This type of rocket was first launched on September 19, 1956. On January 31, 1958, a Jupiter C orbited the first United States satellite, Explorer I. This rocket is 67 feet long and weighs 22,000 pounds stripped of its internal equipment. Replaced by other types of rockets in 1963, the Jupiter was an important step in the evolution of the Saturn V “moon rocket.”
Due to its size, this piece is on display outside the museum near the southeast corner of the building and can be viewed from the ground along the rail walk or while on the Gainsboro bridge.
Donated to the museum by the City of Roanoke. It was originally loaned and then donated to the city by the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Launched from Cape Canaveral (now The Kennedy Space Center) in Florida at 10:48 P.M. EST on January 31, 1958, 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 Dr. William H. Pickering. The satellite instrumentation of Explorer-I was designed and built by Dr. James Van Allen of the State University of Iowa
Explorer 1: The First American Satellite
It was the American answer to the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, which kicked off the Space Age when it launched in 1957.
Explorer 1 launched on a U.S. Army Juno rocket, also known as Jupiter-C vehicle, and marked the first space mission to carry a scientific instrument into space. The satellite weighed 30 lbs., 18 lbs. of which was science gear like cosmic ray detectors, temperature sensors and a microphone to hear micrometeorites that might hit the satellite. Just under 7 feet long (203 cm). It took 114.8 minutes to complete one orbit of Earth, and therefore completed 12.54 orbits a day. Explorer 1 was also the first satellite to carry a scientific experiment: a cosmic ray detector designed by James Van Allen of the State University of Iowa. The experiment discovered evidence of radiation belts around Earth that marked the first scientific discovery in space. Explorer 1’s data led to Van Allen’s hypothesis, later confirmed to be true, of the Van Allen radiation belts.
The U.S. used Explorer 1 as its contribution to the International Geophysical Year (which ran from 1957 to 1958). The satellite was originally slated to launch on U.S. Navy’s Vanguard rocket, but it exploded moments after launch, garnering nicknames like “Kaptunik” in media headlines. The Army’s Jupiter-C, developed as a ballistic missile.
The Jupiter-C rocket delivered Explorer 1 into an orbit that ranged between 220 miles to 1,563 miles above Earth. It beamed data to Earth for four months, going silent on May 23. The satellite re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on March 31, 1970 and burned up.
The Van Allen Belts are doughnut-shaped regions of high-energy particles held in place by Earth’s magnetic field. They serve as a buffer, preventing cosmic rays from bombarding Earth, and may have played a role in making Earth habitable for life, NASA.
Video of Launch
This 1958 film covers the January 31, 1958 launching of Explorer, the first satellite launched by the United States. The project was a collaboration that included the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dr. James van Allen of the University of Iowa. This film focuses on the development, preparation and launching of the Army’s Jupiter-C launch vehicle. Explorer was the US contribution to the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958. Explorer revolved around Earth in a looping orbit that took it as close as 354 kilometers (220 miles) to Earth and as far as 2,515 kilometers (1,563 miles). It made one orbit every 114.8 minutes, or a total of 12.54 orbits per day. The satellite itself was 203 centimeters (80 inches) long and 15.9 centimeters (6.25 inches) in diameter. Explorer 1 made its final transmission on May 23, 1958. It entered Earth’s atmosphere and burned up on March 31, 1970, after more than 58,000 orbits.
Jupiter missiles were used in a series of suborbital biological test flights. One of the most famous carried Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey. She is seen on the left with a model of the Jupiter that launched her on a suborbital flight in 1959
After splashdown the Jupiter nosecone carrying Baker and another monkey, Able was recovered by the seagoing tug USS Kiowa (ATF-72). The monkeys survived the flight in good condition. Able died four days after the flight from a reaction to anesthesia while undergoing surgery to remove an infected medical electrode. Baker lived for many years after the flight, finally succumbing to kidney failure on 29 November 1984 at the United States Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Redstone Missile Predecessor of Jupiter
Chrysler positioned itself as one of the leading missile manufacturers by being an excellent, high-quality manufacturer. Their involvement, dating back to 1952, was not of political origins, but from the patriotism of Chrysler Corporation as a whole, and the engineering acumen that made its products desirable to have.