Kuiper poses with the historic launch console.

Explorer 1

Kuiper prepares for launch πŸ›°οΈ at @rocketcenterusa in Huntsville, AL. Thank you U.S. Space and Rocket Center for allowing Kuiper to make a very special visit.

Starting today, we’re really going to be putting the space 🌌 in spacewhippet: In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing 🌚 this July, we’ll be covering approx. 11 years of American space history over the next 5 months. I have around 50 posts queued up already, and I’m really excited to get started. Hold onto your space helmets πŸ‘¨β€πŸš€πŸ‘©β€πŸš€; it’s going to be a wild ride!

On this day in 1958, the US put its first satellite πŸ›°οΈ in orbit with this very console!! For context, the Soviets had launched Sputnik 1 four months earlier on October 4, 1957 (and Sputnik 2 launched with Laika 🐢😭 on Nov 3.)

The US had publicly announced intentions to launch a scientific satellite πŸ”¬ in 1955 (with an effective deadline of December 31, 1958.) The original plan had been to use a modified Viking rocket developed by the Naval Research Laboratory. In contrast to Redstone rockets (much more on those later), Vikings had always been intended for civilian, rather than military use.

Pres Eisenhower didn’t anticipate the huge public! freakout! over Sputnik. Its launch wasn’t a surprise to him (because spy planes), but it was a BIG. DEAL. to everyone else. We had to respond. Unfortunately, since we weren’t initially in a huge rush, “Project Vanguard” wasn’t really ready for prime-time. Our first attempt to launch a satellite with a Vanguard rocket failed spectacularly (and publicly) on December 6. It was time for Plan B.

The Army had already been testing the idea of using a modified Redstone rocket as a launch vehicle*. Had they been given permission, they could have launched a satellite as early as Sept 1956. After the launch of Sput2, the Redstone folks got the green light to prep their system as a backup plan. They launched Explorer 1 on Jan 31.

Its data led to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts, fields of charged particles that surround Earth. During the Apollo missions, NASA made sure that astronauts zipped through these as fast as possible.

Next up, more about that rocket!

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BtUu_8_hmy3/

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