Explorer I
Explorer I prepares for launch Zoom

It is Friday night: January 31, 1958. It is already two days past the planned launch date for Explorer I. Since the 29th, a high-altitude "jet stream" (a river of fast flowing air) has threatened to destroy the rocket if launched. The Army launch team has to launch Explorer I tonight, or wait until after February 3, the planned date of the Navy's TV-3BU Vanguard launch.

We are standing at Complex 26, Pad A. The Jupiter-C rocket with its payload, the Explorer I satellite, awaits launch. The gantry will be moved away, and at 10:48 P.M., America will enter the Space Race when the rocket takes off.

The Explorer I is a thin, 30 pound satellite that carries a special-purpose geiger counter developed by Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa. This satellite will discover a belt of trapped radiation around the earth (later named the "Van Allen Belt" in honor of Dr. Van Allen).

Return to the present day
Tour home CCAFS map Website map