Engineering model of Beacon 1 and its fourth stage booster. Superficially similiar to early Explorer payloads and contemporary to the early Explorer program, it includes a cutaway payload section attached to a Sergeant solid fuel rocket motor. Has a conical collar surrounding the connection between the fourth stage and the payload. Four whip-style antennae protrude from this collar. The internal components include a nitrogen gas supply chamber above a chamber containing an aluminized plastic balloon neatly tucked into a cylindrical storage chamber. At some point after it arrived at NASM, either at NASM or on loan, the paint configuration was changed to make the object look like an Explorer. The object was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory via NASA in September 1975 and was identified by JPL as Explorer 1.
Beacon was an early NACA/ABMA program during the IGY to explore atmospheric drag at satellite altitudes. It consisted of an ejection system to launch a 12 foot aluminmized balloon that would be the first visible satellite launched by the United States. A model of Beacon (not the one in the collection) was used as a visual prop during hearings of the House Select Committee on Aeronautics and Space Exploration in April 1958, the hearings that established NASA. After four suborbital launches of Beacon tests using Nike Cajun rockets at Wallops Island, Beacon 1 was launched on a modified Juno 1 (with an added fifth stage) on October 23 1958. The payload separated prematurely from the upper stages and so did not achieve orbit.
Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory