Daily Archives: July 10, 2019

10 July 1962

Telstar 1 launches aboard a Thor Delta rocket at Launch Complex 17B, 0835 GMT, 10 July 1962. (NASA)
Telstar 1 launches aboard a Delta rocket at Launch Complex 17B, 0835 GMT, 10 July 1962. (NASA)

10 July 1962: At 0835 GMT (4:35 a.m., EDT) the first communications relay satellite, Telstar 1, was launched into Earth orbit from Launch Complex 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch vehicle was a three-stage liquid-fueled Delta rocket.

This was the first commercial space flight, sponsored by a consortium of communications companies and government organizations, including AT&T, Bell Labs, the BBC, NASA, and British and French postal services. The satellite was used to relay live television broadcasts across the Atlantic Ocean. This had never previously been possible.

Telstar weighed 171 pounds (77.5 kilograms). Its weight and size were restricted by the availability of launch vehicles. The satellite was placed in an elliptical orbit, varying from 591 miles (952 kilometers) to 3,686 miles (5,933 kilometers), and inclined at about a 45° angle to Earth’s Equator. The orbital period was 2 hours, 37 minutes. The properties of Telstar’s orbit restricted its use to about 20 minutes during each pass.

In addition to its primary role as a communications relay satellite, Telstar also performed scientific experiments to study the Van Allen Belt.

The Delta was a three-stage expendable launch vehicle which was developed from the Douglas Aircraft Company’s SM-75 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Designated Thor DM-19, the first stage was 60.43 feet (18.42 meters) long and 8 feet (2.44 meters) in diameter. Fully fueled, the first stage had a gross weight of 108,770 pounds (49,337 kilograms). It was powered by a Rocketdyne LR-79-7 engine which burned liquid oxygen and RP-1 (a highly-refined kerosene rocket fuel) and produced 170,565 pounds of thrust (758.711 kilonewtons). This stage had a burn time of 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

The second stage was an Aerojet General Corporation-built Delta 104. It was 19 feet, 3 inches (5.88 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.40 meters). The second stage had a gross weight of 9,859 pounds (4,472 kilograms). It used an Aerojet AJ10-104 rocket engine which burned a hypergolic  mixture of nitric acid and UDMH. The second stage produced 7,890 pounds of thrust (35.096 kilonewtons) and burned for 4 minutes, 38 seconds.

The third stage was an Allegany Ballistics Laboratory Altair 1. It was 6 feet long, 1 foot, 6 inches in diameter and had a gross weight of 524 pounds (238 kilograms). This stage used a solid-fuel Thiokol X-248 rocket engine, producing 2,799 pounds of thrust (12.451 kilonewtons). Its burn time was 4 minutes, 16 seconds.

The three stages of the Delta rocket accelerated the Telstar satellite to 14,688 miles per hour for orbital insertion.

The day prior to launch, the United States detonated a 1.45 megaton thermonuclear warhead at an altitude of 248 miles (400 kilometers), near Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. (Operation Dominic-Fishbowl Starfish Prime). Between 21 October 1961 and 1 November 1962, the Soviet Union detonated five nuclear warheads in space (Project K), at altitudes ranging from 59 to 300 kilometers (37–186 miles) over a test range in Khazakhstan. High energy electrons from these tests were trapped in the Earth’s radiation belts. This damaged the satellite’s circuitry and it went out of service in December 1962. ¹

Engineers were able to work around the damage and restore service by January 1963, but Telstar 1 failed permanently 21 February 1963.

Telstar is still in Earth orbit.

Telstar 1 communications relay satellite. (Bell Laboratories)

¹ Thanks to regular TDiA reader Steve Johnson for this information.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 July 1943

U.S. Paratroopers in North Africa prepare to board an 8th Air Force Douglas C-47-DL Skytrain, 41-18341, for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, 9 July 1943.

10 July 1943: Following the defeat of Germany and Italy by the Allies in North Africa, the next phase of the war plan was the invasion of Sicily. This began with the largest airborne assault ever attempted by U.S. and British paratroopers up to that time.

Shortly after midnight, a Regimental Combat Team (RCT) under command of Colonel James M. Gavin, United States Army, and consisting of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment with the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, dropped out of a moonlit sky around Gela on the southern shore of the island and achieved reasonable success. 226 C-47 Skytrains of the 52d Troop Carrier Wing dropped 3,405 U.S. paratroopers. A second airborne assault by the remaining 1,900 paratroopers of the 504th PIR  was carried into battle by 144 C-47s from the 52d TCW.

The British Army 1st Air Landing Brigade under Brigadier Philip Hicks arrived on gliders to capture landing zones in the interior of the island.

Invasion Plan, Invasion of Sicily, 10 July 1943. The airborne assault target is at map coordinates C–2.  (United States Military Academy)

As the Allied formation of 144 Douglas C-47 Skytrain transports approached the Sicilian shoreline, ships of the invasion force mistook them for enemy aircraft and opened fire. 22 C-47s were shot down and many others damaged. 83 men were killed and 318 wounded.

As a result of the friendly fire incident, the airborne assault was widely scattered, missing assigned drop zones and objectives. However, small groups of airborne troopers acting on their own initiative attacked targets of opportunity and kept the island’s defenders off balance.

Coloenel James M. Gavin, United States Army, commanding officer, 505th Parachute Infantry Regimeent, with his men before Operation Husky, 9 July 1943. (U.S. Army)
Colonel James M. Gavin, United States Army, commanding officer, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, with his men before Operation Husky, 9 July 1943. (U.S. Army)

The British glider assault, Operation Ladbroke, consisted of 8 Airspeed Horsa and 136 American Waco CG-4 transport gliders. Only 12 of these landed at their targets. At least 65 went into the sea with the loss of over 250 British soldiers.

Operation Fustian was the airborne assault by the 1st Parachute Brigade under the command of Brigadier Gerald Lathbury was carried by 105 C-47s, 11 Armstrong Whitworth Ablemarle paratroop transports, 11 Horsa and 8 Waco gliders. Approximately 40 of these were shot down by Allied and Axis anti-aircraft fire and several were lost to mid-air collisions. Many transports were badly damaged and had so many wounded paratroops that they aborted the mission and returned to North Africa.

Despite significant problems, the airborne troops kept the island’s defenders off guard and had a “positive effect” on the outcome of the invasion.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 July 1942

Douglas XA-26 first flight, 10 July 1942. (Boeing Historical Archives/Wikipedia)

10 July 1942: At the Douglas Aircraft Company El Segundo Division, located at the southeast section of Los Angeles Municipal Airport (now, LAX), company engineering test pilot Benjamin Odell Howard took the prototype Douglas XA-26-DE light bomber, serial number 41-19504,¹ for its first flight.

Douglas XA-26 prototype in flight. (Douglas Aircraft Company/SDASM)

The XA-26 was twin-engine mid-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. Douglas had proposed the design to the U.S. Army Air Corps as a replacement for three different airplanes: The Douglas A-20, the North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell, and the Martin B-26 Marauder. It was to be operated by a pilot, navigator/bombardier and a gunner.

Douglas XA-26.

The prototype was 51 feet, 2 inches (15.596 meters) long, with a wingspan of 70 feet, 0 inches (21.336 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters). Its empty weight was 21,150 pounds. It was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney R-2800–27 (Double Wasp 2SB-G), with a normal power rating of 1,600 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. to 5,700 feet (1,737 meters) and 1,450 horsepower to 13,000 feet (3,962 meters); and 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., for military and takeoff power. The engines drove three-bladed propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-27 was 6 feet, 3.72 inches (1.923 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms).

Douglas XA-26 (Douglas Aircraft Company/SDASM)

The XA-26’s maximum speed was 322 knots (370 miles per hour/595 kilometers per hour) at 17,000 feet (5,182meters) and it had a service ceiling of 31,300 feet (9,540 meters).

Douglas XA-26 light bomber prototype, 42-19504. (Douglas Aircraft Company)

A second prototype, designated XA-26A was developed as an night fighter. It carried air-intercept radar in the nose and armament in a pod under the fuselage. The third prototype, the XA-26B, was a ground attack aircraft. Like the XA-26A, it had a solid nose, but was armed with a fixed 75-millimeter cannon in the nose, and forward-firing Browning .50-caliber machine guns. When ordered into production, the XA-26 became the A-26C Invader, while the ground attack design was assigned A-26B.

Douglas XA-26A night fighter prototype, 42-19505, photographed 6 July 1943. Note the weapons pod beneath the fuselage. (Douglas Aircraft Company/SDASM)
Douglas XA-26B ground attack prototype, 42-19588, photographed 14 May 1943. (Douglas Aircraft Company E.S. 31578/Boeing Historical Archives)
Douglas XA-26 42-19504, photographed 29 April 1943. (Douglas Aircraft Company/SDASM)

Benjamin Odell Howard was born 4 February 1904 at Palestine, Texas. He was the third of four children of Sam T. Howard, a real estate agent, and Fanie Howard.

Ben O. Howard, 1924 (The Savitar)

Ben Howard graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1924 with a degree in engineering. While there he was a member of the Kappa Sigma (ΚΣ) fraternity and the Reserve Officers Club.

On 10 Dec 1932, Howard married Miss Olive Maxine Schoen at Independence, Missouri.

In 1933, they lived in Kansas City, Missouri. He was employed as a pilot for United Air Lines Inc.

In 1935, Ben Howard won the Bendix Trophy Race flying Mister Mulligan, a Howard DGA-6. His time was 8 hours, 33 minutes, 16.3 seconds, for an average speed of 238.70 miles per hour.

Mister Mulligan, the Howard DGC-6, NR273Y. (SDASM)

dark, blk brn 5’11” 165,

After a lengthy illness, Benjamin Odell Howard died at his home in Brentwood, California, 4 December 1970.

¹ Every source checked by TDiA identifies the prototype XA-26 as “41-19504.” Photographs of the XA-26, XA-26A and XA-26B clearly show the 1942 serial numbers 219504, 219505 and 219588 (42-19504, 42-19505 and 42-19588).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 July 1940

The Battle of Britain begins.

“The Few.” Royal Air Force pilots run to their fighters to defend England from attacking German Luftwaffe bombers during the Battle of Britain. © IWM (HU 49253)

Before Germany could mount Operation Sea Lion, a cross-channel invasion of the British Isles, it needed to have complete air superiority over the invasion fleet. Because of the Luftwaffe‘s greater numbers and modern aircraft, German military leadership believed this could best be accomplished by defeating the Royal Air Force in air-to-air combat.

The Royal Air Force had been conserving their limited numbers of pilots and aircraft up to this point in the war. Germany’s plan was to send its bombers against targets that the R.A.F. would be forced to defend. The escorting Messerschmitt Bf 109s (also referred to as the Me 109) would then shoot down the Boulton Paul Defiants and Bristol Blenheims. But the Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires were up to the task. While the Hurricanes went after the Luftwaffe’s Dornier 17 and Heinkel He 111 bombers, the Spitfires engaged their Bf 109 fighter escorts.

Contrails over London during the Battle of Britain, 10 July–31 October 1940.
Contrails over London during the Battle of Britain, 10 July–31 October 1940.

Britain used a system of radar-directed ground control of its fighter squadrons. The result was that though both sides lost about the same number of aircraft, the Battle of Britain was a decisive victory for Great Britain. Germany was forced to give up on its plans for an invasion of England.

During a speech the House of Commons, 20 August 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the pilots of Fighter Command when he said,

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Ever since, the Royal Air Force has been known as “The Few.”

Luftwaffe aircraft:

A flight of Dornier Do 17 bombers, circa 1940. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
A flight of Dornier Do 17 bombers, 31 December 1939. (Bundesarchiv)
Heinkel He 111 bomber. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
Heinkel He 111 bomber, circa September–October 1940. (Bundesarchiv)
A flight of Messerchmitt me 109s carry external fuel tanks to extend their range and time over target. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
A flight of Messerchmitt Bf 109s carry external fuel tanks to extend their range and time over target. (Bundesarchiv)
Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine heavy fighter, circa 1942. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine heavy fighter, circa 1942. (Bundesarchiv)

Royal Air Force aircraft:

Supermarine Spitfire fighters of No. 610 Squadron, RAF Biggin Hill, during the Battle of Britain. (Imperial War Museum)
Supermarine Spitfire fighters of No. 610 Squadron, RAF Biggin Hill, during the Battle of Britain. (Royal Air Force Museum)
Hawker Hurrican Mk.I P3408 (VY-K) of No. 85 Squadron, Church Fenton, Yorkshire, October 1940. (B.V. Daventry, RAF official photographer. Imperial War Museum CH 1501)
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I P3408 (VY-K) of No. 85 Squadron, RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire, October 1940. Flying the same type, also with the identification letters VY-K, Squadron Leader Peter Townsend, DFC, was shot down by a Do 17 named Gustav Marie, over the English Channel, 10 July 1940. After the war, Townsend became good friends with the bomber’s gunner, Werner Borner. (Mr. B.J. Daventry, RAF official photographer. Imperial War Museum CH 1501)

Highly recommended: Duel of Eagles, by Group Captain Peter Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar, Royal Air Force. Cassell Publishers Limited, 1970 and Castle Books, 2003.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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