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1958 NASA/USAF Space Probes (Able-1)Early in calendar year 1958 Space Technology Laboratories, Inc. (STL) (then Space Technology Laboratories, a division of the Ramo-Wooldridge Corp.) developed for the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division (AFBMD) an Advanced Re-entry Test Vehicle (ARTV) for the purpose of testing ballistic missile nose cones at the full range of 5500 nautical miles. The two-stage ARTV utilized the Thor ballistic missile and the second stage propulsion system developed for the Vanguard program. In late 1957 and early 1958, STL/AFBMD prepared studies of various missile combinations which could be utilized for space testing. The Thor, in combination with the Vanguard second and third stages, was one of the vehicles considered which offered a very early capability of placing a reasonable payload in a lunar orbit. These STL/AFBMD studies were presented to various appropriate groups including the Killian, Millikan, H. J . Stewart Committees; Headquarters, Air Research and Development Command, and ARDC Centers. Subsequently the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) contacted STL relative to the availability of hardware for an early lunar shot. By utilizing existing spares already purchased for the ARTV, and by making use of the ARTV contractors already in being, it appeared feasible to launch by the third quarter of calendar year 1958 a payload which would be captured by the moon's gravitational force. On 27 March 1958, ARPA directed STL to proceed with a program of three lunar shots. As much as possible, these shots were to utilize existing ARTV spare hardware and impose no interference with the ballistic missile programs. In September this program was transferred to the direction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). On 17 August 1958 the first launching of the Able-1 vehicle was attempted, but the flight was terminated by a propulsion failure of the first stage. Subsequent launchings were attempted on 13 October and 8 November 1958. Of these launchirigs the October attempt was the most successful. Although the payload did not reach the vicinity of the moon, a maximum altitude of 71,700 was attained, and useful scientific data was obtained from the instrumentation.
Document ID
Document Type
Contractor or Grantee Report
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
June 1, 1959
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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