Author Topic: "Pioneer 1" 1958 - 1st Spacecraft Launched by NASA - VIDEO  (Read 1922 times)

Online catdlr

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"Pioneer 1" 1958 NASA; 1st Spacecraft Launched by NASA

Jeff Quitney

Published on Feb 5, 2017

Pioneer 1, a lunar orbiter called the "Project Able-1 Space Probe, was the first satellite launched by the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It did not reach the Moon due to a programming error in the upper stage. Excerpt from from "US Space Explorations," NASA Langley film number L-703.

On October 11, 1958, Pioneer 1 became the first spacecraft launched by NASA, the newly formed space agency of the United States. The flight was the second and most successful of the three Thor-Able space probes...

Spacecraft design

Pioneer 1 was fabricated by Ramo-Wooldridge Corp.(TRW), and consisted of a thin cylindrical midsection with a squat truncated cone on each side. The cylinder was 74 cm (29 in) in diameter and the height from the top of one cone to the top of the opposite cone was 76 cm (30 in). Along the axis of the spacecraft and protruding from the end of the lower cone was an 11 kg solid propellant injection rocket and rocket case, which formed the main structural member of the spacecraft. Eight small low-thrust solid propellant velocity adjustment rockets were mounted on the end of the upper cone in a ring assembly which could be jettisoned after use. A magnetic dipole antenna also protruded from the top of the upper cone. The shell was composed of laminated plastic. The total mass of the spacecraft after vernier separation was 34.2 kg, after injection rocket firing it would have been 23.2 kg.

The three-stage Thor-Able vehicle consisted of a modified Air Force Thor IRBM (liquid propellant, thrust about 153,000 pounds) as the first stage. A liquid-propellant rocket engine powered the second stage (modified Vanguard second stage, thrust about 7500 pounds). The third stage was a solid-propellant unit based on Vanguard design, rated at 116,500 lb*sec total impulse.

The scientific instrument package had a mass of 17.8 kg and consisted of an image scanning infrared television system to study the Moon's surface to a resolution of 0.5 degrees, an ionization chamber to measure radiation in space, a diaphragm/microphone assembly to detect micrometeorites, a spin-coil magnetometer to measure magnetic fields to 5 microgauss, and temperature-variable resistors to record the spacecraft's internal conditions... The spacecraft was spin-stabilized at 1.8 rps, the spin direction was approximately perpendicular to the geomagnetic meridian planes of the trajectory.

Mission

After the failure of Pioneer 0 in August due to a turbopump failure, the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division quickly moved to replace all of the turbopumps in their stock of missiles. Pioneer 1 lifted off smoothly and performance of the first and second stage were normal, but the third stage underperformed and so the probe could not attain sufficient velocity to reach escape velocity. The vernier engines on the third stage were fired to make up for the thrust deficit, but proved insufficient. As a last resort, ground controllers decided that if they could not get Pioneer 1 to the Moon, they would place it in a high Earth orbit by firing the attached solid rocket motor. However, low internal temperatures prevented the igniter circuit from operating. Pioneer 1 reached a total distance of 71,100 miles (114,400 km) before beginning its descent back to Earth.

The spacecraft was launched from LC-17A at 08:42:00 UTC on October 11, 1958 but it did not reach the Moon as planned due to a programming error in the upper stage causing a slight error in burnout velocity and angle (3.5 deg.). This resulted in a ballistic trajectory with a peak altitude of 113,800 km (70,712 mi) around 13:00 local time... The spacecraft ended transmission when it reentered the Earth's atmosphere after 43 hours of flight on October 13, 1958 at 03:46 UT over the South Pacific Ocean. A small quantity of useful scientific information was returned, showing the radiation surrounding Earth was in the form of bands and measuring the extent of the bands, mapping the total ionizing flux, making the first observations of hydromagnetic oscillations of the magnetic field, and taking the first measurements of the density of micrometeorites and the Interplanetary Magnetic Field.


