Vanguard stumbles

The US Naval research rocket that had beaten off the Redstone challenge to become the official US satellite launcher was a hybrid of existing and > new rocket stages (see panel, right). In theory, the use of tried-and-tested components should have

STANDING READY

By mid-1957, the Huntsville team had successfully used their Redstone-based Jupiter C rocket to reach space (see p. 38). Medaris ordered that several of the missiles should be held back for a potential satellite launch, but the Department of the Army was so concerned that the ABMA might "accidentally" launch a satellite before Vanguard that they insisted the upper stages be disabled.

LAUNCH PAD FIASCO

After winning the battle with von Braun's US Army team to be the first to launch a satellite, the US Navy's Vanguard rocket explodes on the launch pad, watched on television by millions of dismayed Americans.

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

With the establishment of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone in 1956, von Braun's team came under the command of Major Generol John B. Medaris (on the left in this picture with von Broun).

made the project easier, but from the beginning Vanguard suffered from neglect - largely because it was a scientific rather than military project, with a smaller budget to match. For example, the main contractor, which had previously built the Viking rocket, transferred its experienced staff to more lucrative work on the Titan ICBM. At the time of Eisenhower's announcement, the Vanguard components had not even been test fired together -a successful maiden launch for the complete vehicle would be a major accomplishment in itself (and something not achieved by either the V-2, Redstone, or R-7). But after a test in October saw the first and second stages function well, Washington insisted that the next launch should attempt to put a US satellite in orbit. When the Soviets compounded American worries with the launch of Sputnik 2 (see over), pressure on the Vanguard team could only increase.

"Flopnik"

On 6 December, the world's press gathered at Cape Canaveral for the launch of Vanguard TV-3. The 23-m (76-ft) vehicle carried a truly "small ball" in its nose cone - a 1.8-kg (4-lb) satelllite about the size of a grapefruit. The launch had already

NASA IS BORN

On 21 November 1957, members of the US Sotellite Committee for the IGY wrote to several influential figures recommending the formation of a civilian agency to manage the space programme. Within a year, Eisenhower had established NASA, with T. Keith Glennan (right) as Administrator and Hugh Dryden (left) as his deputy.

been postponed twice on preceding days due to poor weather, but on the third day all seemed fine, and the countdown went as planned, watched by millions of television viewers across the country. At 11:44am, the rocket's engines fired, and it slowly began to lift off the launch pad, rising to an altitude of 1.3m (4ft) before, two seconds after launch, a huge explosion tore the first stage apart, sending the upper sections toppling into the flames. To rub salt in the wound, the satellite itself escaped the inferno, rolling free and transmitting its beeps to anyone with a radio. America's first step into space had gone up in flames - drastic action would be needed to restore US dignity.

payload third-stage ABL Altair solid rocket

TECHNOLOGY

THE VANGUARD LAUNCHER

At 23m (76ft) tall but just 1.14m (46in) across at its broadest, the Vanguard was the epitome of a tall, elegant rocket, certainly when compared with the more squat appearance of the Redstone missile and its variants. The first stage, powered by a mix of liquid oxygen and kerosene, was designed by General Electric based on the successful Viking rocket. The second stage used an engine similar to those used on the Navy's Aerobee sounding rockets, burning a mix of nitric acid and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UOMH). This stage contained the rocket's guidance systems - with no fins in the design, the rocket's attitude was controlled by tilting the exhaust nozzles on gimbals. The upper stage, a solid-propellant rocket built by the Grand Central Rocket Company, was set spinning during separation in order to stabilize it.

second-stage Aero A)-10

lower stage powered by General Electric X-405 engine

HISTORY FOCUS

A SOVIET TRAIL ACROSS THE SKY

7 November 1957

Sputnik 2's transmitters fail, leaving Laika's fate a mystery.

14 April 1958

Sputnik 2 falls out of orbit, re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Laika's travels

12 October 1957

After the success of Sputnik 1, Khrushchev orders Korolev's satellite and launch teams to quickly build and launch a much larger satellite, that would be capable of carrying a dog.

3 November 1957

Sputnik 2 is launched from Tyuratam carrying the dog Laika onboard. She dies from stress and overheating within a few hours following a system failure.

10 November 1957

For many years, this was the official date of Laika's death, when her food and oxygen would have run out.

PREPARED FOR LAUNCH

Sputnik 2 was cramped, but still had room for Laika to lie down. She was strapped in two days before launch, so that she could become used to the conditions.

HISTORY FOCUS

A SOVIET TRAIL ACROSS THE SKY

One of Sputnik 2's major achievements was to disprove a vocal minority who had claimed that Sputnik 1 was nothing but a Soviet hoax. Since the 1920s, the Western world had been led to believe that the Soviet Union was technologically backward and incapable of innovation. Even when the first Soviet nuclear weapons were tested, many assumed that they were reliant on technology stolen from the West. For the average Western citizen, the arrival of Sputnik 1 was a traumatic event, so it was little wonder some people were in denial. Sputnik 2, however, was large enough to be visible to the naked eye as it moved across the night sky. The satellite itself did not have a source of light onboard - it shone only by reflecting sunlight - but long-exposure photographs such as this one provided physical evidence of a new object in Earth's sky.

PREPARED FOR LAUNCH

Sputnik 2 was cramped, but still had room for Laika to lie down. She was strapped in two days before launch, so that she could become used to the conditions.

12 October 1957

After the success of Sputnik 1, Khrushchev orders Korolev's satellite and launch teams to quickly build and launch a much larger satellite, that would be capable of carrying a dog.

3 November 1957

Sputnik 2 is launched from Tyuratam carrying the dog Laika onboard. She dies from stress and overheating within a few hours following a system failure.

7 November 1957

Sputnik 2's transmitters fail, leaving Laika's fate a mystery.

10 November 1957

For many years, this was the official date of Laika's death, when her food and oxygen would have run out.

14 April 1958

Sputnik 2 falls out of orbit, re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Laika's travels

Within a month of their initial satellite launch, the Soviet Union again stunned the world with the launch of a much larger Sputnik, this time carrying a passenger - the first living creature in orbit.

And so Korolev rapidly recalled his team from holiday to work on the construction of Sputnik 2. Often working from Korolev's sketches rather than properly drafted plans, OKB-1 was under orders from Khrushchev to launch the satellite within a month. In retrospect, their achievement was remarkable, and it seems likely that Korolev had in fact made some early plans during the development of Sputnik 1.

Building the satellite

Sputnik 2 provided the first opportunity to get real scientific data from orbit. The basic spacecraft design was conical. At the narrow end, an array of sensors was fitted to measure high-energy radiation from the Sun. Behind these sat a pressurized sphere - the core of the original PS-2 satellite, now fitted with more sophisticated radio transmitters for returning data from orbit. At the base of the craft was a cylindrical, pressurized module within which the unfortunate canine would travel.

Korolev's team had already developed sensors to monitor the health of dogs during rocket flights, but a longer flight would create new challenges. Insulation would be needed to maintain a steady temperature despite the intense variations outside the satellite. Food, water, and air would have to be regulated, and the carbon dioxide breathed out by the animal would have to be filtered from the air

Basking in the success of Sputnik 1, the OKB-1 team prepared for a well-earned break in early October 1957 - only to find that Nikita Khrushchev had other ideas. The Soviet premier, his interest in space fired by the reaction in the Western press, telephoned Sergei Korolev on 12 October to congratulate him in person and ask what he planned to do next. With Object D still not ready and a spare R-7 (Sputnik 1's backup) at Tyuratam, there was a clear opportunity to press home Soviet superiority with the launch of a heavier satellite. Knowing that they still had some equipment in stock from earlier test launches that had carried dogs to the edge of the atmosphere and returned many of them unharmed, Korolev suggested that the first launch of an animal into orbit would offer both scientific and propaganda advantages.

DOGS IN SPACE

Dogs played the some role in early Soviet space exploration that primates played in the US. Here, Korolev is pictured with one of two dogs that successfully reached an altitude of 100km (60 miles) aboard on R-1D rocket in July 1954.

before it built up in poisonous quantities. There was also the delicate question of how to handle the dog's physical waste in weightless conditions.

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