Credit: Manufacturer Image
Status: Operational 1958. First Launch: 1958-12-18. Last Launch: 1958-12-18. Number: 1 . Gross mass: 70 kg (154 lb).
In August 1955 the Stewart Committee, having taken on the Pentagon's desire for the IGY effort not to affect either the Air Force Atlas ICBM or Army Jupiter IRBM programs, selected the Navy's Vanguard as the booster for America's first satellite.
Convair, however, saw a bright future for their Atlas rocket as a space launch vehicle. They made an unsolicited proposal before the Stewart Committee decision to the Air Force to use the three-engined Atlas C as an Orbital Research and Test Vehicle. This would boost a 230 kg satellite into orbit without the need for an upper stage. Nothing came of this proposal immediately.
On 1 February 1957 Air Force headquarters asked Schriever to provide a plan to fly a back-up scientific satellite for during the International Geophysical Year, in case Vanguard failed. The reply came a week later. $91 million would be required. But Atlas development was such that no launchings could be guaranteed before mid-1959. It was however possible, best case, that one or two launchings could be managed before the end of the IGY in 1958. The Air Force declined to spend the money.
The Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 had a political impact far beyond the loss of a few months in the Atlas operational date. Vanguard did indeed fail, and another Vanguard competitor, the Army's Redstone, managed to orbit a tiny satellite in January 1958. The Soviets launched the massive 1327-kg Sputnik 3 in May 1957, again humbling the Americans. The Convair Orbital Research and Test Vehicle concept was resurrected as Project Score, and Schriever was given funds to launch a satellite using an Atlas as soon as possible. A three-engined Atlas B launched the Score satellite into orbit in December 1958, doing something to restore US prestige. It remained attached to the Atlas, allowing the Americans to claim they had orbited a 4 metric ton satellite, although all but 70 kg of that was the Atlas itself.
Quarles Committee studies best method of furnishing the United States with a sattelite by end of 1958. A committee, appointed by Secretary of the Air Force, D. A. Quarles, to recommend the best method of furnishing the United States with a satellite between the dates of June and December 1958, was briefed at Western Development Division (WDD). The Atlas project was reviewed and the potential of Atlas as a booster vehicle in a selected satellite system was presented. The committee was advised that WDD was qualified to manage the program if so directed but that such a program would interfere, to some extent with the high priority of the Atlas development effort. (Memo, Col C. H. Terhune, Dep Cmdr Tech Opns, WDD, to Brig Gen B. A. Schriever, Cmdr WDD, 28 Jun 55, subj: Visit of DOD Satellite Committee, 28 Jun 55.)
Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment; first commsat; transmitted taped messages for 13 days. Project Score, Atlas rocket placed in orbit carrying communications equipment which relayed President Eisenhower's Christmas message to the world from outer space. (AF Ballistic Missiles Program Status Report.)