Thor-Agena

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Thor Agena B with Discoverer 37 on launch pad (Jan. 13 1962).jpg
A Thor-Agena launch vehicle, ready to launch the Discoverer 37 (KH-3) spacecraft, on 13 January 1962.
Function Expendable launch system
Country of originUnited States
Size
HeightThor-Agena A: 28 m (92 ft)
Thor-Agena B: 31 m (102 ft)
Thor-Agena D: 31 m (102 ft)
Diameter2.44 m (8 ft 0 in)
MassThor-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)
Stages2
Launch history
StatusRetired
Launch sites Vandenberg Air Force Base
Total launches145
First flight21 January 1959
Last flight17 January 1968

Thor-Agena was a series of orbital launch vehicles. [1] 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.

Contents

Missions

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, [2] now known to have been part of satellite surveillance programs.

Also, Alouette 1, Canada's first satellite, was launched on a Thor-Agena B.

1963 Mystery Cloud

Image of the cloud created by the Thor Rocket explosion. Nuage mysterieux William.M.Branham.jpeg
Image of the cloud created by the Thor Rocket explosion.

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. [3] [4] 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. [5] [6]

Versions

Thor-Agena A: [7]

Thor-Agena B: [9] [10]

Thor-Agena D: [11] [12]

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Discoverer 1 American reconnaissance satellite launched in 1959; failed to achieve orbit

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 achieved 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 American reconnaissance satellite

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 American reconnaissance satellite

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.

Thor-Delta Expendable Rocket developed by USA during the Cold War to launch satellites

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 11 Reconnaissance satellite

Discoverer 11, also known as Corona 9008, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 15 Apr 1960 at 20:30:37 GMT. The eighth of ten operational flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series, it successfully employed the first space-worthy camera film; however, Discoverer's film return capsule was lost during reentry on 16 Apr when the satellite's spin motors exploded.

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.

FTV-1126, also known as Corona 9034A, was an American area survey optical reconnaissance satellite launched in 1962. It was a KH-5 Argon satellite, based on an Agena-B. It was also unofficially known as Discoverer 41, a continuation of the designation sequence used for previous US reconnaissance satellites, which had officially been discontinued after Discoverer 38. It was the first KH-5 satellite to complete its mission successfully.

Discoverer 16 Reconnaissance satellite

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 17 Reconnaissance satellite

Discoverer 17, also known as Corona 9012, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 12 November 1960 at 20:38:00 GMT. It was the second of ten Corona KH-2 satellites, based on the Agena-B.

Discoverer 37, also known as Corona 9030, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was lost in a launch failure in 1962. It was the last KH-3 Corona‴ satellite, which was based on an Agena-B rocket.

Discoverer 4 American reconnaissance 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 Reconnaissance satellite

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 Reconnaissance satellite

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 8 Reconnaissance 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 12 Reconnaissance satellite

Discoverer 12 was an American optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 29 Jun 1960 at 22:00:44 GMT. The fourth of five test flights of the Corona KH-1 spy satellite series, it was lost when the second stage failed during launch.

Discoverer 15 Reconnaissance satellite of the United States Air Force

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.

References

  1. "Thor Agena".
  2. Day, Dwayne; Logsdon, John; Latell, Brian (1998). Eye in the Sky: The Story of the Corona Spy Satellites. Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 236–245. OCLC   36783934.
  3. MacDonald, James (19 April 1963). "Stratospheric Cloud Over Northern Arizona". Science Magazine. pp. 292–294.
  4. "Mystery Cloud". Life Magazine. 14 May 1963. p. 73.
  5. Jackson, Jeff G. (26 January 1995), 30th Space Wing History, Vandenberg AFB, California: Department of the Air Force, pp. 1–2
  6. MacDonald, James (15 June 1963). "Cloud Ring In The Upper Stratosphere" (PDF). Weatherwise. pp. 99–148.
  7. "Thor-DM18 Agena-A".
  8. "Display: Discoverer-14 1960-010A". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 5 November 2021.PD-icon.svgThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain .
  9. "Thor-DM21 Agena-B".
  10. "Thor-SLV2A Agena-B".
  11. "Thor-SLV2A Agena-D".
  12. "Thor-DM21 Agena-D".