The Juno II rocket carrying S-1 destroyed by Range safety 5.5 seconds after liftoff
|Mission duration||5.5 seconds|
|Launch mass||41.5 kilograms (91 lb)|
|Dimensions||76 cm × 71 cm (30 in × 28 in)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||July 16, 1959 16:37UTC|
|Rocket||Juno II AM-16|
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral LC-5|
|End of mission|
|Destroyed||July 16, 1959 16:37UTC|
S-1, also known as Explorer S-1 and Explorer 7X, was a geoscience satellite equipped with a suite of scientific instruments to study the environment around the Earth. The spacecraft and its Juno II launch vehicle were destroyed five seconds after launch on July 16, 1959, in a spectacular launch failure caused by complications with the rocket's power supply. A relaunch of the mission in October 1959, Explorer 7 (S-1A), was successful.
The S-1 mission was planned to be the sixth flight of the Explorers program, designated Explorer S-1, and Explorer 7X retrospectively. The objectives of the mission were to measure the Earth's radiation balance, and the abundance of Lyman-alpha x-rays and cosmic rays, including heavy primary cosmic rays. The spacecraft was also designed as a test bed for satellite capabilities, being equipped with instruments to measure the spacecraft's temperature, micrometeorite impacts, and the erosion of solar cells exposed to the vacuum of space. The spin-stabilized spacecraft was 76 by 71 centimetres (30 by 28 inches) in size, and had a launch mass of 41.5 kilograms (91 pounds). The spacecraft's power was drawn from a bank of fifteen nickel–cadmium batteries recharged by 3,000 solar cells mounted on the exterior of the spacecraft.
The S-1 spacecraft was mounted atop a Juno II launch vehicle with the serial AM-16. It was launched on July 16, 1959, at 16:37 UTC, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 5. Immediately after liftoff, a short circuit of the rocket's guidance system caused the Rocketdyne S-3D engines to gimbal, tilting the rocket sharply to the west before almost flipping upside down. Five-and-a-half seconds after launch, the Range Safety Officer destroyed the rocket. The rocket's payload impacted the ground 76 metres (249 feet) northwest of the launch site, resulting in a massive fireball.
In an investigation conducted after the launch failure, it was found that the short circuit occurred between two diodes in the rocket's power supply inverter voltage regulator, cutting off power to the guidance system and causing a full gimbal. Circuit board designs for the Juno II, and similar rockets, subsequently used conformal coating to reduce the chances for a recurrence. The launch, described by commentators as "infamous" and "one of the most spectacular failures ever seen at [Cape Canaveral]", was the third of the Juno II rocket, after it failed to carry Pioneer 3 into heliocentric orbit in December 1958, but succeeded in the same objective in March 1959, carrying the United States' first interplanetary mission, Pioneer 4. S-1 was the first geocentric orbit launch attempt for the rocket; its second attempt on August 14, 1959, carrying the Beacon 2 inflatable sphere experiment to low Earth orbit, also failed. Eventually, both the Juno II and a re-launch of the S-1 mission, designated Explorer 7 or S-1A, found success on October 13, 1959. The satellite, which ended its mission in August 1961, is still orbiting the Earth today.
Only two months after the infamous Juno II AM-16 failure off LC 5 ...
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