Exploring the ground (7-22-1959)

Just a quick stop-press today while I wait for the new magazines to come in.  Apparently, NASA tried another satellite launch last week on the 16th.  A Juno II rocket, which is a modified Jupiter Intermediate Ranged Ballistic Missile, had the latest in the Explorer series installed at its tip.  Weighing 42 kilograms (that’s 92.4 pounds for the metrically uninitiated), it looked a bit like a bigger Pioneer 1–two truncated cones welded together at their base. 

As might be expected from the choice of booster, it’s a product of Von Braun’s Alabama Army-sponsored team (which, rumor has it, may well be folded into NASA proper soon).

Its instrument complement was pretty standard stuff: geiger counters, x-ray detectors, micrometeoroid plates, thermometers.  What makes this craft special are the solar power elements built into the design; the probe was built to provide long-term measurements of cosmic radiation and the Earth’s heat balance. 

Sadly, the rocket lost power to its guidance system immediately after launch, and the thing started to spin in a wide, dangerous ark.  A range controller detonated the booster just 5 and a half seconds into the flight.  Too late for the Fourth of July, and I doubt the scientists were pleased.

I understand that the next flight of the package is scheduled for October.  My fingers are crossed, but I understand NASA is planning an Air Force-contracted shot next month, and that probe, made by my friends at Space Technology Laboratories, may well include all of the same instruments and more.

Thus, the Space Race continues domestically as well as abroad.  Nothing like good ol’ fashioned American competition to keep the satellite makers on their toes! 
See you soon!

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