Friday, November 25, 2011

50 YA: Ranger 2 flubs, USAF tests Titan

Atlas-Agena launch.

Fifty years ago, launches continued from the Cape Canaveral pads. NASA launched Ranger 2 on an Atlas-Agena rocket combination on November 18, 1961. Ranger's 2 mission was to test the electronics of experiments that would later be sent to study other planets, and to also send back information on space radiation and magnetic fields. Scientists hoped to discover clues about a possible trail of hydrogen gas following behind the Earth as it orbited the Sun.

Ranger 2 at NASA Glen Research Center.

The Atlas rocket successfully placed Ranger 2 in orbit around the Earth, but disaster followed. The Agena second stage failed to ignite, due to a malfunctioning gyro. Ranger 2 was unable to be placed in the orbit necessary for the tests, and after separation it was stranded in an orbit that brought it closer and closer to Earth's atmosphere. It burned up two days later.

Titan 1 ICBM launch.

On November 21, 1961, a Titan 1a ICBM missile test was conducted by the USAF from its Canaveral site. This missile launched a special nose cone that would later be used in anti-missile missile tests with the Nike-Zeus system.

The next day, the military launched a mysterious satellite from Point Arguello in California. The rocket used was the Atlas-Agena combo. I still have not found out anything about this mysterious launch. It is recorded as the first "unannounced" rocket launch of a satellite.

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