The Vanguard TV-4 (for 'test Vehicle 4') stands ready to launch the first successful civilian satellite, Vanguard 1 on St. Patrick's day, March 17, 1958
The Vanguard TV-4BU (sometimes called SLV-7). It's fitting that the backup vehicle for the first successful Vanguard satellite would launch the last, Vanguard III on September 18, 1959.
Project Vanguard was a United States program intended place the first satellite into Earth orbit during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) which ran from July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958.
Vanguard was to be a "civilian" program rather than a military program though it was run by the US Naval Research laboratory (NRL). The vehicle would be based largely on technologies used in the Viking and Aerobee research rockets. The Martin Company of Baltimore was the primary contractor of the vehicle.
Though most think of Vanguard in terms of the "rocket that exploded" and the several vehicle failures during the span of the program, Project Vanguard is generally acknowledged to have achieved all of its objectives in orbiting three satellites (all of which are still in orbit). In engineering terms, the Vanguard vehicle remains one of the most efficient rockets ever designed with less than 20% of its total liftoff mass being contributed to the vehicle itself...the rest was propellants. And, though it may have seemed massive at the time, Vanguard was a very small rocket when one considers that it was capable of sending an object into orbit as well as when one compares it to other orbital launchers of the day and since.
An interesting note is that by the time Vanguard successfully orbited three satellites, the Soviet Union also had also orbited three satellites.
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Vanguard Library and Links
Vanguard Engineering Summary (downloadable PDF) - "The Vanguard Satellite Launching Vehicle, An Engineering Summary", Engineering Report 11022, April 1960. This 212-page Martin Company document covers all aspects of the Vanguard launch vehicle. Includes many diagrams, drawings, and photos.
Vanguard: A History (web document) - "Vanguard: A History". NASA SP-4202. The official NASA history of Project Vanguard. This is a web-based version of the printed book in the NASA History Series from 1970.
Tommy Edström's Vanguard 1 site - This site, supported by Swedish enthusiast, presents some interesting information on Vanguard, particularly an ongoing active counter that displays Vanguard 1's distance traveled to date.
Nielspapermodels - This website has a series of really nice paper models including all versions of Vanguard
Grand Central Rocket Company - Was established in 1955 by Major Corliss C. Moseley to produce the third stages for the Vanguard Rocket. The company was named for its location near the Grand Central Airport in Glendale, CA. Major Moseley had established several companies at the Grand Central in the 30 years prior to the dawn of the Space Age. The company went on to also produce the escape motor used in Project Mercury.
Model Rocketry and Spacemodeling?
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