|Names||1958 Alpha 1|
|Mission type||Earth science|
|Operator||Army Ballistic Missile Agency|
|Harvard designation||1958 Alpha 1|
|Mission duration||111 days (achieved)|
120 days (planned)
|Manufacturer||Jet Propulsion Laboratory|
|Launch mass||13.97 kg (30.8 lb)|
|Dimensions||203 cm (80 in) length|
15.2 cm (6.0 in) diameter
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||1 February 1958, 03:47:56 GMT|
|Rocket||Juno I (RS-29)|
|Launch site||Atlantic Missile Range, LC-26A|
|Contractor||Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA)|
|End of mission|
|Last contact||23 May 1958|
|Decay date||31 March 1970|
|Reference system||Geocentric orbit |
|Regime||Medium Earth orbit|
|Perigee altitude||358 km (222 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||2,550 km (1,580 mi)|
Satellite Drag Atmospheric Density
Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched by the United States and was part of the U.S. participation in the International Geophysical Year (IGY). The mission followed the first two satellites the previous year; the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2, beginning the Cold War Space Race between the two nations.
Explorer 1 was launched on 1 February 1958 at 03:47:56 GMT (or 31 January 1958 at 22:47:56 Eastern Time) atop the first Juno booster from LC-26A at the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Center of the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR), in Florida. It was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt, returning data until its batteries were exhausted after nearly four months. It remained in orbit until 1970 and was followed by more than ninety scientific spacecraft in the Explorers Program.
The U.S. Earth satellite program began in 1954 as a joint U.S. Army and U.S. Navy proposal, called Project Orbiter, to put a scientific satellite into orbit during the International Geophysical Year (IGY). The proposal, using a military Redstone missile, was rejected in 1955 by the Eisenhower administration in favor of the Navy's Project Vanguard, using a booster advertised as more civilian in nature. Following the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957, the initial Project Orbiter program was revived as the Explorer program to catch up with the Soviet Union.
Explorer 1 was designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), while a Jupiter-C rocket was modified by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) to accommodate a satellite payload; the resulting rocket known as the Juno I. The Jupiter-C design used for the launch had already been flight-tested in nose cone reentry tests for the Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), and was modified into Juno I. Working closely together, ABMA and JPL completed the job of modifying the Jupiter-C and building Explorer 1 in 84 days. However, before work was completed, the Soviet Union launched a second satellite, Sputnik 2, on 3 November 1957. The U.S. Navy's attempt to put the first U.S. satellite into orbit failed with the launch of the Vanguard TV-3 on 6 December 1957.
Explorer 1 was designed and built by the California Institute of Technology's JPL under the direction of Dr. William H. Pickering. It was the second satellite to carry a mission payload (Sputnik 2 was the first).
The total mass of the satellite was 13.97 kg (30.8 lb), of which 8.3 kg (18 lb) were instrumentation. In comparison, the mass of the first Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 was 83.6 kg (184 lb). The instrument section at the front end of the satellite and the empty scaled-down fourth-stage rocket casing orbited as a single unit, spinning around its long axis at 750 revolutions per minute.
Data from the scientific instruments was transmitted to the ground by two antennas. A 60 milliwatt transmitter fed a dipole antenna consisting of two fiberglass slot antennas in the body of the satellite operating on 108.03 MHz, and four flexible whips forming a turnstile antenna were fed by a 10 milliwatt transmitter operating on 108.00 MHz.
Because of the limited space available and the requirements for low weight, the payload instrumentation was designed and built with simplicity and high reliability in mind, using germanium and silicon transistors in its electronics. A total of 29 transistors were used in Explorer 1, plus additional ones in the Army's micrometeorite amplifier. Electrical power was provided by mercury chemical batteries that made up approximately 40% of the payload weight.
The external skin of the instrument section was sandblasted stainless steel with white stripes. Several other color schemes had been tested, resulting in backup articles, models, and photographs showing different configurations, including alternate white and green striping and blue stripes alternating with copper. The final coloration was determined by studies of shadow-sunlight intervals based on firing time, trajectory, orbit, and inclination.
The Explorer 1 payload consisted of the Iowa Cosmic Ray Instrument without a tape data recorder which was not modified in time to make it onto the spacecraft. The real-time data received on the ground was therefore very sparse and puzzling showing normal counting rates and no counts at all. The later Explorer 3 mission, which included a tape data recorder in the payload, provided the additional data for confirmation of the earlier Explorer 1 data.
After a jet stream-related delay on 28 January 1958, at 03:47:56 GMT on 1 February 1958  the Juno I rocket was launched, putting Explorer 1 into orbit with a perigee of 358 km (222 mi) and an apogee of 2,550 km (1,580 mi) having a period of 114.80 minutes, and an inclination of 33.24°. Goldstone Tracking Station could not report after 90 minutes as planned whether the launch had succeeded because the orbit was larger than expected. At about 06:30 GMT, after confirming that Explorer 1 was indeed in orbit, a news conference was held in the Great Hall at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. to announce it to the world.
The original expected lifetime of the satellite before orbital decay was three years. Mercury batteries powered the high-power transmitter for 31 days and the low-power transmitter for 105 days. Explorer 1 stopped transmission of data on 23 May 1958 when its batteries died, but remained in orbit for more than 12 years. It reentered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on 31 March 1970 after more than 58,000 orbits.
Explorer 1 changed rotation axis after launch. The elongated body of the spacecraft had been designed to spin about its long (least-inertia) axis but refused to do so, and instead started precessing due to energy dissipation from flexible structural elements. Later it was understood that on general grounds, the body ends up in the spin state that minimizes the kinetic rotational energy for a fixed angular momentum (this being the maximal-inertia axis). This motivated the first further development of the Eulerian theory of rigid body dynamics after nearly 200 years -- to address this kind of momentum-preserving energy dissipation.
Sometimes the instrumentation reported the expected cosmic ray count (approximately 30 counts per second) but other times it would show a peculiar zero counts per second. The University of Iowa (under James Van Allen) observed that all of the zero counts per second reports were from an altitude of more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi) over South America, while passes at 500 km (310 mi) would show the expected level of cosmic rays. Later, after Explorer 3, it was concluded that the original Geiger counter had been overwhelmed ("saturated") by strong radiation coming from a belt of charged particles trapped in space by the Earth's magnetic field. This belt of charged particles is now known as the Van Allen radiation belt. The discovery was considered to be one of the outstanding discoveries of the International Geophysical Year (IGY).
The acoustic micrometeorite detector detected 145 impacts of cosmic dust in 78,750 seconds. This calculates to an average impact rate of 8.0×10-3 impacts m-2 s-1 over the twelve-day period (29 impacts per hour per square meter).
Soviet Union The Soviet Union's answer to Explorer 1 did not aim to surpass the goal of spatial Orbit (that had already been achieved by both Sputnik 1 & Sputnik 2), but rather gather experimental data from scientific instruments located aboard Sputnik 3 < (Kennedy Ian, 2005)>. The success of the first Satellite in orbit had major importance in regards to the relationship between the Soviets and Americans in the height of the Cold War. Both superpowers had established Nuclear power in their creation of Nuclear weapons and each desired to assert World dominance <(Kennedy Ian, 2005)>. Premier Nikita Khrushchev bragged about the technological advancements the Soviet Union had made in regards to the Sputnik crisis, not only had the soviets demonstrated Superiority in their production of satellites but also demanded respect from their production of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) <(Sputnik 1957 US Department of State)>. Sergei Korolev, a leading Soviet rocket engineer, helped design and develop the R-7 Semyorka Rocket which was used to deliver the 4.82 kg instrumentation package via the Sputnik-PS5 <(NASA, 2005)>. Although Korolev had successfully contributed towards satellite orbit, the Soviet space program next goal was to achieve the first successful animal to enter Earth's orbit, this was achieved months later with the help of Laika in Sputnik 2 <(Kennedy Ian, 2005)>. These major and successful missions demonstrated Russian advancement during the early stages of the Space Race resulting in historical Ingenuity and global power1 <(Kennedy Ian, 2005)>. The Soviets public response towards the Soviet space program was overwhelmingly supportive but lacked initial support because of the secrecy of the space program1 <(Kennedy Ian, 2005)>.
Americans The Eisenhower administration failed to beat the Soviets in the beginning of the Space Race, President Eisenhower stated the Sputnik satellite's achievement, "does not raise my apprehensions..."6 <(Mieczkowski , 2013)>. Although the success of the Soviet space program threatened the technological development of the United State Military, the development of the Explorers Program soon re-established Equilibrium between the two world powers after each nation had successfully launched satellites into orbit. Under the Eisenhower administration numerous reconnaissance mission using aircraft such as, U-2 and Spy Balloon Project , were conducted to gather intel about Soviet Space and Weapons Programs, These missions were conducted to assess the global threat and power of the Soviet Union. <(The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954- 1974, 2013)>. Although many American had expressed their concerns about trailing in the Space Race, the Eisenhower administration did not express major concern over the Soviet space program but prioritized surveillance over the delayed satellite launch of Explorer 1 <(Dickson 2007)>. The Soviets space program established a precedence of superiority during the launches of the Sputnik Satellite Program which concerned Americans attitudes about the global domination of space programs which soon gained congressional financial support <(Mieczkowski , 2013)>. In a news publishing in 1958 from The Engineer[disambiguation needed], the personal feeling of American in regards to Sputnik crisis and Explorer 1 the following was stated, "Americans took it so much to heart when the Russians proved to be first in the field in setting up an artificial satellite of the earth..." <("Explorer" In Orbit, 1958)>.
Explorer 1 was the first of the long-running Explorer program. Four follow-up satellites of the Explorer series were launched by the Juno I rocket in 1958, of these, Explorer 3 and 4 were successful, while Explorer 2 and 5 failed to reach orbit. The final flight of the Juno I booster, the satellite Beacon-1, also failed. The Juno I vehicle was replaced by the Juno II in 1959.
A follow-up to the first mission, Explorer-1 [PRIME], was successfully launched aboard a Delta II launch vehicle in late October 2011. The PRIME was built using modern satellite construction techniques. The orbiting satellite was a backup, because the initial Explorer-1 PRIME, launched on 4 March 2011, did not reach orbit due to a launch vehicle failure.
An identically constructed flight backup of Explorer 1 is on display in the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, Milestones of Flight Gallery in Washington, D.C. Launch Pad 26 was deactivated in 1963, and was designated for use as a museum in 1964, the Air Force Space and Missile Museum. Here too, a full-scale Explorer 1 is on display, but this one is a mockup.