Vanguard TV3

Vanguard TV3

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Vanguard TV3 was the first attempt of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to launch a satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 into orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 around the Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. It was a small satellite designed to test the launch capabilities of the three-stage
Multistage rocket
A multistage rocket is a rocket that usestwo or more stages, each of which contains its own engines and propellant. A tandem or serial stage is mounted on top of another stage; a parallel stage is attached alongside another stage. The result is effectively two or more rockets stacked on top of or...

 Vanguard rocket
Vanguard rocket
The Vanguard rocket was intended to be the first launch vehicle the United States would use to place a satellite into orbit. Instead, the Sputnik crisis caused by the surprise launch of Sputnik 1 led the U.S., after the failure of Vanguard TV3, to quickly orbit the Explorer 1 satellite using a Juno...

 and study the effects of the environment on a satellite and its systems in Earth orbit
Geocentric orbit
A geocentric orbit involves any object orbiting the Earth, such as the Moon or artificial satellites. Currently there are approximately 2,465 artificial satellites orbiting the Earth and 6,216 pieces of space debris as tracked by the Goddard Space Flight Center...

. It was also to be used to obtain geodetic
Geodesy , also named geodetics, a branch of earth sciences, is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field, in a three-dimensional time-varying space. Geodesists also study geodynamical phenomena such as crustal...

 measurements through orbit analysis.

At its launch attempt on December 6, 1957 at Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

, the booster
Booster rocket
A booster rocket is either the first stage of a multi-stage launch vehicle, or else a strap-on rocket used to augment the core launch vehicle's takeoff thrust and payload capability. Boosters are generally necessary to launch spacecraft into Earth orbit or beyond...

 ignited and began to rise; but about two seconds after liftoff, after rising about four feet (1.2 m), the rocket lost thrust and began to fall back to the launch pad
Launch pad
A launch pad is the area and facilities where rockets or spacecraft lift off. A spaceport can contain one or many launch pads. A typical launch pad consists of the service and umbilical structures. The service structure provides an access platform to inspect the launch vehicle prior to launch....

. As it settled the fuel tanks ruptured and exploded, destroying the rocket and severely damaging the launch pad. The Vanguard satellite was thrown clear and landed on the ground a short distance away with its transmitter
In electronics and telecommunications a transmitter or radio transmitter is an electronic device which, with the aid of an antenna, produces radio waves. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating...

s still sending out a beacon
A beacon is an intentionally conspicuous device designed to attract attention to a specific location.Beacons can also be combined with semaphoric or other indicators to provide important information, such as the status of an airport, by the colour and rotational pattern of its airport beacon, or of...

 signal. The satellite was damaged, however, and could not be reused. It is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It was established in 1976. Located in Washington, D.C., United States, it is a center for research into the history and science of aviation and...

 of the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...


The exact cause of the accident was never determined with certainty,
but the commonly accepted explanation is that low fuel tank
Fuel tank
A fuel tank is safe container for flammable fluids. Though any storage tank for fuel may be so called, the term is typically applied to part of an engine system in which the fuel is stored and propelled or released into an engine...

 pressure during the start procedure allowed some of the burning fuel in the
combustion chamber
Combustion chamber
A combustion chamber is the part of an engine in which fuel is burned.-Internal combustion engine:The hot gases produced by the combustion occupy a far greater volume than the original fuel, thus creating an increase in pressure within the limited volume of the chamber...

 to leak into the fuel system through the injector
ʎ̩An injector, ejector, steam ejector, steam injector, eductor-jet pump or thermocompressor is a pump-like device that uses the Venturi effect of a converging-diverging nozzle to convert the pressure energy of a motive fluid to velocity energy which creates a low pressure zone that dɯaws in and...

 head before full propellant pressure was obtained from the turbopump
A turbopump is a gas turbine that comprises basically two main components: a rotodynamic pump and a driving turbine, usually both mounted on the same shaft, or sometimes geared together...


Satellite design

The payload was a 1.36 kg
The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...

 aluminum sphere
A sphere is a perfectly round geometrical object in three-dimensional space, such as the shape of a round ball. Like a circle in two dimensions, a perfect sphere is completely symmetrical around its center, with all points on the surface lying the same distance r from the center point...

 152 mm in diameter, nearly identical to the later Vanguard 1
Vanguard 1
Vanguard 1 was the fourth artificial Earth satellite launched and the first satellite to be solar powered. Although communication with it was lost in 1964, it remains the oldest manmade satellite still in orbit...

. It contained a mercury battery
Mercury battery
A mercury battery is a non-rechargeable electrochemical battery, a primary cell. Due to the content of mercury, and the resulting environmental concerns, the sale of mercury batteries is banned in many countries. Both ANSI and IEC have withdrawn standards for mercury batteries...

 powered, 10 mW, 108 MHz transmitter and a 5 mW, 108.03 MHz transmitter powered by six solar cell
Solar cell
A solar cell is a solid state electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect....

s mounted on the body of the satellite. Six short aerials
Antenna (radio)
An antenna is an electrical device which converts electric currents into radio waves, and vice versa. It is usually used with a radio transmitter or radio receiver...

 protruded from the sphere. The transmitters were used primarily for engineering and tracking
Telemetry is a technology that allows measurements to be made at a distance, usually via radio wave transmission and reception of the information. The word is derived from Greek roots: tele = remote, and metron = measure...

 data, but were also used to determine the total electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

 content between the satellite and ground stations
Earth station
A ground station, earth station, or earth terminal is a terrestrial terminal station designed for extraplanetary telecommunication with spacecraft, and/or reception of radio waves from an astronomical radio source. Ground stations are located either on the surface of the Earth, or within Earth's...

. Vanguard also carried two thermistor
A thermistor is a type of resistor whose resistance varies significantly with temperature, more so than in standard resistors. The word is a portmanteau of thermal and resistor...

s to measure the interior temperatures in order to track the effectiveness of the thermal protection
Thermal insulation
Thermal insulation is the reduction of the effects of the various processes of heat transfer between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Heat transfer is the transfer of thermal energy between objects of differing temperature...


Engineers recovered the payload from the launch area, still functioning. It was restored and put on display at the entrance to the Apollo gallery when the National Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It was established in 1976. Located in Washington, D.C., United States, it is a center for research into the history and science of aviation and...

 opened in 1976. Since then the display has been modified to show TV3 in a condition closer to what it was found in.


As a result of the launch failure, trading in the stock of the Martin Company, prime contractor for the project, was temporarily suspended by the New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located at 11 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, USA. It is by far the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies at 13.39 trillion as of Dec 2010...


Newspapers in the United States, published prominent headlines and articles noting the failure including plays on the name of the Russian satellite, Sputnik, such as "Flopnik", "Kaputnik", "Oopsnik", and "Stayputnik".

Later analysis of this technological failure characterized this as a humiliation and loss of prestige for the United States which had presented itself to the world as the leader in science and technology. Its rival in the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

exploited this at the time.

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