Tag: Project Vanguard

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I will be appearing on The Space Show next Tuesday from 10:00-11:30 PM EST to discuss the early space program and the launch of Vanguard 1. It was the first satellite to carry solar cells and is the oldest one still in orbit. It was designed by my dad who tinkered with it on our […]

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1955: The U.S. and U.S.S.R. Announce Satellite Programs


In 1950, Jim Van Allen had a party at his house. They discussed having an International Geophysical Year during the next solar maximum of 1957-58. The last surviving participant in the party, Fred Singer, died last year. On July 29th, 1955, the U.S. announced that it would launch a satellite during the IGY. Several days later the Soviet Union made a similar statement.

The U.S. set up the Stewart Committee to decide which proposal would be supported to launch a satellite. The major rivals were Milt Rosen from the Naval Research Laboratory and Wernher von Braun from the Army. On August 4th, 66 years ago, they selected the Navy proposal which became Project Vanguard. The Army protested and there were additional hearings which resulted in another vote in favor of Vanguard. My father worked on Vanguard;  he heard that von Braun thought that he “had it in the bag” and talked down to the committee. The Navy’s proposal was superior in its scientific aspects but the Army’s proposal required less development of the rocket. Milt said privately that, “They have a rocket and we don’t.”