Author Topic: Project Orbiter / Vanguard  (Read 1752 times)

Offline Zipper730

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Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« on: 12/06/2018 12:47 AM »
I'm curious why Project Vanguard won out over Project Orbiter?

Orbiter seemed to have off the shelf equipment whereas Vanguard was a new design, and Explorer 1 would be launched off a similar concept...

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #1 on: 12/06/2018 05:16 AM »
I'm curious why Project Vanguard won out over Project Orbiter?

Orbiter seemed to have off the shelf equipment whereas Vanguard was a new design, and Explorer 1 would be launched off a similar concept...
You are likely to get a range of answers to this question. 

One answer is that the Eisenhower Administration favored a "civilian" program rather than one based on military missiles.  The Army, Air Force, and Naval Research Lab all made proposals, but only the NRL proposal used something not based on a ballistic missile. 

Another answer is that the Administration didn't want the Army's Germans to do it.  Eisenhower, after all, had served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force in the fight against Germany.

Plain old inter-service rivalry is oft-mentioned as playing a role.  The Air Force was pushing to control all missile work at the time, unhappy that the Army had any long range missile role.

Other answers mention that NRL's proposal was simply better than the Army's at the time, in terms of its plan for science. 

Keep in mind that the original plan for Vanguard would have used more existing hardware (Viking plus Aerobee-Hi), but that plan soon folded in the face of reality after the contract was awarded.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/06/2018 05:24 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline Zipper730

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #2 on: 12/06/2018 07:48 AM »
You are likely to get a range of answers to this question.
No problem
Quote
One answer is that the Eisenhower Administration favored a "civilian" program rather than one based on military missiles.
Understandable, but the fact is the NRL proposal was operated by the USN whether or not it was based on a ballistic missile program.  One could also give the proposal used for Project Orbiter a civilian designation, and merely classify it as a sounding rocket.

While I don't know what we thought about the USSR at the time prior to Sputnik, but clearly, they had no compunction about it.
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The Army, Air Force, and Naval Research Lab all made proposals, but only the NRL proposal used something not based on a ballistic missile.
Quote
Another answer is that the Administration didn't want the Army's Germans to do it.
That makes a bit of sense, and Eisenhower may very well been left with a bad taste in his mouth about the Germans.  The fact is though, that we did have plans of putting reconnaissance satellites into orbit around Earth, and they had the means to get us there fastest.
Quote
Plain old inter-service rivalry is oft-mentioned as playing a role.  The Air Force was pushing to control all missile work at the time, unhappy that the Army had any long range missile role.
Yeah the USAF was a story almost unto itself.  If I recall, in 1956, an arrangement was worked out whereby missiles with a range of 200 miles or less would be Army territory, with missiles with ranges in excess of 200 miles being the preserve of the USAF (I'm not sure if the USN was affected, but I would assume they were as the Corvus missile was cancelled because the USAF wanted control over long-ranged missiles)
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Other answers mention that NRL's proposal was simply better than the Army's at the time, in terms of its plan for science.
In what ways?
Quote
Keep in mind that the original plan for Vanguard would have used more existing hardware (Viking plus Aerobee-Hi), but that plan soon folded in the face of reality after the contract was awarded.
What variables prevented that from occurring?

Offline GClark

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #3 on: 12/06/2018 02:26 PM »
It is important to remember that WS-117L (Corona, SAMOS, MIDAS) was already under development.  Eisenhower was quite determined that the first US satellite to reach orbit be civilian in nature.  Since Vanguard was part of the IGY investigations and NRL was the US point organization for IGY, it just made sense to have them do Vanguard as an extension of the ongoing Viking upper atmosphere investigations.

Jupiter C was a modified Redstone ballistic missile developed to test RVs.  Viking and Aerobee were sounding rockets from the get-go.  The decision was as much about 'optics' as it was science.

There was also some concern that the Soviets would try to claim that their airspace extended to infinity.  Having a civilian scientific satellite in orbit first was considered less provocative than leading with a recon sat.


Offline Jim

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #4 on: 12/06/2018 03:47 PM »
Also, Vanguard was the whole program.  Launch vehicle, spacecraft and tracking system.

Offline Jim

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #5 on: 12/06/2018 03:50 PM »
Understandable, but the fact is the NRL proposal was operated by the USN whether or not it was based on a ballistic missile program. 

No, it was operated by civilians in a lab that happen to also report and support the USN.  But the military part of the USN had no role in it.

Offline Jim

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #6 on: 12/06/2018 03:54 PM »
It is important to remember that WS-117L (Corona, SAMOS, MIDAS) was already under development.  Eisenhower was quite determined that the first US satellite to reach orbit be civilian in nature.  Since Vanguard was part of the IGY investigations and NRL was the US point organization for IGY, it just made sense to have them do Vanguard as an extension of the ongoing Viking upper atmosphere investigations.

Jupiter C was a modified Redstone ballistic missile developed to test RVs.  Viking and Aerobee were sounding rockets from the get-go.  The decision was as much about 'optics' as it was science.

There was also some concern that the Soviets would try to claim that their airspace extended to infinity.  Having a civilian scientific satellite in orbit first was considered less provocative than leading with a recon sat.



This was big part of it.  "Freedom of the Skies."  Ike wanted a civilian spacecraft to prove the concept.  It was revealed recently that the CIA provided some funding for Vanguard just for this purpose.  The Soviets going first was a blessing in disguise.

Offline Jim

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #7 on: 12/06/2018 03:57 PM »
Keep in mind that the original plan for Vanguard would have used more existing hardware (Viking plus Aerobee-Hi), but that plan soon folded in the face of reality after the contract was awarded.
What variables prevented that from occurring?

Physics of getting to orbit.  More energy was needed than the Viking plus Aerobee-Hi combination could provide.  The final configuration was a minimalist launch vehicle as it was.  It could only orbit about 20 lbs.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #8 on: 12/06/2018 04:19 PM »
It is important to remember that WS-117L (Corona, SAMOS, MIDAS) was already under development.

Not really. Vanguard decision pre-dated it.


Update: well, I guess that requires a lot more clarification. The USAF satellite program had a number of milestones. You could argue that it began in 1946 with the RAND report, and then some experiments in the late 1940s and early 1950s, followed by the very important FEED BACK report. I would have to look it up, but I think that the USAF program became a program in 1954 at Wright-Pat and moved to Los Angeles in 1955, but I don't think that the contract award to Lockheed happened until 1956 (that was first named Sentry, then renamed Samos). What became CORONA was not proposed until 1957 and did not get approved until early 1958. But I'm being too lazy to look this stuff up in my own books.
« Last Edit: 12/06/2018 04:38 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #9 on: 12/06/2018 04:21 PM »
This was big part of it.  "Freedom of the Skies."  Ike wanted a civilian spacecraft to prove the concept.  It was revealed recently that the CIA provided some funding for Vanguard just for this purpose.  The Soviets going first was a blessing in disguise.

The revelation that CIA provided some funding was revealed by me, quite a few years ago (1990s). Years after that I also discovered CIA involvement in the policy formulation phase, specifically Richard Bissell's involvement.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #10 on: 12/06/2018 04:33 PM »
I'm curious why Project Vanguard won out over Project Orbiter?

Orbiter seemed to have off the shelf equipment whereas Vanguard was a new design, and Explorer 1 would be launched off a similar concept...
You are likely to get a range of answers to this question. 

One answer is that the Eisenhower Administration favored a "civilian" program rather than one based on military missiles.  The Army, Air Force, and Naval Research Lab all made proposals, but only the NRL proposal used something not based on a ballistic missile. 

Another answer is that the Administration didn't want the Army's Germans to do it.  Eisenhower, after all, had served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force in the fight against Germany.

Plain old inter-service rivalry is oft-mentioned as playing a role.  The Air Force was pushing to control all missile work at the time, unhappy that the Army had any long range missile role.

Other answers mention that NRL's proposal was simply better than the Army's at the time, in terms of its plan for science. 

Keep in mind that the original plan for Vanguard would have used more existing hardware (Viking plus Aerobee-Hi), but that plan soon folded in the face of reality after the contract was awarded.

 - Ed Kyle

The best overall source on this is going to be Mike Neufeld's biography on von Braun. Ancillary materials include several articles and book chapters written by me and a few others concerning "freedom of space," but Neufeld really has the most recent close examination of the subject.

What Neufeld has pointed out is that Vanguard's technology was significantly better than Orbiter's technology--particularly the electronics--and that hurt the Orbiter proposal. There was some real doubt that even if Orbiter had worked, it might not be possible to detect the satellite in orbit. What Neufeld has said publicly is that it is important to understand that Explorer 1 was not Orbiter--Explorer 1 was a more capable and better design. Orbiter was rather primitive.

A couple of related points:

It is easy to forget it these days, but NRL was a world leader in electronics in the 1940s and 1950s (and even later, although that gets into some still-classified stuff). They put together a very good proposal and they most likely won on the basis of that proposal.

Also, you see in this first major spaceflight decision by the United States many of the same themes that have existed throughout the space program and indeed exist even on this board when it comes to perception over reality. People look back at this decision and think that the Army had the better rocket and that rockets are the most important thing. But there's a lot more to a space program than the rocket. There's the spacecraft, the electronics, and there's the ground processing (and tracking). What the DoD review panel was looking at back then was the entire package, not just the rocket, but what everybody seems to pay attention to is the rocket. That attitude continued later when the Soviets launched the R-7 and everybody was shocked at how much it could lift. But of course, the R-7 had to lift more weight because Soviet H-bombs were heavy, whereas American bombs were a lot lighter. Again, people focused on the rockets, but once the United States began launching into space regularly, American electronics proved to be superior and spacecraft lasted longer and were more capable. And then later on there was this obsession with counting number of launches and neglecting the fact that the United States launched less because its spacecraft lasted longer. So it's vital to look deeper than the surface explanations for these things.



« Last Edit: 12/06/2018 04:50 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #11 on: 12/06/2018 04:53 PM »
I should also add that somewhere I have a part of the USAF proposal called "World Series." It was not very good, and an interesting question is why not? USAF had been studying space stuff for awhile, so why produce such a half-assed proposal? I think they were not trying all that hard, because they had other space stuff to work on.

Offline thammond

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #12 on: 12/06/2018 07:07 PM »
In my opinion Von Braun's ties to Nazi party were the most significant reason.  Imagine the historical significance of an ex Nazi party member the head of the 1st satellite.  The fact that the Russians did it first and all the hysteria that followed, cleared the decks so to speak for Von Braun's future involvement in the US space program.

I wonder sometimes how much the space race history would have changed had we put the 1st satellite up?  For example the justification for the Apollo program for landing a man on the moon was it was a space feat that we thought we could beat the Russians at.  Had we already beaten the Russians at the 1st satellite, would the tremendous cost of project Apollo still have been justified?



Offline edkyle99

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #13 on: 12/06/2018 08:02 PM »
In my opinion Von Braun's ties to Nazi party were the most significant reason.  Imagine the historical significance of an ex Nazi party member the head of the 1st satellite.  The fact that the Russians did it first and all the hysteria that followed, cleared the decks so to speak for Von Braun's future involvement in the US space program.

