
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 3 / Magnetometer satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #6 ; 1959 1st loss ; 37th spacecraft.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Significant
achievements:
•  1st launch of two independant satellites (failed).
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 14 April 1959 at 2h50 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard.
Orbit: Apogee: 100 km.
Destroyed: 14 April 1959 .
Mission: Historical reports: An attempt to launch a Vanguard satellite, containing a magnetometer experiment and an inflatable sphere, failed when the second stage did not operate properly. (USASA, 1960) Vanguard SLV-5 rocket failed to achieve orbit because of loss of second-stage pitch attitude control. (A&A, 1961) Weight: 33 kg (10 kg net).
* * * * *
Current overview: This 10.3-kg Vanguard payload consisting of two independent spheres: the first sphere contained a precise magnetometer, to map the Earth's magnetic field, and a second sphere, a 75-cm inflatable sphere, for optical tracking. The Vanguard Radiation Ballance satellite was a magnesium alloy sphere, 50 cm in diameter, intended to measure the solar-Earth heating process which generates weather. This was the firs double-satellite launch attempt. Unfortunately, the Vanguard SLV-5’s second stage failed because of damage at stage separation, so the spacecraft did not achieve orbit. A faulty second stage pressure valve of the launch vehicle caused the failure.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's VAGLS5 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 1 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 108, 1287 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; Gunter's Vanguard (20in Radiation Balance ;
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Vanguard Air density satellite
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 3 / Air density satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #7 ; 1959 2nd loss ; 38th spacecraft.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Significant
achievements:
•  1st launch of two independant satellites (failed).
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 14 April 1959 at 2h50 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard.
Orbit: Apogee: 100 km.
Destroyed: 14 April 1959 .
Mission: Historical reports: An attempt to launch a Vanguard satellite, containing a magnetometer experiment and an inflatable sphere, failed when the second stage did not operate properly. (USASA, 1960) Vanguard SLV-5 rocket failed to achieve orbit because of loss of second-stage pitch attitude control. (A&A, 1961) Weight: 33 kg (10 kg net).
* * * * *
Current overview: This 10.3-kg Vanguard payload consisting of two independent spheres: the first sphere contained a precise magnetometer, to map the Earth's magnetic field, and a second sphere, a 75-cm inflatable sphere, for optical tracking. The Vanguard Radiation Ballance satellite was a magnesium alloy sphere, 50 cm in diameter, intended to measure the solar-Earth heating process which generates weather. This was the firs double-satellite launch attempt. Unfortunately, the Vanguard SLV-5’s second stage failed because of damage at stage separation, so the spacecraft did not achieve orbit. A faulty second stage pressure valve of the launch vehicle caused the failure.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's VAGLS5 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 1 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 108, 1287 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; Gunter's Vanguard (20in Radiation Balance ;

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Discoverer 3 / CORONA R&D #3 / KH-1 prototype #3
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #8 ; 1959 3rd loss ; 39th spacecraft.
Type: Technology
Significant
achievements:
•  Prototype of a military surveillance (spy) satellite.
•  Reportedly carried mice in an attempt to make the first recovery of animals from space.
•  3rd consecutive Discoverer mission failure.
Sponsor: U.S. Air Force
Launch: 3 June 1959 at 20h09 UT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A.
Orbit: 225 km up.
Destroyed: 3 June 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer III failed to achieved orbit. 726-kg spacecraft with 4 black mice, lost.
* * * * *
Current overview: Discoverer 3 was the first prototype of a low-resolution photo surveillance satellite (KH-1), However, the spacecraft did not carry a camera. This second capsule recovery mission failed because of a rocket malfunction (no telemetry received after Agena ignition). (Photo: Discovery 3's rocket on its launch pad.)
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's DISCOV3 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 110, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; Congressional Research Service, Soviet Space Program 1971-75, 1976, p. 554 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Gunter's Discoverer 2, 3, 12, 13
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"Luna" / Ye-1A #5
Spacecraft:  Ye-1A no. 5 (E-1A no. 5)
Chronologies: 1959 payload #9 ; 1959 3rd loss ; 40th spacecraft.
Type: Planetary Probe (Moon)
Significant
achievements:
•  5th Soviet lunar probe attempt, and 4th failure. As for the previous failures, this one remained unknown until the 1980s/1990s.
•  Mission goal was probably to impact the Moon.
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 18 June 1959 at 8h08 UT, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by an A-1/"Vostok". (Formerly: launched by a SL-3 from Tyuratam.)
Orbit: N/a.
Destroyed: 18 June 1959.
Mission: Historical reports:  Tenthlunar attempt (5th Soviet), but even a reference report like the Soviet Space Program 1971-75, published in 1976, had no knowledge of this failure.
* * * * *
Current overview: The Soviet Ye-1A probe, like the Ye-1, was designed for lunar impact. Engineers had incorporated some minor modifications to the scientific instruments (a modified antenna housing for the magnetometer, six instead of four gas-discharge counters and an improved piezoelectric detector)as a result of information received from the first Cosmic Rocket and Pioneer 4. Spacecraft Mass: ~390 kg (with upper stage).
     The launch was originally scheduled for 16 June but was postponed for two days as a result of the negligence of a young lieutenant who inadvertently permitted fuelling of the upper stage with the wrong propellant. During the actual launch, one of the gyroscopes of the inertial guidance system failed at 153 seconds, and the wayward booster was subsequently destroyed by command from the ground.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 22 ; Gunter's Luna Ye-1A ;
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Vanguard (SLV-6)
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 3B / Radiation Balance satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #10 ; 1959 4th loss ; 41st spacecraft.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Achievement:
•  Another Vanguard launch vehicle failure.
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 22 June 1959 at 20h16 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard.
Orbit: 145 km up, 483 km away.
Apogee: 140 km.
Destroyed: 22 June 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: An attempt to launch a Vanguard satellite, containing a heat-balance experiment, failed because of a faulty second-stage pressure valve. (USASA, 1960) Vanguard SLV-6 rocket satellite, designed to measure the radiation balance of the Earth, its atmosphere, and the solar energy flux, failed to go into orbit. (A&A, 1961) Weight: 33 kg (10 kg net).
* * * * *
Current overview: This Vanguard mission contained a magnesium alloy sphere. 50-cm in diameter and weighing 10.3 kg, intended to measure the solar-Earth heating process which generates weather. A faulty second stage pressure valve of the Vanguard SLV-6 launcher caused a mission failure.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's VAGLS6 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 1 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 110, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 65 ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; Gunter's Vanguard (20in Radiation Balance) ;
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Discoverer 4 / CORONA 9001 / KH-1 #1
Spacecraft:
Chronologies: 1959 payload #11 ; 1959 5th loss ; 42nd spacecraft.
Type: Military Earth surveillance
Significant
achievements:
•  First attempt to launch a surveillance (‘spy’) satellite.
•  4th Discoverer failure.
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 25 June 1959 at 22h48 UT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-5, by a Thor-Agena A.
Orbit: N/a.
Destroyed: 25 June 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer IV failed to achieve orbit. Second stage too low velocity. 771-kg spacecraft did separated.
* * * * *
Current overview: Discoverer 4, or KH-1 9001, was the first, first-generation, low-resolution surveillance satellite ever launched. The mission failed because the satellite did not achieve orbit following launcher malfunction. Spacecraft weight: 743 kg.
     The KH-1 (Keyhole-1) was the first attempt to develop an optical reconnaissance satellite system. The spacecraft was based on the Agena A upper stage, which provided attitude control in orbit. The payload consisted of a single Corona panoramic camera and a single Satellite Return Vehicle (SRV) film-retrieval capsule. The camera was built by Fairchild Camera Co. and had a ground resolution of 12.9 metres. The return capsule carried its own retro motor to deorbit at the end of the mission and was to be snap in mid-air by a specially equipped aircraft. All KH-1 satellites were launched under the name Discoverer, their mission was presented as R&D and science conducted under by U.S. Air Force (no mention ever made of the Narional Reconnaissance Office).
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's DISC4 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 110, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Gunter's KH-1 Corona ;
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Explorer (S-1)
Spacecraft:  NASA S-1
Chronologies: 1959 payload #12 ; 1959 6th loss ; 43rd spacecraft.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Achievement:
•  First NASA's science satellite (S-1), failed.
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 16 July 1959 at 17h37 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-05, by a Juno II.
Orbit: N/a.
Destroyed: 16 July 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: The range safety officer destroyed a Juno II rocket bearing an Explorer satellite, after 53 seconds, when it tilted sharply because of a power supply failure to the guidance system. The 42-kg satellite contained a radiation balance and Lyman-Alpha X-ray experiments. (USASA, 1960) NASA, with Army as executive agent of a joint ABMA-JPL project, attempted Explorer satellite launch with Juno II booster, but it was detroyed 5½ seconds after launch by range safety officer. (A&A, 1961)
* * * * *
Current overview: This 41.4-kg Explorer (S-1) mission was to measure the Earth's radiation balance. It was designed to measure solar X-ray and Lyman-alpha flux, trapped energetic particles, and heavy primary cosmic rays. Secondary objectives included study of micrometeoroid penetration and Earth-atmosphere heat balance. The spacecraft was 75 cm wide and about 75 cm high, and was powered by approximately 3000 solar cells. This Explorer was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer 5½ seconds after liftoff because of a failure of the power supply to the guidance system. The mission was undertaken by Explorer 7 launched three monts later.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's EXP-7X ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 1 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 111, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 66 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1257 ; Gunter's Explorer: S-1 ;
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Explorer 6 / “The Paddlewheel Satellite”
Spacecraft:  NASA S-2 / Able 3
Chronologies: 1959 payload #13 ; 1959-006A (1959 Delta 1) ; 44ht spacecraft, 15th space object catalogued.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Significant
achievements:
•  2nd NASA's science satellite (S-2), first successful.
•  Known to the public as the “paddlewheel satellite,” this science mission was well publicized by NASA.
•  Most advanced U.S. science satellite to date with 14 experiments.
Observed that the structure of the Van Allen radiation Belt is more complex than supposed.
•  1st to transmit a crude picture of the Earth’s cloud cover.
U.S. Air Force made the first anti-satellite interception test with a missile (missing, as planned, the spacecraft).
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 7 August 1959 at 14h24 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-17A, by a Thor-Able II.
Orbit:
251 km x 42,408 km x 46.9° x 12.5 hr. A&A
245 km x 42,400 km x 47.0° x 765 min. ESAM
245 km x 42,500 km x 49.0° x 96.5 min. USCSP
245 km x 42,400 km x 47.0° x 768 min. TRW 
245 km x 42,400 km x 47.0° x 765.00 min. Wade
Decayed: 30 June 1961.
Mission: Historical reports: The 64-kg Explorer VI - the “paddlewheel satellite,” so-called because of its four vanes or paddles studded with solar cells - contained 14 scientific experiments and was the most advanced U.S. experiment to date. It reported a new region of high-energy protons in the Great Radiation Region, and enough new measurements to show considerable variations in radiation intensity and distribution. Equipped with a photocell scanner also, Explorer VI transmitted a crude picture of the Earth’s cloud cover from a distance of 32,000 km. On 13 October 1959, a USAF Bold Orion missile launched from a B-47, passed within 6 km of Explorer Vi at an altitude of 150 km in test firing.  [This could be the first anti-satellite test ever reported.] Explorer VI, 64.4 kg, carried instruments to measure specific level of Earth’s radiation bels; TV scanner to relay cloud cover, micrometeor detection, and 2 magnetometers. Acquired valuable data on radiation levers, transmitted crude cloud cover image, detected ring of electrical current circling the Earth. (A&A, 1961)
     Perhaps the most important discovery in the space sciences field during 1959, was that the structure of the Great Radiation Region is more complex than was previously supposed. A new region of high-energy protons was reported by Explorer VI and enough new measurements were obtained to show considerable variations in intensity and geographical distribution of the radiation. It now appears that the Great Radiation Region may be an extensive area of energetic particles, rather than the two rather distinct "doughnuts" or bands indicated by earlier experiments. A possible hazard to astronauts will be pockets of radiation that fade in and out, probably as a result of solar disturbances; the entire region varies considerably in intensity of radiation and geographical distribution over relatively short periods of time. (USASA, 1960) 
* * * * *
Current overview: The 64.4-kg Explorer 6 was designed to study trapped radiation of various energies, galactic cosmic rays, geomagnetism, radio propagation in the upper atmosphere, and the flux of micrometeorites. It also tested a scanning device designed for photographing cloud cover. Four solar cell paddles fixed on the satellite recharged its batteries. Only three paddles fully erected and initial power supply was 63% nominal, decreasing with time. Explorer 6 transmitter failed on 11 September 1959, and the last contact with the payload was made on 6 October 1959, at which time the solar cell charging current had fallen below that required to maintain the satellite equipment. Explorer 6 detected three radiation levels in space.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-004A ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 1, 10 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 111, 112, 114, 144, 1257 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 731, 1257 ; Gunter's Explorer: S-2 ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Discoverer 5 / CORONA 9002 / KH-1 #2
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #14 ; 1959-007A (1959 Epsilon 1) ; 45th spacecraft, 18th space object catalogued.
Type: Military Earth surveillance
Significant
achievements:
•  2nd military surveillance (‘spy’) satellite.
•  2nd satellite placed successfully into polar orbit.
•  4th try to recover a capsule (2nd orbital try), failed.
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 13 August 1959 at 19h00 UT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A.
Orbit:
219 km x 725 km x 78.9° x 94 min. A&A
217 km x 739 km x 80.0° x 94.19 min. ESAM
217 km x 739 km x 80.0° x 94,3 min. USCSP
143 km x 280 km x 78.9° x 88.7 min. TRW 
214 km x 731 km x 79.9° x 94.10 min. Wade
Decayed: 28 September 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer V placed in polar orbit, but reentry capsule not recovered due to post-ejection malfunctions. Capsule ejected higher orbit. Weight: 781 kg. Down on 25 September 1959 (47 days).
     ON 10 February 1960, the Department of Defense announced that the “mystery satellite“ in near polar orbit since January may be ejected Discoverer V recovery capsule
* * * * *
Current overview: Discoverer 5, the second KH-1, consisted of an Agena A upper stage and a Satellite Reentry Vehicle. Spacecraft mass was 780 kg (or roughly 3,850 kg including Agena A propellants). It was designed to test launching techniques, propulsion, communications, orbital performance, engineering, and recovery techniques. The 140-kg reentry vehicle included a recoverable capsule (a.k.a. a ‘bucket’) that was 84 cm in diameter and 69 cm long. This capsule held a parachute, a film canister and a tracking beacon. 
     The spacecraft was successfully put into a near-polar orbit and, a day after launch (on 14 August), its SRV was separated from the Agena over the Pacific Ocean for descent to Earth. However, the capsule was never recovered since it was boosted into higher orbit. It decayed on 2 February 1961.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-005A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 112, 119, 144 ; TRW Space Log 1996(Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1258 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Gunter's KH-1 Corona ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Beacon 2 / Project Beacon
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #15 ; 1959 7th loss ; 46th spacecraft.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Significant
achievements:
•  Large, ultra-thin balloon, should have been visible from the ground.
•  Another U.S. satellite lost due to launcher failure.
•  End of the two-spacecraft Beacon project.
Sponsor: NASA/U.S. Navy
Launch: 15 August 1959 at 00h31 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-26B, by a Juno II.
Orbit: N/a.
Destroon: 15 August 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: An attempt to launch an inflatable satellite of micro-thin Mylar plastic film and aluminum foil with a modifier Juno II failed because of premature fuel depletion in the booster and a malfunction in the attitude control system for the upper stages. Army was executive agent fof NASA-JPL (USASA, 1960; A&A, 1961) Weight: 38 kg (12 kg net).
* * * * *
Current overview: Beacon 2 was A 4.5-kg thin plastic but large sphere (3.5-metre in diameter) launched to study atmospheric density at various levels. It should have been the first U.S. satellite to be visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, remature fuel depletion in the Juno first stage caused an upper stage malfunction, thus the mission failed. (First stage shut down too early; no attitude control for upper stages.)
Notes: “On October 23, 1958 and August 14, 1959, NASA launched satellites designated Beacon 1 and 2 respectively, for ionospheric research using a small radio beacon. Upper stage malfunctions of the launch vehicles used resulted in neither satellite reaching orbit.”  End of the program!
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's BRAC2 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 112 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 2 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 740, 1258 ; Gunter's Beacon 1, 2 ;
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Discoverer 6 / CORONA 9003 / KH-1 #3
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #16 ; 1959-008A (1959 Zeta 1) ; 47th spacecraft, 19th space object catalogued.
Type: Military Earth surveillance
Significant
achievements:
•  3rd military surveillance (‘spy’) satellite.
•  3rd satellite placed successfully into polar orbit.
•  5th try to recover a capsule (3rd orbital try), failed.
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 19 August 1959 at 19h25 UT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-5, by a Thor-Agena A.
Orbit:
224 km x 864 km x 84° x 95.3 min. A&A
212 km x 848 km x 84.0° x 95.27 min. ESAM
212 km x 848 km x 84.0° x 95.3 min. USCSP
212 km x 848 km x 84.0° x 95.2 min. TRW 
207 km x 846 km x 83.9° x 95.10 min. Wade
Decayed: 20 October 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer VI satellite orbited successfully, but reentry capsule not recovered. Weight: 783 kg. Separation of capsule occurred 20 August 1959, but no recovery was made. Payload orbit decayed on 20 Octover 1959.
* * * * *
Current overview: Discoverer 6, the third 780-kg KH-1 surveillance satellite, was successfully put into a near-polar orbit. Its SRV reentry vehicle was separated from the Agena-A main body as planned and the capsule released over the Pacific Ocean for descent to Earth, but it was not recovered.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-006A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 112, 144 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1258 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Gunter's KH-1 Corona ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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LunK II / Second Cosmic Rocket
Spacecraft:  Ye-1A no. 7 (E-1A no. 6) ; the spacecraft was called the "Second Cosmic Rocket" in the Soviet press and retroactively named Luna 2 after 1963.
Chronologies: 1959 payload #17 ; 1959-009A (1959 Xi 1) ; 48th spacecraft, 114th space object catalogued.
Type: Planetary Probe (Moon)
Significant
achievements:
•  1st man-made object to hit the Moon.
(1st man-made object to reach the surface of a celestial body.)
•  Another spectacular 'first' for the Soviet Union in its space race with the United States.
•  Confirmed the Moon had no appreciable magnetic field, and no evidence of radiation belts.
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 12 September 1959 at 6h40 UT, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by a A-1/"Vostok".
Orbit: Ballistic trajectory, impact the Moon.
Moon impact: 14 September 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Lunik II became the first man-made objet to hit the Moon on the following days of its launch. The probe strike the Moon about 435 kilometers from the visible center. Total payload weight: 389,4 kg.  Its launch coincide with the departure of Premier Nikita Khrushchev for the United States. On 15 September, Khrushchev presented President Eisenhower with a replica of the Soviet coat of arms impacted on the Moon. (A&A, 1961)
     Lunik II traveled 381,132 km in 35 hours; first lunar impact (on 13 September 1959). Measure external and internal temperatures; study magnetic field of Earth and Moon; meteoric particles; heavy nuclear and other properties of cosmic rays. Total weight: 389 kg (estimated).
* * * * *
Current overview: This sixth Luna attempt at lunar impact was much more accurate than its predecessors. Luna 2 was similar in design to Luna 1, a spherical spacecraft with protruding antennae and instrument parts. The instrumentation was also similar, including scintillation- and geiger- counters, a magnetometer, and micrometeorite detectors. After an aborted launch on 9 September, the probe successfully lifted off and reached escape velocity three days later. Officially named the “Second Soviet Cosmic Rocket,” the spacecraft released its one kilogram of natrium on 12 September at a distance of 156,000 kilometers from Earth in a cloud that expanded out to 650 kilometers in diameter and was clearly visible from the ground. It then successfully reached the surface of the Moon on 14 September 1959 at 23:02:23 UT, thus becoming the first object of human origin to make contact with another celestial body. The probe’s impact point was approximately at 30° north latitude and 0° longitude on the slope of the Autolycus crater, east of Mare Serenitatis. It deposited Soviet emblems on the lunar surface carried in 9 x 15-centimeter metallic spheres.  Some 30 minutes after Luna 2, the third stage of its rocket also impacted the Moon at an unknown location.   The mission confirmed that the Moon had no appreciable magnetic field, and found no evidence of radiation belts at the Moon. Spacecraft Mass: 390.2 kg (with upper stage).
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-014A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 112 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; Congressional Research Service, Soviet Space Program 1971-75, 1976, p. 84, 554 ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 22 ; Gunter's Luna Ye-1A ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Transit 1A
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #18 ; 1959 8th loss ; 49th spacecraft.
Type: Navigation
Significant
achievements:
•  1st navigation satellite (R&D) launched, failed.
