Space Programs

The Sputnik Era

What was the first satellite launched by the United States?

The United States had a space program nearly ready to go when Sputnik 1 was launched in 1957. Startled into action, the American government hurriedly rushed to launch the first orbiter, called Vanguard, on December 6, 1957. The launch was a failure: The rocket carrying the satellite burst into flames just a few feet off the ground. The following month, on January 31, 1958, a team led by Wernher von Braun (1912–1977) at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, successfully launched Explorer 1, the first American satellite, into orbit on the nose of a Jupiter-C rocket.

The first artificial satellite successfully launched into space was the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, launched on October 4, 1957. (Asif A. Siddiqi)


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Astronomy Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App