I wonder sometimes how much the space race history would have changed had we put the 1st satellite up?  For example the justification for the Apollo program for landing a man on the moon was it was a space feat that we thought we could beat the Russians at.  Had we already beaten the Russians at the 1st satellite, would the tremendous cost of project Apollo still have been justified?
I think things would have turned out much the same, because R-7 would still have flown and it would have frightened the U.S. just as it did, due to its lift capacity.  Sputnik 1 was eye opening, but it was Sputnik 2, followed one month later by the Vanguard TV-3 failure, that really shocked.  Sputnik 2 put up a living creature - a dog with a name - in a 508 kg spacecraft.  Vanguard TV-3 was going to orbit a tiny 1.36 kg nanosatellite.  Sputnik 2 weighed more than twice as much as the Vanguard satellite and its loaded third stage combined.  The public would have known who was winning the space race regardless of who went first.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/06/2018 08:06 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #14 on: 12/06/2018 08:22 PM »
In my opinion Von Braun's ties to Nazi party were the most significant reason.  Imagine the historical significance of an ex Nazi party member the head of the 1st satellite. 
I don't believe that his Nazi party membership (something required to work on German defense contracts) was common knowledge among the wider public during the mid-1950s.  The public knew von Braun more from the Colliers articles and the Disney shows.  He was already an American citizen by then, and a bit of a celebrity.  Of course everyone knew his connection with the V-2 missiles used against Antwerp and London, but the war was over.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Zipper730

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #15 on: 12/06/2018 11:55 PM »
Eisenhower was quite determined that the first US satellite to reach orbit be civilian in nature.  Since Vanguard was part of the IGY investigations and NRL was the US point organization for IGY, it just made sense to have them do Vanguard as an extension of the ongoing Viking upper atmosphere investigations.
What's IGY?
Quote
There was also some concern that the Soviets would try to claim that their airspace extended to infinity.
That was a serious possibility?


Also, Vanguard was the whole program.  Launch vehicle, spacecraft and tracking system.
I assume by tracking you mean radar-sites to follow the satellite?
Quote
No, it was operated by civilians in a lab that happen to also report and support the USN.
So the fact that there was a layer of separation between the uniformed personnel and the people making the rocket played a role?
Quote
Physics of getting to orbit.  More energy was needed than the Viking plus Aerobee-Hi combination could provide.  The final configuration was a minimalist launch vehicle as it was.  It could only orbit about 20 lbs.
I'm not a real expert on orbital mechanics, but I figure the flight path is "flatter" than a ballistic trajectory so you'd need an extra burn or two and some maneuvering to get into an orbital flight-path?

From what I found, the Explorer 1 satellite was about 30.8 pounds, so they needed the ability to orbit another 11 pounds for it to work.  I'm curious what changes were made to Vanguard by the time it went from proposal to first flight?
« Last Edit: 12/07/2018 12:02 AM by Zipper730 »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #16 on: 12/07/2018 12:48 AM »
Eisenhower was quite determined that the first US satellite to reach orbit be civilian in nature.  Since Vanguard was part of the IGY investigations and NRL was the US point organization for IGY, it just made sense to have them do Vanguard as an extension of the ongoing Viking upper atmosphere investigations.
What's IGY?




Offline edkyle99

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #17 on: 12/07/2018 01:56 AM »
From what I found, the Explorer 1 satellite was about 30.8 pounds, so they needed the ability to orbit another 11 pounds for it to work.  I'm curious what changes were made to Vanguard by the time it went from proposal to first flight?
I highly recommend the official NASA Project Vanguard history (SP-4202) by Constance McLaughlin Green and Milton Lomask.  Here it is:  https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4202.pdf 

I have a hard copy, a 2009 Dover edition.  It is one of my very favorite NASA histories, especially the part that tells of the push-and-pull between NRL and its Martin Company contractor.  Martin wanted to do everything, control everything, displaying a bit of take-it-or-leave-arrogance sometimes typical for that Baltimore company, but then it won the Titan missile program (Titan 1) and Martin pulled most of its good people off of the Vanguard project.  These included folks who had worked for years on Viking.  NRL project managers had to sort out the mess.

The terrific thing about Vanguard was that it brought together a solid team at NRL (Milton Rosen, etc.) who oversaw the creation of the world-wide tracking system, the launch site, and especially the ultimately uber-reliable, pressure-fed, three-axis control (during coasts) with guidance-system second stage.  That group, much of it, became NASA's Goddard Space Center.  That stage became the second stage of Thor-Delta, by-far NASA's most reliable launch vehicle of its time (Rosen coined the "Delta" name).  The Aerojet propulsion system spawned by that stage went on, after many iterations and upgrades, to serve as the ancestor for generations of Delta second stages, for the Titan Transtage, for some of Japan's N-series "Delta" upper stages, for the Space Shuttle OMS, and someday maybe soon, for Orion.  Not a bad legacy.

Not to mention the satellites themselves.  Vanguard 1, for example, was the first satellite with solar cells, allowing it to return science data for years.  It remains in orbit still, the oldest man-made object up there.

 - Ed Kyle   
« Last Edit: 12/07/2018 02:17 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline WallE

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #18 on: 12/07/2018 02:25 AM »
Ok, there's a lot of stuff to cover here. Firstly, yes Vanguard was a civvie project and the Navy merely funded it, I think that's common knowledge. Eisenhower was against launching on a military rocket like Redstone because he imagined it would be a provocation to Moscow, even though, as everyone quickly found out, Redstone was a proven vehicle with several years of flights while Vanguard wasn't (did they even fly a full-up Vanguard with live upper stages before TV-3? I thought they didn't).

The Soviet program was very much inferior to the US program in most metrics--electronics, testing facilities, political support, personnel safety, manufacturing capacity, budget, etc, etc. They did scoop up a number of space firsts because the R-7 had more lift capacity than US launch vehicles before the mid-1960s. Also, until they began using the R-12 as a space launcher in 1962, all Soviet space launches used R-7s. It did make things a bit easier having only one LV to debug versus the myriad of vehicles used by the US program. Atlas, Thor, Redstone, Jupiter, Vanguard, and Scout--that's five completely different LV families used during the same period. The US program also flew many more missions during the early years for all different programs, while the rate of Soviet space launches pre-1965 was small--only during the Brezhnev years did they start cranking out LVs and spacecraft assembly line-style.

The huge number of Zenit and Yantar photoreconnaissance satellites flown in the 70s-80s (averaging 30 a year) was because they never did progress beyond relatively primitive film capsules that would stay up about a week. Something like KH-11 was totally beyond Soviet technological capabilities. Nor did they develop a sophisticated body of electronic intelligence satellites.

As far as the planetary probe program was concerned, the lunar program managed some legitimate firsts, particularly Luna 3 and 9. There were a lot of failures along the way too. The Venus program was pretty successful after the early years but the Venera landers were an engineering feat more than a scientific one--take a few pictures of the surface before the probe is destroyed by heat and pressure. NASA never bothered with Venus landers because it was considered better to just radar map the surface. The Soviet Mars program? Its entire body of accomplishments consists of 43 photos returned by the Mars 5 orbiter. Soviet engineering never did prove itself up to the challenge of communications at Martian distances, the cold temperatures, or in building a spacecraft bus able to last the months-long journey out there.

The Wild West days of the US space program had pretty much ended by 1965. At that point, you could be fairly confident that anything you launched had a better than likely chance of getting into orbit successfully and accomplishing its mission once it got there. For the Soviet program, this wasn't until the mid-70s when Valentin Glushko was put in charge of the entire effort and mission success rates improved a lot.

Offline Jim

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Re: Project Orbiter / Vanguard
« Reply #19 on: 12/07/2018 03:03 PM »
1.  That was a serious possibility?

2.  I assume by tracking you mean radar-sites to follow the satellite?

3.  So the fact that there was a layer of separation between the uniformed personnel and the people making the rocket played a role?

4. I'm not a real expert on orbital mechanics, but I figure the flight path is "flatter" than a ballistic trajectory so you'd need an extra burn or two and some maneuvering to get into an orbital flight-path?

5. From what I found, the Explorer 1 satellite was about 30.8 pounds, so they needed the ability to orbit another 11 pounds for it to work. 

5. I'm curious what changes were made to Vanguard by the time it went from proposal to first flight?

1. yes
2.  Listening sites
3.  NRL is not part of the fleet.  It is part of the Office of Naval Research in the Secretariat of the Navy.
4.  Just need more velocity
5.  Different rocket and stages.
6.  First stage was no longer a Viking and the second stage was larger than an Aerobee.

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