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First United States Satellite and Space Launch Vehicle

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Explorer I Satellite - Diagram
Explorer I Satellite Diagram

Explorer I Satellite Diagram

NASA
Explorer I, officially known as Satellite 1958 Alpha, was the first United States earth satellite and was sent aloft as part of the United States program for the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958. It was designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology under the direction of Doctor William H. Pickering. The satellite instrumentation of Explorer I was designed and built by Doctor James Van Allen of the State University of Iowa.

The satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral (now Cape Kennedy) in Florida at 10:48 P.M. EST on 31 January 1958 by the Jupiter C vehicle - a special modification of the Redstone ballistic missile that was designed, built, and launched by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under the direction of Doctor Wernher Von Braun. Jupiter C, a direct descendant of the German A-4 (V-2) rocket, was originally developed in 1955-1956 as a high-performance rocket for testing purposes.

The Jupiter C has its origins in the United States Army's Project Orbiter in 1954. The project was canceled in 1955, however when the decision was made to proceed with Project Vanguard.

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