Created by the Jet Propulsion Lab, this film documents the 1958 effort to launch an American satellite into orbit as part of the International Geophysical Year. Designated Explorer, it was the first satellite of the United States, launched as part of its participation in the International Geophysical Year. The mission followed the first two satellites the previous year; the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 and 2, beginning the Cold War Space Race between the two nations.

Explorer 1 was launched on January 31, 1958 at 22:48 Eastern Time (February 1, 03:48 UTC) atop the first Juno booster from LC-26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex, Florida. It was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt, returning data until its batteries were exhausted after nearly four months. It remained in orbit until 1970, and has been followed by more than 90 scientific spacecraft in the Explorer series. Explorer 1 was given Satellite Catalog Number 4, and the Harvard designation 1958 Alpha 1, the forerunner to the modern International Designator.

To the surprise of many, the USSR launched Sputnik 1 as the first artificial Earth satellite on October 4, 1957. After several failed Vanguard launches, Wernher von Braun and his team convinced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to use one of their US Army missiles for the Explorer program (there then being no inhibition about using military rockets to get into space). On November 8, 1957, the US Secretary of Defense instructed the US Army to use a modified Jupiter-C rocket to launch a satellite. The US achieved this goal only four months later with Explorer 1, on February 1, 1958, but after Sputnik 2 in November 3, 1957, making Explorer 1 the third artificial Earth satellite. Vanguard 1 became the fourth, launched on March 17, 1958. The Soviet victory in the “Space Race” would be followed by considerable political consequences,[12] one of which was the creation of the US space agency NASA on July 29, 1958.

The PGM-19 Jupiter was the first nuclear tipped, medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) of the United States Air Force (USAF). It was a liquid-propellant rocket using RP-1 fuel and LOX oxidizer, with a single Rocketdyne LR70-NA (model S-3D) rocket engine producing 667 kN of thrust. It was armed with the 1.1 megaton W49 nuclear warhead. The prime contractor was the Chrysler Corporation.

The Jupiter was originally designed by the US Army, which was looking for a highly accurate missile designed to strike high-value targets like bridges, railway yards, troop concentrations and the like. The Navy also expressed an interest in the design as an SLBM, but left the collaboration to work on their Polaris. Jupiter retained the short, squat shape intended to fit in naval submarines.

The U.S. Army set accuracy goals so high that some expressed skepticism they could be met, but the Redstone team successfully designed a system with a circular error probable (CEP) of 0.5 miles (0.80 km), substantially more accurate than similar designs like the US Air Force’s Thor. A presidential report suggested this made it the most valuable missile then being developed. This led to continual inter-service fighting between the Army and Air Force, and ultimately to Charles Erwin Wilson’s decision to give the Jupiter missiles to the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force were never greatly interested in supporting Jupiter; they saw no need for its accuracy in their battle plans and had their own Thor with longer range. Production went ahead and the nuclear tipped missiles were deployed in both Italy and Turkey in 1961 due to NATO’s Cold War deterrence against the Soviet Union. All were then later removed by the United States as part of a secret agreement (The Secret Deal) with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They were considered to be outdated. It was also used as the basis for a satellite launcher known as Juno II, but had a short and unsuccessful career in this role. It is unclear as to what happened to the missiles in Italy, but they too were removed at some point.

This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com

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