|Function||Expendable launch system|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Height||Thor-Agena A: 28 m (92 ft)|
Thor-Agena B: 31 m (102 ft)
Thor-Agena D: 31 m (102 ft)
|Diameter||2.44 m (8 ft 0 in)|
|Mass||Thor-Agena A: 53,130 kg (117,130 lb)|
Thor-Agena B: 56,507 kg (124,577 lb)
Thor-Agena D: 56,507 kg (124,577 lb)
|Launch sites||Vandenberg Air Force Base|
|First flight||21 January 1959|
|Last flight||17 January 1968|
Thor-Agena was a series of orbital launch vehicles.The launch vehicles used the Douglas-built Thor first stage and the Lockheed-built Agena second stages. They are thus cousins of the more-famous Thor-Deltas, which founded the Delta rocket family. The first attempted launch of a Thor-Agena was in January 1959. The first successful launch was on 28 February 1959, launching Discoverer 1 . It was the first two-stage launch vehicle to place a satellite into orbit.
Among other uses, the clandestine CORONA program used Thor-Agena from June 1959 until January 1968 to launch United States military reconnaissance satellites operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). During this program, Thor-Agena launch vehicles were used in 145 launch attempts,now known to have been part of satellite surveillance programs.
Also, Alouette 1, Canada's first satellite, was launched on a Thor-Agena B.
On 28 February 1963, a Thor-Agena launch vehicle carrying a spy satellite into orbit was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch vehicle went off course and mission control detonated the launch vehicle at an altitude of 44 km (27 mi) before it could reach orbit. The launch vehicle detonation produced a large circular cloud that appeared over the southwestern United States. Due to its mysterious nature, appearing at a very high altitude and being visible for hundreds of miles, the cloud attracted widespread attention and was published by the news media. The cloud was featured on the cover of Science Magazine in April 1963, Weatherwise Magazine in May 1963, and had a full page image published in the May issue of Life Magazine. Prof. James MacDonald at the University of Arizona Institute for Atmospheric Physics investigated the phenomena and linked the it to the Thor launch vehicle launch after contacting military personnel at Vandenberg Air Force Base. When the launch records were later declassified, the United States Air Force released a memo explaining that the cloud was the result of a military operation.
The RM-81 Agena was an American rocket upper stage and satellite bus which was developed by Lockheed Corporation initially for the canceled WS-117L reconnaissance satellite program. Following the split-up of WS-117L into SAMOS and Corona for image intelligence, and MIDAS for early warning, the Agena was later used as an upper stage, and an integrated component, for several programs, including Corona reconnaissance satellites and the Agena Target Vehicle used to demonstrate rendezvous and docking during Project Gemini. It was used as an upper stage on the Atlas, Thor, Thorad and Titan IIIB rockets, and considered for others including the Space Shuttle and Atlas V. A total of 365 Agena rockets were launched between February 28, 1959 and February 1987. Only 33 Agenas carried NASA payloads and the vast majority were for DoD programs.
Thor was a US space launch vehicle derived from the PGM-17 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile. The Thor rocket was the first member of the Delta rocket family of space launch vehicles. The last launch of a direct derivative of the Thor missile occurred in 2018 as the first stage of the final Delta II.
Discoverer 1 was the first of a series of satellites which were part of the CORONA reconnaissance satellite program. It was launched on a Thor-Agena A rocket on 28 February 1959 at 21:49:16 GMT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It was a prototype of the KH-1 satellite, but did not contain either a camera or a film capsule. It was the first satellite launched toward the South Pole in an attempt to achieve a polar orbit, but was unsuccessful. A CIA report, later declassified, concluded that "Today, most people believe the Discoverer 1 landed somewhere near the South Pole".
Discoverer 14, also known as Corona 9009, was a spy satellite used in the Corona program managed by Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force. On 19 August 1960, usable photographic film images of the Soviet Union taken by the satellite were recovered by a C-119 recovery aircraft. This was the first successful recovery of film from an orbiting satellite and the first mid-air recovery of an object returning from Earth orbit.
Discoverer 13 was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 10 Aug 1960 at 20:37:54 GMT. The last of five test flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series, it was the first fully successful flight in the Discoverer series. On 11 Aug, after 17 orbits, the satellite's reentry capsule was recovered in the Pacific Ocean by the Haiti Victory. Its payload, an American flag, was presented to President Eisenhower four days later.
The Thor-Delta, also known as Delta DM-19 or just Delta was an early American expendable launch system used for 12 orbital launches in the early 1960s. A derivative of the Thor-Able, it was a member of the Thor family of rockets, and the first member of the Delta family.
Discoverer 27, also known as Corona 9020A, was an American area survey optical reconnaissance satellite launched in 1961, but which failed to achieve orbit. It was a KH-5 Argon satellite, based on an Agena-B. It was the fourth KH-5 to be launched, the second consecutive KH-5 launch failure, and the fourth consecutive KH-5 mission failure.
Discoverer 28, also known as Corona 9021, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was lost in a launch failure in 1961. It was the seventh of ten Corona KH-2 satellites, based on the Agena-B.
Discoverer 16, also known as Corona 9011, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was lost in a launch failure on 26 October 1960. It was the first of ten Corona KH-2 satellites, based on the Agena-B.
Discoverer 18, also known as Corona 9013, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 7 December 1960 at 20:24:00 GMT. It was the first successful, and the third of ten total Corona KH-2 satellites, based on the Agena-B.
Discoverer 36, also known as Corona 9029, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-3 Corona satellite, based on an Agena-B rocket. It was the penultimate KH-3 satellite to be launched, the last successful mission, and the most successful of the program.
OSCAR 1 is the first amateur radio satellite launched by Project OSCAR into low Earth orbit. OSCAR I was launched December 12, 1961, by a Thor-DM21 Agena B launcher from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc, California. The satellite, a rectangular box weighing 10 kg., was launched as a secondary payload (ballast) for Corona 9029, also known as Discoverer 36, the eighth and final launch of a KH-3 satellite.
Discoverer 4, also known as Corona 9001, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 25 Jun 1959 at 22:47:45 GMT, the first of ten operational flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series, and the first satellite to be equipped for photo surveillance. The satellite was not successfully orbited. Its loss spurred improvements of its rocket booster to ensure the success of subsequent missions.
Discoverer 9, also known as Corona 9006, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 4 Feb 1960 at 18:51:45 GMT, the sixth of ten operational flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series, and the first of them to be equipped with a new, vacuum-proof, polyester-based film. The satellite was not successfully orbited.
Discoverer 10, also known as Corona 9007, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 19 Feb 1960 at 20:15:14 GMT, the seventh of ten operational flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series.
Discoverer 3 was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 3 June 1959 at 20:09:20 GMT, the third of three test flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series. The first Discoverer mission to carry live animal passengers, Discoverer 3 was lost when its carrying Agena-A booster crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
Discoverer 6, also known as Corona 9003, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 19 August 1959 at 19:24:44 GMT, the third of ten operational flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series. Though the spacecraft was orbited successfully, the onboard camera ceased operating by the second orbit, and the film-return capsule could not be recovered.
Discoverer 7, also known as Corona 9004, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 7 November 1959 at 20:28:41 GMT, the fourth of ten operational flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series. Though the satellite was orbited successfully, its film capsule failed to separate from the main satellite.
Discoverer 8, also known as Corona 9005, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 20 November 1959 at 19:25:24 GMT, the fifth of ten operational flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series. Overburn by the carrier rocket placed the satellite in a higher apogee, more eccentric orbit than planned, the camera failed to operate, and the film return capsule was lost on reentry after separation from the main satellite on 21 November.
Discoverer 15, also known as Corona 9010, was a spy satellite used in the Corona program managed by Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force. Launched on 13 September 1960, the satellite took reconnaissance photos of the Soviet Union. However, its recoverable film capsule was lost in the Pacific Ocean after reentry outside the recovery zone on 15 September.