•  1st launch attempt of an application satellite.
Sponsor: U.S. Navy
Launch: 17 September 1959 at 14h34 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-17A, by a Thor-Able II.
Orbit: 4,027 km away
Destroyed: 17 September 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: ARPA–Navy Transit 1A navigation satellite was successfully launched by Thor-Able booster, but did not orbit due to third-stage malfunction. (A&A, 1961) Weight: 143 kg.
     During 1959, one other military space project than Discoverer - the navigation satellite Transit -, progressed to the point where a launch could be attempted. This program is designed to provide, through use of an instrumented satellite and modified doppler technique, a highly accurate global all-weather means of fixing precisely the position of ships and possibly air-craft. 
     The launch of Transit I, the first navigation satellite, was attempted but, in spite its failure to achieve orbit due to malfunction of the Thor-Able third stage, sufficient data were attained from this shot and other study to date to give strong indication that this program will establish the correction factors for refraction of signals through the ionosphere, thus enhancing the entire art of satellite communications. The next launch in the Transit series is scheduled for early 1960. (USASA, 1960)
* * * * *
Current overview: Transit 1A was the first attempt to launch of a 119.0=kg Navy navigation test satellite. The mission failed because of Thor-Able’s third stage malfunction.
     The Transit spacecraft were developed for updating the inertial navigation systems on board U.S. Navy Polaris submarines. The receivers used the known characteristics of the satellites orbit, measured the Doppler shift of the satellites radio signal, and thereby calculated the receivers position on the Earth.
Notes: “The purpose of the navigation satellites project is to institute a precise, all-weather system for determining sea or air position anywhere on the globe, The navigation satellite will be valuable to aircraft, surface vessels, and submarines. The project passed from the planning to the active stage in September 1958. Several satellite tests under this program are planned for the first six months of 1959. The first will be a 68-kg, battery-powered package, expected to stay aloft about three months. Later versions will be larger and longer-lived.” (USASA, 1959)
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's TRAN1 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 1st Annual Report to Congress, 1959, p. 31 ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 22 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 112 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1258 ; Gunter's Transit 1A, 1B ;
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Vanguard III
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 3C / Magne-Ray satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #19 ; 1959-010A (1959 Eta 1) ; 50th spacecraft, 20th space object catalogued.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Significant
achievements:
•  6th U.S.-IGY satellite successfully launched.
•  3rd Vanguard satellite orbited (in 11 launch attempts).
•  Last of the Vanguard series of satellites, U.S. first space project.
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 18 September 1959 at 5h20 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard.
Orbit:
352 km x 3,747 km x 33.3° x 130 min. A&A
512 km x 3,744 km x 33.35° x 130.0 min ESAM
512 km x 3,744 km x 33.4° x 130.0 min. USCSP
513 km x 3,524 km x 33.4° x 128.0 min. TRW 
512 km x 3,413 km x 33.4° x 126.40 min. Wade
Decayed: Still in orbit.
Mission: Historical reports: Vanguard III, weighing 45 kg (23 kg net), consists of a magnesium sphere 50 cm in diameter with a 66 cm tapered-tube attached. The payload includes twin ionization chambers to measure solar X-rays. It has revealed valuable data which are being analyzed. The orbiting of Vanguard III marked the end of the Nation's first scientific Earth satellite program. (USASA, 1960)
     Vanguard III, sixth U.S.-IGY satellite, successfully injected into orbit, marking the end of Vanguard launching activities. The satellite provided comprehensive survey of magnetic field, lower-edge of radiation belts, and accurate micrometeorite impacts. On 15 December 1959, transmitter of Vanguard III became silent after providing tracking signals and scientific data for 85 days. Satellite was expected to remain in orbit for 40 years. (A&A, 1961)
     Vanguard III placed into an elliptical orbit to study magnetic fields, micrometeorites, X-rays and temperatures. It provided comprehensive survey of Earth’s magnetic field; detailed location of lower edge of radiation belts; accurate counts of micrometeorite impacts. Launched by Vanguard SLV-7. Total weight: around 45 kg; instrumentation: 25 kg.
* * * * *
Current overview: Vanguard III, the last Vanguard launched, carried a variety of micrometeroid detectors (microphone, resistive-strip, light-transmission and pressurized cell) and two other experiments: a proton-precession magnetometer, and two solar X-ray ionization chambers. The objectives of the flight were to measure the Earth's magnetic field, the solar X-ray radiation and its effects on the Earth's atmosphere, and the near-Earth micrometeoroid environment. It had a 66 dentimeter magnetometer boom. The craft was a magnesium sphere 50.8 cm in diameter and which carried its third stage into orbit with it, therefore making the in-orbit weight 45 kilograms. (In fact, third stage failed to separate from the satellite but this did not adversely affect the experiments.) Data transmission stopped on 11 December 1959, after 84 days of operation. They provided a comprehensive survey of the Earth's magnetic field over the area covered, defined the lower edge of the Van Allen radiation belt, and provided a count of micrometeoroid impacts. Launched by Vanguard SLV-7, Vanguard 3 has an expected orbital lifetime of 300 years. In summary, only three Vanguard satellites achieved orbit, and two were successful in achieving their missions (I and III).
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-007A ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 2 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 112, 145 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 740, 1258 ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ; Gunter's Vanguard (20in Magnetometer, X-Ray, Environment ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Pioneer P-1 / Atlas Able V #1
Spacecraft:  Atlas Able 4, Pioneer-X
Chronologies: 1959 payload N/a
Type: Planetary Probe (Moon)
Significant
achievements:
•  Launch vehicle destroyed on launch pad; payload not damaged and launched two months later (Pioneer P-3).
•  1st probe of the 1st lunar program authorized by NASA.
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 24 September 1959, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-14, by an Atlas-Able.
Orbit: N/a
Destroys: N/a
Mission: Historical reports: A NASA Atlas-Able 4 launch vehicle, minus its payload, undergoing static test at AMR, exploded while being prepared for the launch of a 170 kg/193 kg satellite into a lunar orbit in October.
* * * * *
The Atlas-Able V project was the first lunar program authorized by NASA. It was managed by the Space Technology Laboratories and launched by the Air Force, by an Atlas-Able vehicle consisting of an Atlas ICBM with a Vanguard upper stage. Originally, plans called for two missions to Venus, followed by two lunar orbiting missions. However, in the spring of 1959, prompted by the success of Luna 1, NASA reprogrammed the Venus flights as lunar orbiters. 
     Each space probe would be a spin-stabilized, 122-kilogram, aluminum-alloy spheroid craft. Almost a meter in diameter, it was to incorporate vernier rockets to decelerate the probe into lunar orbit. Four "paddle wheel" solar arrays coupled with batteries would provide electrical power. Paint patterns on the highly polished reflective surface and an arrangement of novel cruciform temperature control vanes would dissipate the heat generated by the Sun outside and instruments within the spacecraft.
     The planned lunar orbits of the four flights could be expected to yield a measurement of the mean moment of inertia of the Moon. The small Pioneer television camera designed "to get a crude outline of the Moon's surface" were to complement such a planetary measurement on the first two Rights. 
     Unfortuntely, because of launch vehicle failures, none of the Atlas Able V probes launched during 1959 and 1960 even left the Earth's atmosphere. But even had these space probes had reached interplanetary space, lunar science would scarcely have benefited because, in short order, nonvisual science experiments had supplanted the television cameras. In fact, of the nine scientific experiments carried on the last two flights, only one (a magnetometer) was directed toward investigating the Moon.
* * * * *
Current overview: The series of four ‘Pioneer P’ had for objectives to place an advanced (168-kg) instrumented probe in lunar orbit, to investigate the environment between the Earth and Moon, and to develop technology for controlling and maneuvering spacecraft from Earth. These probes were equipped to take images of the lunar surface with a television-like system, estimate the Moon's mass and topography of the poles, record the distribution and velocity of micrometeorites, and study radiation, magnetic fields, and low frequency electromagnetic waves in space. 
     These probes were 1-meter-diameter spheres with a propulsion system mounted on the bottom, giving a total length of 1.4 meter, and a total mass of 168 kg. The mass of the spacecraft was 25.3 kg and the propulsion units 88.4 kg. Four solar panels, each 60 × 60 cm and containing 2200 solar cells, extended from the sides of the craft in a "paddle-wheel" configuration with a total span of about 2.7 meters.
     The scientific instruments consisted of an ion chamber and Geiger-Mueller tube to measure radiation flux, a proportional radiation counter telescope to measure high energy radiation, a scintillation counter to monitor low-energy radiation, a VLF receiver for natural radio waves, a transponder to study electron density, and a television facsimile system and flux-gate and search coil magnetometers. The television camera pointed through a small hole in the sphere between two of the solar panel mounts. The total mass of the science package, including electronics and power supply, was 55 kg.
     P-1 (Able IV) was originally planned to be a Venus fly-by mission, but was later replanned as a lunar orbiter. It was to be launched on a Atlas-Able vehicle but the launch vehicle was destroyed by an explosion during the pre-launch firing test. The payload was not mounted on the rocket at this time, so it was later launched as the P-3 mission.
     See launch explosion video.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 112 ; Lunar Impact: A History of Project Ranger, 1977, Chapter 1 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 65 ; Gunter's Pioneer P-1, P-3, P-30, P-31 ;

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Lunik 3 / 3rd Cosmic Rocket
(1st Automatic Interplanetary Station)
Spacecraft:  Ye-2A no. 1 (E-2A no. 1) ; the spacecraft was called the Automatic Interplanetary Station (AMS) in the Soviet press, Lunik III in the Western press, and retroactively Luna 3 after 1963.
Chronologies: 1959 payload #20 ; 1959-011A (1959 Theta 1) ; 51st spacecraft, 21st space object catalogued.
Type: Planetary Probe (Moon)
Significant
achievements:
•  1st spacecraft to return images of the far side of the Moon.
•  1st time we, humans, had seen the far side of the Moon (which is different from the near side). Photos were crude but revealing.
•  Another spectaculare Soviet achievements in the Space Race. During this year, Soviets launched (officially) three lunar probes and score three impressive ‘first.’
•  First spacecraft put into a “barycentric orbit“, which is a very complicated trajectory, constantly influence by Earth’s, Moon’s and Sun’s gravity forces. (It is why we don’t know exactly when Luna 3 reentered Earth’s atmosphere.)
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 4 October 1959 at 0h44 UT, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by a A-1/"Vostok".
Orbit:
39,367 km x 470,000 km x 80° x 15 days A&A
~40,000 km x ~480,000 km x 75° x 22,300 min. ESAM
40,300 km x  476,500 km x 73.8° x 22,700.0 min. SSP
40,300 km x 476,500 km x 16.2° x 76.8 days. TRW 
500 km x 499,998 km x 55.0° x 21,563.20 min. Wade
Decayed: About 20 April 1960?
Mission: Historical reports: Lunik III, Russia’s translunar Earth satellite began photographic trip around the Moon, while Premier Khrushchev was visiting Peiping. On 18 October, it provided man’s first look at 70 percent of the backside of the Moon, 2 weeks after launched, by transmitting automatically-taken pictures. Picture were releases on 26 October 1959. On 6 November 1960, U.S.S.R. published atlas on the far side of the Moon based on Lunik III photographs. (A&A, 1961)
     Lunik III passed 7,035 km from the Moon on 6 October 1959 and photographed back side of the Moon. Produce photograph of 70 percent of Moon’s dark side. Pictures transmitted before perigee on 18 October 1959. Reentered Earth’s atmosphere about 20 April 1960. Total weight: 278,5 kg scientific satellite; last stage weighing 1,553 kg (without fuel) also went into orbit which contained 156.5 kg of instruments, for a total weight of 1,831 kg.
* * * * *
A much more complex operation than Luna 1 and Luna 2, was launched on 4 October 1959. Equipped with solar cells, Luna 3 had a much longer active life than its two predecessors. Its so-called barycentric orbit brought the probe sweeping back toward Earth. Pictures of the far side of the Moon were returned on 18 October, and were to have been transmitted at another point much closer to Earth, but the second transmission was not accomplished. 
     These pictures were very indistinct, but through computer enhancement permitted the Russians to develop a tentative atlas of the far side of the Moon. (At first, some speculated that these pictures were Soviet forgery, but they were proven wrong when some of the same features eventually were found in the later and far superior pictures taken by American Lunar Orbiter spacecraft.)
     Typical of barycentric orbits, which are influenced in a complex way by the tug of both Earth and Moon gravity, the flight path kept changing, and. apparently after 198 days in eccentric orbit, the payload, long since radio-silent, reentered the Earth's atmosphere to burn. (SSP, 1976)
* * * * *
Current overview: Luna 3 returned the first views ever of the far side of the Moon. It was the first Soviet probe designed to take pictures of the Moon using the Yenisey-2 imaging system; its TV system consisted of a 35-mm camera with two lenses of 200-mm (wide-angle) and 500-mm (high-resolution) focal lengths and a capacity to read up to 40 images. It was the third spacecraft successfully launched to the Moon and the first to return images of the lunar far side.
    The spacecraft was a cylindrically shaped canister, 130 cm long and 120 cm at its maximum diameter. Solar cells were mounted along the outside of the cylinder. The upper hemisphere of the probe held the covered opening for the cameras. Four antennae protruded from the top of the probe and two from the bottom. The spacecraft weighted 278.5 kg.
     The launch vehicle inserted the spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit around the Earth at 48,280 x 468,300 kilometers, sufficient to reach lunar distance. During the coast to the Moon, the probe suffered overheating problems and poor communications, but it passed over the Moon’s southern polar cap on 6 October at a range of 7,900 kilometers before climbing up over the Earth-Moon plane. The first image was taken on 7 October at 3h30 UT at a distance of 65,200 kilometers, after Luna 3 had passed the Moon and looked back at the sunlit far side. The last image was taken 40 minutes later from 66,700 kilometers. Altogether, twenty-nine photographs were taken, covering 70 percent of the far side. The exposed film was then developed, fixed, and dried automatically, after which a special light beam of up to 1,000 lines per image scanned the film for transmission to Earth. Images were finally received the next day (after a few aborted attempts). The photographs were very noisy and of low resolution, but many features could be recognized. Seventeen of the images were of usable quality and showed parts of the Moon never before seen by human eyes. In fact, Luna 3’s images were very indistinct but, through computer enhancement, a tentative atlas of the lunar far side was produced.  These first views of the lunar far side showed mountainous terrain, very different from the near side, and only two dark regions which were named Mare Moscovrae (Sea of Moscow) and Mare Desiderii (Sea of Dreams).  Most noticeably these photographs showed the lack of lunar maria (the dark areas), prompting scientists to revise their theories of lunar evolution.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-008A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 113, 114, 130, 145 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; Congressional Research Service, Soviet Space Program 1971-75, 1976, p. 84-8, 554 ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 23 ; Gunter's Luna Ye-2A ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Explorer 7
Spacecraft:  NASA S-1A
Chronologies: 1959 payload #21 ; 1959-012A (1959 Iota 1) ; 52nd spacecraft, 22nd space object catalogued.
Type: Earth/space Sciences
Significant
achievements:
•  7th and last U.S.-IGY satellite: “All experiments for the U.S.-IGY space program had been successfully placed into orbit.“
•  Explorer 7 made the crucial discovery that Solar storms are correlated with perturbations of the Van Allen Belts, thus provoking geomagnetic storms in the upper regions of the ionosphere, and Aurora lights.
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 13 October 1959 at 15h30 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-05, by a Juno II.
Orbit:
550 km x 1,095 x  50.3° x 101.33 min. A&A
556 km x 1,088 km x 50.31° x 108.28 min. ESAM
556 km x 1,088 km x 50.3° x 101.3 min. USCSP
---- km x 1,088 km x 50.3° x 99.9 min. TRW 
523 km x 857 km x 50.3° x 98.60 min. Wade
Decayed: Still in orbit.
Mission: Historical reports: Explorer VII, the seventh and last U.S.-IGY satellite, and now under direction of NASA with the Army as executive agent, was placed into orbit. With this launch, all experiments for the U.S.-IGY space program had been successfully placed into orbit. By late December 1959, data from the satellite indicated possible relationships between solar events and geomagnetic storms, and revealed information about trapped radiation and cosmic rays near the Earth. According to data analyses, on 9 November 1959, entire outer Van Allen radiation belt broke up and disappeared for several days. Then, during severed geomagnetic storm on 28 November 1959, two Geiger tubes on Explorer VII found anomalies in the outer radiation zone at about 1,500 km altitude, which appeared to be correlated in space and time with optical emissions from the atmosphere below.  Very intense narrow zones of radiation were detected over a visible aurora during one orbit. On 13 October 1960, transmitter of Explorer VII failed to stop as programed. On 14 November 1960, IGY Warning Center reported that solar flares were causing "extremely so¬vere" magnetic disturbance of Earth's atmosphere, an event detected by Explorer VII and later analyzed as greatest burst of solar radiation in the satellite's 13-month of operation. (A&A, 1961)
     Explorer VII, a 41.5 kg satellite containing radiation balance, Lyman-Alpha X-ray and heavy primary X-ray experiments, went into predicted orbit, all equipment working as programmed. It has revealed valuable data about trapped radiation and cosmic radiation near the Earth, indicating a possible correlation with solar events and geomagnetic storms. (USASA, 1960)
     Explorer VII was launched to study Earth-Sun budget. It carried Lyman-alpha X-ray counters and cosmic-ray counter. The satellite provided significant physical data on radiation and magnetic storms; first penetration of a sensor in flight by micrometeorite. Spacecraft weight: 41.5 kg.
* * * * *
Current overview: Explorer 7 is the first of the four Solar Physics Explorers that have been launched between 1959 and 1971 to investigate various aspects of solar physics (with Explorer 20, Explorer 37 and Explorer 44). It was one of the first satellites to monitor solar X-rays, which had been postulated as being responsible for sudden disturbances of the upper regions of the ionosphere, rather than ultraviolet rays. It also chemically identified heavy particles of cosmic rays, studied the transfer of heat from the tropics to the polar regions, and from the Earth into space.
     Explorer 7 was designed to measure solar X-ray and Lyman-alpha flux, trapped energetic particles, and heavy primary cosmic rays. Secondary objectives included collecting data on micrometeoroid penetration and molecular sputtering and studying the Earth-atmosphere heat balance. The spacecraft was 75 cm wide at its equator and about 75 cm high, and weighted 41.5 kg.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-009A ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 2 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 113, 114, 115, 119, 129, 130, 145 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1  United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 735, 1258 ; Gunter's Explorer: S-1 ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Discoverer 7 / CORONA 9004 / KH-1 #4
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #22 ; 1959-013A (1959 Kappa 1) ; 53rd spacecraft, 24th space object catalogued.
Type: Military Earth surveillance
Achievements:
•  4th satellite placed into polar orbit; 5th attempt to recover a space capsule… and 7th Discoverer mission to failed (in 7 attempt).
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 7 November 1959 at 20h29 UT, from Vandenberg: Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A.
Orbit:
167 km x 885 km x 82° x 95 min. A&A
159 km x 847 km x 81.64° x 94.7 min. ESAM
159 km x 847 km x 81.6° x 94.7 min. USCSP
99 km x 554 km x 81.6° x 94.6 min. TRW 
158 km x 820 km x 81.6° x 94.40 min. Wade
Decayed: 26 November 1959.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer VII satellite placed into polar orbit, but stabilization failed and capsule recovery not achieved. Weight: 794 kg.
     Officially, Discoverer VII “contained telemetry equipment to measure performance.“ Electrical malfunction prevented stabilization in orbit and separation of capsule. Spacecraft down on 26 November 1959.
* * * * *
Current overview: First generation low resolution photo surveillance satellite (KH-1). Discoverer 7 was designed to test launching techniques, propulsion, communications, orbital performance, engineering, and recovery techniques. The spacecraft consisted of a main satellite body (Agena A) and a separable reentry vehicle containing a recovery capsule. Spacecraft mass was 794 kg (and roughly 3,850 kg with Agena fully fuelled), which included 140 kg for the reentry vehicle. 
     Discoverer 7 was put into a near-polar orbit, but the power supply inverter providing electricity to the control system did not operate correctly, and the satellite began tumbling after launch. The reentry vehicle failed to separate from the spacecraft.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-010A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 114, 146 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1258 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Gunter's KH-1 Corona ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Discoverer 8 / CORONA 9005 / KH-1 #5
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #23 ; 1959-014A (1959 Lambda 1) ; 54ht spacecraft, 25th space object catalogued.
Type: Military Earth surveillance
Achievements:
•  5th satellite placed into polar orbit; 6th attempt to recover a space capsule… and 8th Discoverer mission to failed (in 8 attempt).
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 20 November 1959 at 19h25 UT, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-5, by a Thor Agena A.
Orbit:
190 km x 1,600 km x 81° x 103 min. A&A
187 km x 1,679 km x 80.65° x 103.72 min. ESAM
187 km x 1.679 km x 80.7° x 103.7 min. USCSP
187 km x 1,679 km x 80.6° x 103.7 min. TRW
186 km x 1,661 km x 80.5° x 103.50 min. Wade
Decayed: 8 March 1960.
Mission: Historical reports: Discoverer VIII satellite successfully placed into polar orbit but, following a too-excentric orbit, capsule was not recovered. Weight: 745 kg.
     Officially, Discoverer VIII’s capsule “contained telemetry equipment to measure performance.“ Capsule ejected but not located. Spacecraft down on 8 March 1960 (110 days).
* * * * *
Current overview: First generation low resolution photo surveillance satellite (KH-1). Discoverer 8 was designed to test launching techniques, propulsion, communications, orbital performance, engineering, and recovery techniques. The spacecraft consisted of a main satellite body (Agena A) and a separable reentry vehicle containing a recovery capsule. Spacecraft mass was 794 kg (and roughly 3,850 kg with propellants), which included 140 kg for the reentry vehicle. 
     Discoverer 8 was successfully put into a near-polar orbit and, after 15 orbits, the reentry vehicle was separated from the main body and the capsule released over the Pacific Ocean for descent to Earth. Unfortunately, the descent parachute failed to deploy and the capsule impacted the ocean at high spped and was not recovered.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-011A ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 115, 129, 146 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 67 ; Encyclopédie sociétique de l'astronautique mondial, 1971, Annexe 1 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 1258 ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Gunter's KH-1 Corona ; Celestrak's Satcat=1959 ;
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Pioneer P-3 / Atlas Able V #1
Spacecraft:  Able IVB / P-3 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #24 ; 1959 9th loss ; 55th spacecraft.
Type: Planetary Probe (Moon)
Significant
achievements:
•  This lunar probe (P-1) was to be launched last October but its Atlas-Able launch vehicle was destroyed on the pad. Finallly, it was launched as P-3.
•  1st probe of the 1st lunar program authorized by NASA.
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 26 November 1959 at 7h26 UT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-14, by an Atlas-Able.
Orbit: Apogee: 1,000 km
Destroys: 26 November 1959
Mission: Historical reports: An attempt to launch a Pioneer lunar probe with an Atlas-Able 4 rocket failed when, about 45 seconds after launching, the plastic shroud covering the probe fell off. With the shroud gone, the payload was torn off and, at 104 seconds, all telemetry was lost. (USASA, 1960) Weight: 191 kg.
     Pioneer lunar proble was normally lifted by Atlas-Able 4 launch vehicle, but failure of plastic fairing covering payload (at 45 seconds aftert launch) caused payload to break away. (A&A, 1961)  (See Atlas Able V program description in Pioneer P-1.)
* * * * *
Current overview: The first of four spacecrafts designed for lunar orbital mission. Pioneer P-3 (Atlas-Able 4) was intended to be a lunar orbiter. Mission objectives were to place a highly instrumented probe in lunar orbit, to investigate the environment between the Earth and Moon, and to develop technology for controlling and maneuvering spacecraft from Earth. The probe was equipped to take images of the lunar surface with a television-like system, estimate the Moon's mass and topography of the poles, record the distribution and velocity of micrometeorites, and study radiation, magnetic fields, and low frequency electromagnetic waves in space. 
     Pioneer P-3 was a 1 metre diameter sphere with a propulsion system mounted on the bottom, giving a total length of 1.4 metre. Spacecraft mass was 25.3 kg and the propulsion units 88.4 kg. Four solar panels, each 60 x 60 cm and containing 2200 solar cells, extended from the sides of the spherical shell in a "paddle-wheel" configuration with a total span of about 2.7 metres.
     During the launch, the nose fairing began to break away just 45 seconds after liftoff. Aerodynamic forces then caused the third stage and payload to break away and explode. The ground lost contact with the tumbling booster at 104 seconds. Investigation showed that the 3-metre fiberglass shroud failed because there had been no measures to compensate for pressure differentials as the rocket gained altitude. (Spacecraft Mass: 169 kg.)
Notes: Designed by Space Technology Laboratories, two of the four Pionner P/Able had originally been slated for Venus orbit (in June 1959), but mission planners had redirected their missions after the success of Luna 3. All the scientific experiments and internal instrumentation were powered by nickel-cadmium batteries charged from 1,100 solar cells on 4 paddles. Each probe also carried an internal hydrazine monopropellant motor for lunar orbit insertion at a range of 8,000 kilometres from the Moon. Ideal lunar orbital parameters were planned as 6,400 x 4,800 kilometres. The missions also inaugurated the first use of the Atlas plus an upper stage combination, affording increased payload weight.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 1959 Chronology ; National Space Science Data Center's PIONX ; United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, 1960, p. 2 ; Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1915-1960, p. 115 ; Lunar Impact: A History of Project Ranger, 1977, Chapter 1 ; TRW Space Log 1996 (Vol. 32), p. 65 ; United States Civilian Space Program, 1958-1978, Vol. 1, 1981, p. 784, 1259 ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 23-4 ; Gunter's Pioneer P-1, P-3, P-30, P-31 ;
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Historical Perspectives

