Author Topic: 1959 Lockheed Agena booster rocket launch of Discoverer-1 Corona program  (Read 1900 times)

Offline Hoonte

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 477
  • Liked: 18
  • Likes Given: 6
Very interesting footage....



edit/Lar: de-allcapify.
« Last Edit: 04/26/2017 05:32 PM by Lar »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10934
  • Liked: 2419
  • Likes Given: 1
Reminds me that I need to go find the video of the "Discoverer Zero" pad failure. Ullage rockets fired while the vehicle was on the pad and workers were around it, scared the heck out of everybody and they ran. Turned out to be a very important failure:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1333/1

Battle’s Laws
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, March 23, 2009

On January 21, 1959, the first Discoverer spacecraft sat on its pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base awaiting launch. Discoverer was a cover story for the Corona reconnaissance satellite program. Corona was many months away from readiness and before the spooks put a spy satellite atop a rocket, they wanted to make sure that the rocket and spacecraft would work properly. This was their first try.

This was not a public launch event. It was not going to be like the embarrassing Vanguard launch a little over a year before. There was no network of TV cameras staring at the little rocket on the launch pad on the Pacific Coast, waiting to see it blow up and embarrass the United States Air Force. In fact, this launch attempt had not even been announced beforehand. If it reached orbit, the Air Force would announce that it was in orbit. That was it.

The Thor-Hustler rocket stood 78 feet (23.8 meters) tall, which easily made it the tallest man-made object for miles around, although it was rather insignificant amid the chaparral, sand dunes and rolling mountains of the rugged central coast of California. The Pacific Ocean was less than a quarter mile away, breaking on jagged shore.

The payload at the top of the Hustler consisted primarily of test instruments. It bore little resemblance to the intended payload of later Discoverer missions, which would soon include a reentry vehicle designed to return to Earth. The nosecone of the Hustler would separate to reveal some of the equipment underneath.

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 161
  • Liked: 27
  • Likes Given: 0
Reminds me that I need to go find the video of the "Discoverer Zero" pad failure. Ullage rockets fired while the vehicle was on the pad and workers were around it, scared the heck out of everybody and they ran. Turned out to be a very important failure

Might be nice to see video of Discoverer 10 as well, I've never seen that one not even in those montages of rocket explosions you see in every documentary/movie about the space program.

On January 21, 1959, the first Discoverer spacecraft sat on its pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base awaiting launch. Discoverer was a cover story for the Corona reconnaissance satellite program. Corona was many months away from readiness and before the spooks put a spy satellite atop a rocket, they wanted to make sure that the rocket and spacecraft would work properly. This was their first try.

This was not a public launch event. It was not going to be like the embarrassing Vanguard launch a little over a year before. There was no network of TV cameras staring at the little rocket on the launch pad on the Pacific Coast, waiting to see it blow up and embarrass the United States Air Force. In fact, this launch attempt had not even been announced beforehand. If it reached orbit, the Air Force would announce that it was in orbit. That was it.

Discoverer was enough to try anything's sanity. Fifteen launch failures in the first three years and that's not counting malfunctions of the satellites that did reach orbit. The first recovery of a manmade object from space was an accomplishment to be sure, even if it did get overshadowed by the Soviet Korabl-Sputnik 2 a week later.
« Last Edit: 04/26/2017 03:47 AM by WallE »

Offline Hoonte

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 477
  • Liked: 18
  • Likes Given: 6
Where the resultaten of the X-17 implementeren in the discoverer program or   was the X-17 even a part of the program for obtaining iets nose cone?

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31271
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 9557
  • Likes Given: 299

Discoverer was enough to try anything's sanity. Fifteen launch failures in the first three years and that's not counting malfunctions of the satellites that did reach orbit.

That is 15 out of 48 attempts, nothing out of the ordinary.
Same timeframe
Thor Ablestar - 5 failures out of 9
Thor Able - 6 of 16
Atlas Able - 4/4
Altas Agena - 6/12
Altas no upper stage for space launch 3/7

So space launch itself was enough to try anything's sanity and not just launching Discoverer.

Offline Citabria

  • Member
  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 142
  • Michigan
  • Liked: 53
  • Likes Given: 28
I love these old films. Reminds me of the 16mm movies we watched in school BITD.

A few comic moments:
The narrator mentions precision workmanship just as the worker gives the connector a big heave.
He talks about smooth radar tracking while the antenna pitches up and down aimlessly.
The on-orbit animation shows the Agena making warp speed as the stars whiz by.

