JJF's Monograph

Satellites

Pricelists for Satellite Covers:
Space Voyage Cachets
Centennial Printed Cachets
Orbit Cachets
GOLDCRAFT CACHETS (Printed Cachets 1958 thru 1962)

 

Brief Histories of...
Explorer Satellites | Vanguard Satellites
Pioneer Satellites | Communications Satellites
Weather Satellites | Military Satellites | Missiles
Spy Satellites | Miscellaneous Satellites


Explorer Satellites

  Explorer 1

Explorer 1, first U.S. earth satellite, was launched on Jan 31, 1958 by a modified ABMA-JPL Jupiter-C rocket, with a U.S.-International Geophysical Year (IGY) scientific experiment of James A. Van Allen, which discovered the radiation belt around the earth.

Explorer 3

Explorer 3, the third U.S.-IGY Satellite, was launched on Mar 26, 1958. It was a joint ABMA-JPL project that was successfully launched.

Explorer 4

Explorer 4, the fourth U.S.-IGY satellite, was successfully launched on Jul 26, 1958 by an Army Jupiter-C/Juno II rocket. It yielded valuable data on radiation belt, micrometeorite impacts, and temperature before returning to earth on Oct 23, 1959.

 


Vanguard Satellites

  Vanguard 1

Vanguard 1 was the second U.S.-IGY satellite and was launched into orbit Mar 17, 1958 with a life expectancy of perhaps 1,000 years. It was a highly successful scientific satellite which proved that the earth is slightly pear-shaped. It operated on solar-powered batteries and is still transmitting after three years in orbit.


Pioneer Satellites

  Pioneer 1

Pioneer 1, was a U.S.-IGY space probe under direction of NASA and with the AFBMD as executive agent, was launched on Oct 11, 1958 from the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR), Cape Canaveral, Fla., by a Thor-Able-I booster. It traveled 70,700 miles before returning to earth. It determined the radial extent of a great radiation belt, first observations of earth's and interplanetary magnetic field, and first measurements of micrometeorite density in interplanetary space.

Pioneer 2

Pioneer 2 was the second U.S.-IGY space probe under direction of NASA with Air Force as executive agent. It was launched on Nov 8, 1958 from the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR). The unseparated third and fourth stages reached an altitude of about 1,000 miles and flew some 7,500 miles before burning out.

Pioneer 3

Pioneer 3 was launched on Dec 6, 1958 from the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR) by a Juno II rocket. It was the third U.S.-IGY space probe and the second under direction of NASA with the Army as executive agent. Pioneer 3's primary mission was to place the scientific payload in the vicinity of the moon. This was not accomplished although an altitude of 63,580 miles was acheived and it discovered that the radiation belt was comprised of at least two bands.

 


Communications Satellites

  Chatterbox

The Chatterbox, a communications relay satellite, was launched into orbit on Dec 18, 1958 by a USAF Atlas rocket. Chatterbox is also known as Project Score and "the talking atlas". A total of 8,750 pounds was placed in orbit, of which 150 pounds was payload

 

  Courier 1-A Satellite

The Courier 1-A was a Courier 1-A Communications satellite was launched on Aug 18, 1960 and failed to reach orbit.

 


Weather Satellites

 

  TIROS 1 Weather Satellite

Tiros 1 was the first known weather observation satellite (Television Infra-Red Observation Satellite) and was launched into orbit on Apr 1, 1960 by a Thor-Able Rocket. It took pictures of earth's cloud cover on a global scale from 450 miles above until Jun 29, 1960. Tiros 1 was hailed as ushering in "a new era of meteorological observing".

 


Military Satellites

  Transit 1-B Satellite

The Transit 1-B, a Navy satellite, was launched into orbit by a Thor-Able-Star booster on Apr 13, 1960 with a navigation payload experiment at Cape Canaveral. The flight demonstrated the first engine restart in space and the feasibility of using satellites as navigational aids.


Missiles

 

  Atlas-D Missile

The Atlas-D Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was fired into 9,040 statute miles from the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR) to the Indian Ocean on May 20, 1960. It is the longest known flight of an ICBM to date. The Atlas-D attained an apogee of about 1,000 miles.

 

  Space Mice Launch

A USAF Atlas missile was launched on Oct 13, 1960 at the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR) with a nose cone containing three black mice that went 650 miles up and 5,000 miles downrange at 17,000 mph. The nose cone was recovered in the target area near Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean. The three mice survived the flight in "good condition".

 


Spy Satellites

The Discoverer Program was a ruse to conceal the Corona Program, as a series of photoreconnaissance spy satellites. Corona was the first photoreconnaissance program, and a precursor of the military and civilian space imaging programs of today.

Corona was developed in secrecy so that targeted nations would not know what was planned. The U.S. government announced a series of scientific goals, including biological and reentry experiments for manned space flight, but none were actually planned. The cover was so elaborate that an entire staff, who did not know about Corona, was assigned to Discoverer; scientific instruments were placed on Discoverer satellites and removed before launch.

We know about Corona today, because President Clinton signed an executive order on February 24, 1995, releasing information and more than 800,000 images of the Earth taken by the Corona Program.

This brief description above on the Discoverer/Corona Program was supplied by Charles J. Vukotich, Jr., an expert in Spy Satellite history.

Click Here for A more detailed report on Corona


A special feature of the Discoverer Program was that the satellites were to eject capsules after a certain number of orbits. The capsule was supposed to reenter the atmosphere and release a parachute so that the capsule could be recovered. Specially modified aircraft were fitted with two long booms which extended from the aircraft and had a rope stretched between the tips of the booms. If everything went according to plan, the rope would catch the shrouds of the parachute of the de-orbited capsule.


  Discoverer 1

Discoverer 1 was launched on Feb 28, 1959 presumably using a Thor rocket from an Air Force base on the West Coast. Discoverer 1 tumbled in orbit and stayed in orbit for five days.

Discoverer 2

Discoverer 2 was launched on Apr 13, 1959 presumably using a Thor rocket from an Air Force base on the West Coast. Both Discoverer 1 and 2 were the first satellites to be placed into polar orbits. Discoverer 2 ejected its capsule but something went wrong with its timing devices.

Discoverer 3

Discoverer 3 failed to reach orbit.

Discoverer 4

Discoverer 4 failed to reach orbit.

Discoverer 5

Discoverer 5 was launched on Aug 13, 1959. It ejected its capsule but the transmitter in the capsule failed to work.

Discoverer 6

Discoverer 6 was launched on Aug 19, 1959. It ejected its capsule but the transmitter in the capsule failed to work.

Discoverer 7

Discoverer 7 was launched on Nov 7, 1959. Recovery of its capsule was not accomplished.

Discoverer 8

Discoverer 8 was launched on Nov 20, 1959. Recovery of its capsule was not accomplished.

Discoverer 9

Discoverer 9 did not reach orbit.

Discoverer 10

Discoverer 10 did not reach orbit.

Discoverer 11

Discoverer 11 was launched on Apr 15, 1960. Recovery of its capsule was not accomplished.

Discoverer 12

Discoverer 12 failed to reach orbit.

Discoverer 13

Discoverer 13 was launched Aug 10, 1960 with no instrumentation aboard. After making 17 orbits, it reentered smoothly and was retrieved near Hawaii. Discoverer 13 was the first man-made object recovered from space.

Discoverer 14

Discoverer 14 was launched on Aug 18, 1960 and was the first satellite to carry cameras and bring back pictures.

Discoverer 15

Discoverer 15 was launched on Sep 13, 1960. It ejected its capsule in the right place and at the right time the next day. The recovery planes saw it float down to the ocean, but it sank before the planes could reach it.

Discoverer 16

Discoverer 16 was ???

Discoverer 17

Discoverer 17 was launched on Nov 12, 1960 and yielded the second mid-air catch on November 14.

Discoverer 18

Discoverer 18 was launched on Dec 7, 1960.

Discoverer 19

Discoverer 19 was launched on Dec 20, 1960 but did not carry a capsule. It was orbited as a test for the Midas missile-detection system.

Discoverer 20

Discoverer 20 was launched on Feb 17, 1961. Due to a failure it broke into four pieces.

Discoverer 21

Discoverer 21 was launched on Feb 18, 1961. Like Discoverer 19, it carried no capsule. Its purpose was to test whether the rocket engine could be restarted in space.

Discoverer 22

Discoverer 22 was ????

Discoverer 23

Discoverer 23 was launched on Apr 8, 1961. It ejected its capsule in the wrong direction.

Discoverer 24

Discoverer 24 was ???

Discoverer 25

Discoverer 25 was launched on Jun 16, 1961. It was recovered from the ocean after completing 33 orbits around the Earth.

Discoverer 26

Discoverer 26 was launched on Jul 7, 1961 by a Thor Agena B rocket and carried a KH-2 film capsule which was recovered after 32 orbits.

Discoverer 27

Discoverer 27 was launched on Jul 21, 1961 by a Thor Agena B rocket and carried a KH-5 film capsule. This flight was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer.

Discoverer 28

Discoverer 28 was launched on Aug 3, 1961 by a Thor Agena B rocket and carried a KH-2 film capsule. On this flight, there was a second stage control system malfunction.

Discoverer 29

Discoverer 29 was launched on Aug 30, 1961 and was recovered from the ocean after 33 orbits.

Discoverer 30

Discoverer 30 was launched on Sep 12, 1961 and resulted in the fifth mid-air catch on Sep 15, 1961 after 33 orbits.

Discoverer 31

Discoverer 31 was launched on Sep 17, 1961.

Discoverer 32

Discoverer 32 was launched on Oct 13, 1961 and was recovered from the ocean after 17 orbits in space.

Discoverer 33

Discoverer 33 was ????

Discoverer 34

Discoverer 34 was launched on Nov 5, 1961.

Discoverer 35

Discoverer 35 was launched on Nov 15, 1961 and its capsule was recovered from the ocean after 17 orbits in space.

Discoverer 36

Discoverer 36 was launched on Dec 12, 1961. It carried a piggyback payload of a small satellite named Oscar, specifically designed for amateur radio operators to test their equipement. Discoverer 36's capsule was recovered on Dec 16. Oscar remained in orbit but later reentered on Jan 31, 1962.

Discoverer 37

Discoverer 37 was launched on Jan 13, 1962 by a Thor Agena B rocket and carried a KH-3 film capsule. It failed to reach orbit.

Discoverer 38

Discoverer 38 was launched on Feb 27, 1962 and successfully reached orbit and reentered on Mar 21, 1962.

 


Miscellaneous Satellites


 

   

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This page last updated on April 14, 1999 13:42