Public domain film from NASA, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3atwrSLKvg?t=001

Tony De La Rosa

Offline Alter Sachse

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A small supplement:
exact launch time 08:42:13

Offline edkyle99

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While it was true that the third stage slightly underperformed (possibly due in part to the instant separation method used at the time which may have imparted a wobble), later investigation focused on the Able stage accelerometer and guidance system, which was determined to have been set to command second stage cut off at a lower than desired velocity.  There turned out to be enough propellant remaining in Able to have added 1,500 feet per second velocity - likely enough to make up for the third stage alignment losses.

The ABL 248 third stage burned out 306.3 seconds (5 min 3.6 seconds) after liftoff as planned, 224 nautical miles high and 515 nautical miles downrange, but burnout velocity was about 500 ft/sec less than the hoped for 35,206 ft/sec.  (Think about that - a direct ascent to near-escape velocity in just over five minutes!)

They were trying to reach the Moon while using a 51.6 gross tonne, 3-stage, first generation launch vehicle that wasn't really designed for the task.  In the end, the U.S. didn't accomplish the feat until six years later (roughly), and it had to use a 125 tonne Atlas-Agena to get there.  The USSR used a rocket that weighed more than 280 tonnes to win the race.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 02/06/2017 02:11 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline eric z

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 Since I was not quite three and a half then I missed the coverage of this mission-Thanks a lot,Ed !!!

Online catdlr

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bump for the 60th anniversary.
Tony De La Rosa

Online catdlr

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Explorer 1: How America's First Satellite Helped Create NASA


NASA
Published on Jan 31, 2018

On Jan. 31, 1958, at 10:48 p.m. EST, Explorer 1 launched into space, hurtling into Earth's orbit in seven and a half minutes. Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2nwic63
The next day's front-page news declared that the United States was now officially in the Space Age.
Music: Look Forward by Laurent Dury, The Space Between by Max Concors, Picking Locks by James Alexander Dorman and Foraging At Dusk by Benjamin James Parsons. Complete transcript available.

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12837

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/LK Ward

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2-xZ-1HE-Q?t=001

Tony De La Rosa

Offline WallE

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The first Thor-Able attempt on 8/17/58 of course failed due to the turbopumps, and when Atlas 6B suffered the same failure a month later, the Air Force replaced the pumps in all Thor and Atlas vehicles with an improved model, which they should have done months earlier as the Army did with the Jupiter missiles.

In both cases, the failure happened when the 10,000 rpm pump speed caused the bearing to come loose. The pump stopped working, the propulsion system shut down, and the vehicle pitched, causing the airframe to break up from aerodynamic loads. After the Air Force gave in and replaced the pumps, Pioneer 1 was prepared for launch and the program turned over to NASA management. Contrary to popular belief, Pioneer 0's errant flight was not broadcast live, that would have been logistically too difficult to pull off prior to the event of communications satellites. The Air Force admitted afterwards that they really didn't expect the flight to succeed anyway and it would have been more of a surprise if it did.

The Thor vehicle originally intended for Pioneer 1 was taken down to have its turbopump replaced, so a different vehicle was used for the mission instead. Pioneer 1's failure apparently was due to an improper trajectory by the guidance system which lofted the vehicle slightly too high and also issued a premature cutoff command to the Thor (Ed claims it was the second stage, I've seen other sources saying the first stage so not entirely sure which one is correct). The third stage then got bumped and suffered insufficient velocity. They tried firing the small solid motor on the probe to compensate, but the improper orbit it got placed in resulted in thermal conditions beyond the temperature control system's correctional abilities. The solid motor would not fire and the mission had to be abandoned. It plunged back into the atmosphere and burned up two days after launch.

Pioneer 2 was the next attempt on November 8 and the last of the original Thor-Able probes. The flight went as planned until third stage separation, when the solid motor failed to ignite, probably due to damage from the instant separation method.

As Ed Kyle noted, it was very early and the launch vehicles were marginal (Thor-Able had been designed for testing RV material and flying a ballistic arc down the Atlantic Ocean requires far less precision than a trans-lunar trajectory). The Soviets had much bigger LVs but in truth they were equally marginal and they got only two completely successful attempts out of nine Moon shots in 1958-60. After that, they wouldn't succeed with a lunar probe again until 1966.
« Last Edit: 02/01/2018 04:32 PM by WallE »

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