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Military Origins of the Space Race

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The Scout Program


 First the United States and then the Soviet Union announced intentions to place a scientific satellite into orbit as part of the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year, a worldwide effort to study the Earth. The Army proposed to launch America's first satellite using a modified Redstone ballistic missile. Instead, Vanguard--a new vehicle descended from research rockets--was selected for technical reasons and also to emphasize the peaceful use of space.

After Sputnik's success, Vanguard's launch-pad explosion on December 6, 1957, drew further attention to the Soviet lead in space.
Vanguard's launch-pad explosion on December 6, 1957
169 k jpeg
SI#: 83-309


Line Art, VanguardVanguard was a three-stage launch vehicle developed for the Navy in 1957. It had liquid-propellant engines in the first two stages and a solid-propellant third stage. Vanguard's technical ancestors were the Navy's Viking and Aerobee sounding rockets.

Much of the internal hardware was removed when this Vanguard was prepared for display. It was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1958 after being exhibited at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Transferred from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Length: 21.6 m (70 ft 9 in)
Weight: 10,000 kg (22,600 lb)
Thrust: 120,000 newtons (27,000 lb)
Propellants: (1st stage) kerosene and liquid oxygen; (2nd stage) hydrazine and nitric acid; (3rd stage) solid propellant
Manufacturer: Glen L. Martin Co. (prime); General Electric, Aerojet General, Thiokol (engines)

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