Love it!

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 161
  • Liked: 27
  • Likes Given: 0
So space launch itself was enough to try anything's sanity and not just launching Discoverer.

The planetary probe programs were just as bad in terms of reliability. Before Ranger 7, the US lunar program managed one success in 13 attempts. The other early DoD programs like Samos and Midas were also nonstop failures and unlike Corona, they never became reliable enough to be considered operational programs. Not only was the technology new and primitive, but they were also trying things that were in excess of what early 1960s technology was capable of. Ranger for example didn't succeed until they stripped the probe down and removed everything but the camera. The scientific community were disappointed at losing all the instruments, but there was no other choice.

The Air Force in the late 50s-early 60s had any number of absurd proposals for military space programs, including orbital weapons systems, that Eisenhower and Kennedy thankfully pulled the plug on since they were insistent about limiting military activities in space to reconnaissance. You have to wonder how on earth anyone expected stuff like orbiting battle stations to work when flying a simple camera package in orbit for a few days was asking a lot.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31271
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 9557
  • Likes Given: 299

The planetary probe programs were just as bad in terms of reliability. Before Ranger 7,

Not really. 
There were only 3 Rangers in this timeframe.

Before Ranger 7, the US lunar program managed one success in 13 attempts.

The 3 on Thor Able were before the timeframe of Discoverer and were LV issues
4(3) are accounted for in the line about the kluge Atlas Able which were all launch vehicle issues.
Juno-2 1 for 2 and the one was LV issues.   

As far as spacecraft reliability goes, they are all no trials.  Most of the spacecraft never had the opportunity to operate.  So your point about Midas and SAMOS is not applicable to the planetary probes in general.

So my point still stands
Space launch itself was enough to try anything's sanity

« Last Edit: 04/26/2017 06:40 PM by Jim »

Offline WallE

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 161
  • Liked: 27
  • Likes Given: 0
There were only 3 Rangers in this timeframe.

I shouldn't have counted the Block I probes which weren't intended to go to the Moon in the first place. Eleven attempts, and the Soviet planetary probe program at this time was no better. At least they could keep their failures a secret.

The 3 on Thor Able were before the timeframe of Discoverer and were LV issues
4(3) are accounted for in the line about the kluge Atlas Able which were all launch vehicle issues.
Juno-2 1 for 2 and the one was LV issues.

The first Thor Able probe never got a chance to operate, the second two had LV issues, although Pioneer 1's built-in course correction motor didn't work when they tried to fire it (most likely thermal issues). They did return some scientific data for their brief flights. The Atlas-Able probes never got a chance to operate so their reliability is unknown.

Whether it's an LV or a probe failure is immaterial. If the primary goal of the mission is not achieved, it counts as a failure.

As far as spacecraft reliability goes, they are all no trials.  Most of the spacecraft never had the opportunity to operate.  So your point about Midas and SAMOS is not applicable to the planetary probes in general.

If we're using this logic, you can also point out that Midas 1, 6, 8, and Samos 1, 3, and 4 never got a chance to operate either; those launches all ended up in the ocean (or in one case, a smoldering pile of rubble on the launch stand). But given the "success" rate of the ones that did make it to orbit, I wouldn't bet the farm on any of them having worked and returned usable data.
« Last Edit: 04/27/2017 08:42 AM by WallE »

Offline edkyle99

  • Expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12777
    • Space Launch Report
  • Liked: 3546
  • Likes Given: 607
One cool aspect of this video is that it shows numerous Agena A vehicles (I call them "vehicles" because they were more than just "stages" - they were also spacecraft buses).  In one shot there are four, and maybe five, visible.  Other shots show what are likely additional vehicles.  Only 19 Agena A stages flew (15 on Thor and 4 on Atlas) during 1959-61, so a large percentage of the total production run is presented in this video.

 - Ed Kyle 

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31271
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 9557
  • Likes Given: 299

Whether it's an LV or a probe failure is immaterial. If the primary goal of the mission is not achieved, it counts as a failure.


That isn't the discussion.
The point is that you said "Discoverer was enough to try anything's sanity." which is not true. There is no reason to single out Discoverer, it was applicable across the board to any project, program or launch vehicle.
« Last Edit: 04/27/2017 07:33 PM by Jim »

Tags: