Home 1959 Summary
1958 spacecrafts 1960 spacecrafts
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The 24 spacecrafts launched in 1959:
1) Luna 1 2) Discoverer 0 / KH-1 3) Vanguard II 4) Discoverer 1 / KH-1
5) Pioneer 4 6) Discoverer 2 / KH-1 7) Vanguard SLV 5 8) Discoverer 3 / KH-1
9) Luna 10) Vanguard SLV-6 11) Discoverer 4 / KH-1 12) Explorer S-1
13) Explorer 6 14) Discoverer 5 / KH-1 15) Beacon 2 16) Discoverer 6 / KH-1
17) Luna 2 18) Transit 1A 19) Vanguard III 20) Luna 3
21) Explorer 7 22) Discoverer 7 / KH-1 23) Discoverer 8 / KH-1 24) Pioneer P-3
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Spacecraft Entries
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"Luna 1" / Cosmic Rocket
Spacecraft:  Ye-1 no. 4 (E-1 no. 4) ; the spacecraft was called the "Cosmic Rocket" in the Soviet press and retroactively named Luna 1 after 1963.
Chronologies: 1959 payload #1 ; 1959-001A ; 32nd spacecraft.
Type: Lunar probe
Families: 8th planetary probe (4th Soviet)
Ransk 25th civilian spacecraft (8th Soviet) ; 8th Soviet spacecraft (8th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 2 January 1959 at 16h41 UTC, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by an A-1/"Vostok" (8K72 B1-6).
Orbit: Heliocentric orbit.
Decayed: n/a
Mission: Launch to impact the Moon, this probe (which, with its launch vehicle, was referred to as “Cosmic Rocket” in the Soviet press) 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. It is the first human-made object to reach escape velocity and became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around the Sun. Before the flyby, the attached upper stage released one kilogram of natrium at a distance of 113,000 kilometers from Earth (on 3 January 1959 at 0h57 UTC) and was photographed by astronomers on Earth. Ground controllers lost contact with the Cosmic Rocket approximately 62 hours after launch. Spacecraft Mass: 361.3 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 1959-012A ; TRW Space Log ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 21-2 ;
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Discoverer 0 / CORONA R&D / KH-1 prototype
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #2 ; 1959 1st loss ; 33rd spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 1st reconnaissance satellite (1st American) ; 23rd failure.
Ranks: 8th military spacecraft (8th American) : 25th American spacecraft (8th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. Air Force
Launch: 21 January 1959, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A (Thor 160 / Agena A). On the pad, the vehicle suffered a catastrophic failure and that event had been labeled “CORONA Zero”.
Orbit: n/a
Mission: 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.”
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica's 21 Jan 59; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Space Review's 23 Mar 09 ;
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Vanguard II
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 2E / Cloud cover satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #3 ; 1959-002A ; 34th spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 14th science satellite (12th American) ; 26th American spacecraft (18th civilian satellite)
Ranks: 26th civilian spacecraft (18th American) :
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 17 February 1959 at 15h55 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard (SLV-4).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-001A ; TRW Space Log ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ;
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Discoverer 1 / CORONA R&D / KH-1 prototype
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #4 ; 1959-003A ; 35th spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 2nd reconnaissance satellite (2nd American)
Ranks: 9th military spacecraft (9th American) : 27th American spacecraft (9th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. DARPA
Launch: 28 February 1959 at 21h49 UTC, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A (Thor 163 / Agena A 1022).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission: First launch attempt of a Discoverer sateliite. The craft, including its Agena upper stage, was 5.6 meters long and weighed almost 3,265 kilograms. There was no reentry vehicle on this flight. The Discoverer instrumentation consisted of an S-band radio beacon, a VHF continuous-wave acquisition beacon, and a 15-channel FM telemetering system carrying a total of 97 in-flight instruments, plus three silver peroxide-zinc batteries.
     The launch proceed normally until after second-stage rocket ignition. This engine was scheduled to fire for 96.3 seconds. But 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 of 159 x 974 kilometers. 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.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-002A ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Space Review's 13 Apr 09 ;
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Pioneer 4
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #5 ; 1959-004A ; 36th spacecraft.
Type: Lunar probe
Families: 9th planetary probe (5th American)
Ranks: 27th civilian spacecraft (19th American) : 28th American spacecraft (19th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA / AMBA
Launch: 3 March 1959 at 5h11 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-5, by a Juno II (RTV 11, AM-14).
Orbit: Heliocentric orbit.
Decayed: n/a
Mission: Pioneer 4 was the first U. S. spacecraft to reach escape velocity, but it did not achieve its primary objective: to photograph the Moon during a flyby, During the launch, the second stage did not cut off on time and caused the trajectory to change. Consequently, the probepassed by the Moon at a range of 59,545 kilometers – instead of the planned 32,000 kilometers – not close enough for the imaging scanner to function. The closest approach was on 4 March 1959 at 10h25 UTC. 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 ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-013A ; TRW Space Log ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 22 ; Origins of NASA Names (NASA SP-4402) Chapter 3 p. 88-89 ;
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Discoverer 2 / CORONA R&D / KH-1 prototype
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #6 ; 1959-005A ; 37th spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 3rd reconnaissance satellite (3rd American) ; 24th failure.
Ranks: 10th military spacecraft (10th American) : 29th American spacecraft (10th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. DARPA
Launch: 13 April 1959 at 21h18 UTC, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor Agena A (Thor 170 / Agena A 1018).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission: KH-1 prototype; tested capsule recovery techniques (did not carry camera). Capsule recovery failed.
     The  Discoverer reentry vehicle — without any classified material aboard — had reportedly come down on Spitzbergen Island 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. 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.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-003A ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona : Space Review's 18 Jan 08
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Vanguard (SLV 5)
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 3 / Air density satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #7 ; 1959 2nd loss ; 38th spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 15th science satellite (13th American) ; 25th failure.
Ranks: 28th civilian spacecraft (20th American) : 30th American spacecraft (20th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 14 April 1959 at 2h49 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard (SLV-5).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's VAGLS5 ; TRW Space Log ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ;
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Discoverer 3 / CORONA R&D / KH-1 prototype
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #8 ; 1959 3rd loss ; 39th spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 4th reconnaissance satellite (4th American) ; 26th failure.
Ranks: 11th military spacecraft (11th American) : 31st American spacecraft (11th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 3 June 1959 at 20h09 UTC, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A (Thor 174 / Agena A 1020).
Orbit:
Decayed: (Photo: Discovery 3's rocket on its launch pad.)
Mission: KH-1 prototype; did not carry camera. Film capsule recovery failed
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's DISCOV3 ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona :
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Luna
Spacecraft:  Ye-1A no. 5 (E-1A no. 5)
Chronologies: 1959 payload #9 ; 1959 4th loss ; 40st spacecraft.
Type: Lunar probe
Families: 10th planetary probe (5th Soviet) ;
Ranks: 29th civilian spacecraft (9th Soviet) ; 9th Soviet spacecraft (9th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau) ; 27th failure.
Launch: 18 June 1959 at 8h08 UTC, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by an A-1/"Vostok" (8K72 I1-7).
Orbit: None.
Mission: 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 ; TRW Space Log ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 22 ;
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Vanguard (SLV-6)
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 3B /  Radiation Balance satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #10 ; 1959 5th loss ; 41st spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 16th science satellite (14th American) ; 28th failure.
Ranks: 30th civilian spacecraft (21st American) : 32nd American spacecraft (21st civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 22 June 1959 at 20h16 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard (SLV-6).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's VAGLS6 ; TRW Space Log ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ;
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Discoverer 4 / CORONA 9001 / KH-1
Spacecraft:
Chronologies: 1959 payload #11 ; 1959 6th loss ; 42nd spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 5th reconnaissance satellite (5th American) ; 29th failure.
Ranks: 12th military spacecraft (12th American) : 33rd American spacecraft (12th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 25 June 1959 at 22h47 UTC, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-5, by a Thor-Agena A (Thor 179 / Agena A 1023).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission: First generation low resolution photo surveillance satellite.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's DISC4 ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona :
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Explorer S-1
Spacecraft:  NASA S-1
Chronologies: 1959 payload #12 ; 1959 7th loss ; 43rd spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 17th science satellite (15th American) ; 30th failure.
Ranks: 31st civilian spacecraft (22nd American) : 34th American spacecraft (22nd civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 16 July 1959 at 17h37 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-05, by a Juno II (RTV 12, AM-16).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's EXP-7X ; TRW Space Log ;
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Explorer 6
Spacecraft:  NASA S-2 / Able 3
Chronologies: 1959 payload #13 ; 1959-006A ; 44th spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 18th science satellite (16th American)
Ranks: 32nd civilian spacecraft (23rd American) : 35th American spacecraft (23rd civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 7 August 1959 at 14h23 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-17A, by a Thor-Able II (Thor 134 / Able 3).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-004A ; TRW Space Log ;
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Discoverer 5 / CORONA 9002 / KH-1
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #14 ; 1959-007A ; 45th spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 6th reconnaissance satellite (6th American) ; 31st failure.
Ranks: 13th military spacecraft (13th American) : 36th American spacecraft (13th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 13 August 1959 at 19h00 UTC, from Vandenberg Air Force Base LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A (Thor 192 / Agena A 1029).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission: First generation low resolution photo surveillance satellite. Film capsule boosted into higher orbit.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-005A ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona :
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Beacon 2
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #15 ; 1959 8th loss ; 46th spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 19th science satellite (17th American) ; 32nd failure.
Ranks: 33rd civilian spacecraft (24th American) : 37th American spacecraft (24th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA/U.S. Navy
Launch: 15 August 1959 at 00h31 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-26B, by a Juno II (RTV 13, AM-19B).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's BRAC2 ; TRW Space Log ;
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Discoverer 6 / CORONA 9003 / KH-1
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #16 ; 1959-008A ; 47th spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 7th reconnaissance satellite (7th American) ; 33rd failure.
Ranks: 14th military spacecraft (14th American) : 38th American spacecraft (14th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 19 August 1959 at 19h24 UTC, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-5, by a Thor-Agena A (Thor 200 / Agena A 1028).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission: Fist generation low resolution photo surveillance satellites. Film capsule recovery failed.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-006A ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona :
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"Luna 2" / 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 ; 48th spacecraft.
Type: Lunar probe
Families: 11th planetary probe (6th Soviet) : 10th Soviet spacecraft (10th civilian satellite)
Ranks: 34th civilian spacecraft (10th Soviet) ;
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 12 September 1959 at 6h40 UTC, from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by a A-1/"Vostok" (8K72 I1-7B).
Orbit: Ballistic trajectory, impact the Moon.
Moon impact: 14 September 1959.
Mission: This sixth Luna attempt at lunar impact was much more accurate than its predecessors. 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 UTC, 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. The spacecraft’s magnetometer measured no significant lunar magnetic field as close as 55 kilometers to the lunar surface. The radiation detectors also found no hint of a radiation belt. Spacecraft Mass: 390.2 kg (with upper stage).
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-014A ; TRW Space Log ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 22 ;
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Transit 1A
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #18 ; 1959 9th loss ; 49th spacecraft.
Type: Navigation
Families: 1st navigation satellite (1st American) ; 34th failure.
Ranks: 15th military spacecraft (15th American) : 39th American spacecraft (15th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. Navy
Launch: 17 September 1959, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-17A, by a Thor-Able II (Thor 136 / Able 2).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's TRAN1 ; TRW Space Log ;
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Vanguard III
Spacecraft:  Vanguard 3C / Magne-Ray satellite
Chronologies: 1959 payload #19 ; 1959-010A ; 50th spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 20th science satellite (18th American)
Ranks: 35th civilian spacecraft (25th American) : 40th American spacecraft (25th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 18 September 1959 at 5h20 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-18A, by a Vanguard (X-248 SLV-7).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-007A ; TRW Space Log ; Vanguard, A History (NASA SP-4202) Chapter 12 ;
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"Luna 3" / 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 and retroactively named Luna 3 after 1963.
Chronologies: 1959 payload #20 ; 1959-011A ; 51st spacecraft.
Type: Lunar probe
Families: 12th planetary probe (7th Soviet) ; 11th Soviet spacecraft (11th civilian satellite)
Ranks: 36th civilian spacecraft (11th Soviet) :
Sponsor: Soviet Union (Korolev's Design Bureau)
Launch: 4 October 1959 at 2h30 UTC (or 0h44 UT), from Baykonur Cosmodrome's LC-1, by a A-1/"Vostok" (8K72 I1-8).
Orbit: 48,280 km x 468,300 km
Decayed:
Mission: 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. Spacecraft Mass: 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 UTC 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. These photographs showed that the far side of the Moon was very different from the near side, most noticeably in its 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 ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-008A ; TRW Space Log ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 23 ;
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Explorer 7
Spacecraft:  NASA S-1A
Chronologies: 1959 payload #21 ; 1959-012A ; 52nd spacecraft.
Type: Easth/space science
Families: 21st science satellite (19th American)
Ranks: 37th civilian spacecraft (26th American) : 41st American spacecraft (26th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 13 October 1959 at 15h30 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-05, by a Juno II (RTV 14, AM-19A).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission:
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-009A ; TRW Space Log ;
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Discoverer 7 / CORONA 9004 / KH-1
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #22 ; 1959-013A ; 53rd spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 8th reconnaissance satellite (8th American) ; 35th failure.
Ranks: 16th military spacecraft (16th American) : 42nd American spacecraft (16th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 7 November 1959 at 20h28 UTC, from Vandenberg: Air Force Base's LC-75-3-4, by a Thor-Agena A (Thor 206 / Agena A 1051).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission: First generation low resolution photo surveillance satellite. The spacecraft tumbled and film capsule not recovered.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-010A ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona :
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Discoverer 8 / CORONA 9005 / KH-1
Spacecraft: 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #23 ; 1959-014A ; 54th spacecraft.
Type: Reconnaissance
Families: 9th reconnaissance satellite (9th American) ; 36th failure.
Ranks: 17th military spacecraft (17th American) : 43rd American spacecraft (17th military satellite)
Sponsor: U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
Launch: 20 November 1959 at 19h25 UTC, from Vandenberg Air Force Base's LC-75-3-5, by a Thor Agena A (Thor 212 / Agena A 1050).
Orbit:
Decayed:
Mission: First generation low resolution photo surveillance satellite. Film capsule recovery failed.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's 1959-011A ; TRW Space Log ; NRO's Corona : JPL's Corona :
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Pioneer P-3
Spacecraft:  Able IVB / P-3 
Chronologies: 1959 payload #24 ; 1959 10th loss ; 55th spacecraft.
Type: Lunar probe
Families: 13th planetary probe (6th American) ; 37th failure.
Ranks: 38th civilian spacecraft (27th American) : 44th American spacecraft (27th civilian satellite)
Sponsor: NASA
Launch: 26 November 1959 at 7h26 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's LC-14, by an Atlas-Able (no. 1, Atlas D 20D / Able-5).
Orbit: None.
Mission: The first of four spacecrafts designed for lunar orbital mission. 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-meter 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 monopro- pellant motor for lunar orbit insertion at a range of 8, 000 kilometers from the Moon. Ideal lunar orbital parameters were planned as 6,400 x 4,800 kilometers. The missions also inaugurated the first use of the Atlas +an upper stage combination, affording increased payload weight.
Source: Jonathan Space Report's Master List ; Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica ; National Space Science Data Center's PIONX ; TRW Space Log ; A. Siddiqi, SP-2002-4524, p. 23-4 ;
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© Claude Lafleur, 2004-10 Mes sites web: claudelafleur.qc.ca