Tag Archives: Rocket

18 September 1959

Vanguard SLV-7 is launched from LC-18A, 05:16:00 UTC, 18 September 1959. It carried a 50 pound satellite into Earth orbit. (NASA)

18 September 1959: At 05:16:00 UTC, a three-stage Vanguard Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted of from Launch Complex 18A at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The rocket placed a 50 pound (22.7 kilogram) scientific satellite into Earth orbit.

Contained inside the satellite’s 20 inch (50.8 centimeter) diameter magnesium outer shell were sensors and transmitters. The satellite collected data on the Earth’s magnetic field, the Van Allen Radiation Belt, micrometeorite impacts on the satellite and measured drag acting to slow the satellite in its orbit.

Vanguard 3 transmitted data for 84 days before it stopped functioning. It is estimated that it will remain in orbit around the Earth for 300 years.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

8 September 1944

V-2 crater at Staveley Road, 8 September 1944. (Daily Mail)
V-2 crater at Staveley Road, 8 September 1944. (Daily Mail)
The first V-2 rocket to hit London impacted in Staveley Road at 18:40:52, 8 September 1944, killing 3 persons and injuring 17 others.
The first V-2 rocket to hit London impacted in Staveley Road at 18:40:52, 8 September 1944, killing 3 persons and injuring 17 others.

8 September 1944: At 18:40:52 hours, the first of 1,358 V-2 rockets hit London, impacting in Staveley Road, Chiswick, “opposite No. 5.”

The warhead detonated and caused extensive damage to the residential area. A crater 20 feet (6.1 meters) deep was in the center of the road and the gas and water mains were  destroyed.

This V-2 rocket was fired by Gruppe Nord, Battery 2./485, located at the crossroads of Lijsterlaan and Schouwweg, in the suburb of Wassenar, The Hague, Netherlands.

Three people were killed: a 67-year-old woman, a 3-year-old child and a soldier home on leave. 17 others were injured.

11 homes were demolished, 12 seriously damaged and unusable, and 556 suffered slight or minor damage. 14 families had to be relocated.

A V-2 rocket is being raised to a vertical position for firing.
A V-2 rocket is being raised to a vertical position for firing.

The V2, or Vergeltungswaffen 2 (also known as the A4, or Aggregat 4) was a ballistic missile with an empty weight of approximately 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) and weighing 28,000 pounds (12,700 kilograms), fully loaded. It carried a 738 kilogram (1,627 pound) (sources vary) explosive warhead of amatol, a mixture of ammonium nitrate and TNT. The propellant was a 75/25 mixture of ethanol and water with liquid oxygen as an oxidizer.

1280px-esquema_de_la_v-2The complete rocket was 14.036 meters (46.050 feet) long, and had a maximum diameter of 1.651 meters (5.417 feet). The rocket was stabilized by four large fins, 3.945 meters (12.943 feet) long, with a maximum span of  3.564 meters (11.693 feet). The leading edge of these fins was swept aft 60° to the “shoulder,” and then to 87° (30° and 3°, relative to the rocket’s centerline). A small guide vane was at the outer tip of each fin, and other vanes were placed in the engine’s exhaust plume.

V-2 launch site.
V-2 launch site.

When launched, the rocket engine burned for 65 seconds, accelerating the rocket to 3,580 miles per hour (5,760 kilometers per hour) on a ballistic trajectory. The maximum range of the rocket was 200 miles (320 kilometers) with a peak altitude between 88 and 128 miles, depending on the desired range. On impact, the rocket was falling at 1,790 miles per hour (2,880 kilometers per hour), about Mach 2.35, so its approach would have been completely silent in the target area.

The V-2 could only hit a general area and was not militarily effective. Germany used it against England, France, The Netherlands and Belgium as a terror weapon. More than 3,200 V-2 rockets were launched against these countries.

V-2 rockets on mobile launchers being prepared for firing. (Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

20 August 1977

Voyager 2/Titan IIIE-Centaur launch, LC-41, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 20 August 1977. (NASA)

20 August 1977: Voyager 2 was launched from Launch Complex 41 at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Titan IIIE-Centaur launch vehicle. It was placed on an orbital trajectory that would take it on a journey throughout the Solar System and beyond.

Nearly two years later, 9 July 1979, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Jupiter, passing within 350,000 miles (570,000 kilometers) of the planet. Many dramatic images as well as scientific data were transmitted back to Earth.

Artist’s concept of Voyager. (NASA/JPL)

The probe continued outward to Saturn, Neptune and Uranus, continuously transmitting images and data. In 1990, the space probe passed beyond the limits of the Solar System.

Voyager 2 is now in interstellar space. It crossed the heliopause, where “solar wind” is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas, 5 November 2018. It is still operating, 46 years after it was launched.

Voyager 2 captured this image of the moon Io transiting Jupiter, 9 July 1979. (NASA)
Uranus, imaged by Voyager 2, 24 January 1986. (NASA/JPL–Caltech)
This image of Neptune was captured by Voyager 2 on 20 August 1989, 28 years ago. (NASA)

On 21 July 2023, an erroneous instruction caused Voyager 2 to turn its antenna away from Earth, but on 5 August 2023, contact was reestablished. A power reduction strategy is hoped to allow the space probe to continue operating until 2026.

As of today, (19 August 2023) Voyager 2 is 133.5 Astronomical Units from Earth (19,977,744,317 kilometers/12,413,594,804 statute miles/10,787,118,961 nautical miles). Radio signals, traveling at the Speed of Light, take more than 18.5 hours to cross that distance. It continues outbound at a rate of 3.3 AU/year.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

20 August 1975

Viking 1/Titan IIIE-Centaur launches from Kennedy Space Centaur, enroute to Mars, 20 August 1975. (NASA)

20 August 1975: The Viking 1 space probe was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Titan IIIE/Centaur rocket. For the next ten months it traveled to Mars, the fourth planet of the Solar System. Once there, it was placed in orbit and began sending telemetry data back to Earth. A Viking Lander descended to the planet’s surface, landing at Chryse Planitia.

This was the first time that a spacecraft had landed on another planet. The orbiter continued to operate over the course of 1,485 orbits. As it ran low on fuel, mission controllers boosted it into a higher orbit to prevent it falling to the planet. Orbiter operations were terminated 17 August 1980. The lander operated for 6 years, 116 days, before the mission was terminated by a faulty transmission which resulted in a loss of contact, 11 November 1982.

The surface of Chryse Planitia, Mars, photographed by the Viking 1 Lander. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes