by Rich Dula
“January 31, 1958, 10:58 p.m. EST - Cape Canaveral, Pad 26A
Technicians wait nervously as the countdown to launch nears completion, and all hope that this launch goes as planned. The launch of America's first artificial satellite has been a long time in coming. The launch had been scheduled for December 6, 1957, but an explosion of the U.S. Navy's Vanguard rocket on the pad prevented the launch.
Now, using the U.S. Army's Redstone missile as the launch platform, the United States is poised to enter the history books on this day . . .”
The rocket, designed by Werner von Braun, originally lost out to the Vanguard in 1955, but the Army continued to develop the design under the Jupiter intermediate range missile program. The first Jupiter C was test-flown on September 20, 1956 carrying a sand-filled dummy fourth stage in place of the satellite.
The January 1958 launch went without a single problem, and at 12:42 a.m., a receiving station on the West Coast confirmed that the satellite, Explorer 1, was successfully in orbit. Five more Jupiter launches were attempted in 1958, with two being successful (Jupiter III on March 26 and Jupiter IV on July 26).