From 1957 to 1959, the Soviets reported to have launched six spacecraft: three Earth satellites and three Lunar probes - all spectacular success. In fact, they had attempted to launch 11 spacecraft - 4 Earth satellites and 7 lunar probes - but five failures were not known to the West until the 1980s and 1990s. Since the Soviets didn’t announced any launch failures, this gave the impression that they made only successful launches. However, Western experts suspected some failures, as in the U.S., but how many? More or less than the U.S.?

For their part, the United States made 38 launch attempts (publicly known) during the 1950s, scoring 17 success and 20 failures. And there was Discoverer 1, first announced as a launch success but which never reach orbit.

Thus, U.S.S.R. has a success launch rate of 55% and the U.S. 46%, as shown in the table below.

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Table – Summary of 1950s Launches
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No. .. Soviet
Success
Soviet 
failures*
No. .. American 
success**
American 
failures***
1) Sputnik . 1) . Vanguard TV-3
2) Sputnik 2 . 2) Explorer 1 .
3) Sputnik D #1 3) . Vanguard TV-3bu
4) Sputnik 3 . 4) . Explorer 2
5) . Ye-1 #1 5) Vanguard I. .
6) . Ye-1 #2 6) Explorer 3 .
7) . Ye-1 #3 7) . Vanguard TV-5
8) Lunik I . 8) . Vanguard SLV-1
9) . Ye-1 #5 9) . Vanguard SLV-2
10) Lunid II . 10) Explorer 4 .
11) Lunik III . 11) . Able 1
12) . Explorer 5
13) . Vanguard SLV-3
14) Able 2 / Pîoneer 1 .
15) . Beacon 1
16) . Pioneer 2
17) Pioneer 3 .
18) SCORE .
19) . Discoverer 0
20) Vanguard II .
21) Disco verer 1****
22) Pioneer 4 .
23) Discoverer 2 .
24) . Vanguard SLV 5
25) . Discoverer 3
26) . Vanguard SLV-6
27) . Discoverer 4
28) . Explorer S-1
29) Explorer 6 .
30) Discoverer 5 .
31) . Beacon 2
32) Discoverer 6 .
33) . Transit 1A
34) Vanguard III .
35) Explorer 7 .
36) Discoverer 7 .
37) Discoverer 8 .
38) . Pioneer P-3
Total 6 Soviet 
launch success
5 Soviet 
launch failures
17½ American 
launch success
20½ American launch 
failures (known**)
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54.5 % launch success (6 in 11) 46.0 % launch success (17½ in 38)
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* . All Soviet failures were unknown at the time; they were revealed only in the 1980s and 1990s.
** Including Able 2 and Pioneer 3 which, although they failed to reach their goal (the Moon), had provided important scientific informations.
*** Does not include the very secretive NOTS program, unknown at the time.
**** Discoverer 1 is officially reported as a launch success but it is probably a failure.

During 1959, U.S. made 20 launch attempts, succeeding 10 times. Both NASA and the Department of Defense succeed in launching 5 of their 10 spacecraft. 

Even though Soviet lunar probes made the most spectacular accomplishments of the year – first man-made object placed into Solar orbit, first man-made object to ‘land’ on the Moon, and first photos of the far side of the Moon -, American scientific satellites made some of the most significant observations and discoveries (as in 1958). In particular, Explorer 7 found evidence of relationships between solar storms and perturbations in Earth’s upper atmosphere. It thus observed, for the first time, direct relationships between Earth and Sun, separated by 150 million km.

For their part, all the military satellites failed to accomplish the missions for which they were designed for. In particular, DOD tried six times to recover a capsule from space.

And one of the surprizing aspect of the early days of space activities was the U.S. insistence on the “Peaceful use of Outer Space“ as they were the only one to carry military missions in orbit (see below). 

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U.S. Military or Peaceful Use of Space?

In the early days of the Space Age, the United States made many claims of using “Outer Space for Peaceful Purpose” only, while developing many military projects. 

For example, in April 1959, U.S. formally requested that the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space convene in New York. (The meeting took place from 6 May to 25 June.) In December, U.S. Ambassador Lodge presented a resolution to the Assembly of the United Nations recommending that an international conference on the peaceful uses of space be convened in 1960 or 1961, etc. 

And in the mean time, U.S. was developing a vast series of military space capabilities:
 
1) Discoverer, technology and reconnaissance (‘spy’) satellites;
2) Transit, navigation satellite (for Polaris nuclear-missile guidance);
3) SAMOS, military Earth observation (‘spy’) satellites;
4) Vela, for detection of nuclear explosions around the world;
5) SAINT, for rendezvous and inspection of satellites in space (anti-satellite system);
6) GREB, electronic intelligence satellites;
7) NOTUS (Courier), a communications satellite system for the Department of Defense;
8) Shepherd, a space surveillance tracking system; 
9) Longsight, to foreseen military needs in space technology (R&D satellites);
10) Dyna-Soar, a manned, maneuverable aerospace vehicle.

As President Eisenhower explained*.

The primary space interest of the Department of Defense is in the application of the new capability for flight in space as a means toward achieving a more effective military posture for the United States and its allies, rather than space flight and exploration as ends in themselves. Therefore, the space efforts of the Department of Defense are an integral part of our overall military program and will complement or supplement other military capabilities. Applications of space technology appear to provide foreseeably better means of achieving certain military requirements. Space technology is being developed with the intention of more effectively achieving certain military functions by complementing or extending non-space capabilities. In addition, as space technology and resulting uses of outer space expand, new military requirements and opportunities for development of new military capabilities are likely to materialize. Thus, the major objectives of the Department of Defense efforts are development, production and operation of systems where it can be demonstrated with reasonable certainty that the use of space flight will enhance the over-all defense program, or the development of components which would be needed in such systems which cannot be clearly defined at this time.

But how, if you were then the Soviet premier, would you have interpreted this dual language? Or, imagine the opposite: Soviets claiming “Peaceful Use of Outer Space“ while conducting secret missions in Earth orbit…

* Source: United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 2nd Annual Report to Congress, p. 21.

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© Claude Lafleur, 2004-10, 2015 Mes sites web: claudelafleur.qc.ca