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Q. What was the name of the first American satellite? — ;Lawisha C.
A. The first from the U.S. was called Explorer 1.
The U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency blasted Explorer 1 into orbit from the Air Force Missile and Test Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 31, 1958. The Army used a modified Jupiter-C military rocket to send the tiny satellite aloft.
With Explorer 1, the United States showed it could compete with the Soviet Union, which had launched two artificial satellites to orbit within the previous three months. The Soviets had electrified the public when it launched the world's first human-made satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957.
The rocket project was headed by Wernher von Braun at the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency headquarters at Huntsville, Alabama.
The Explorer 1 satellite was built by William Pickering and a team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. At the State University of Iowa, physicist James Van Allen and graduate student Wei Ching Lin built the cosmic ray Geiger counters that were the science instruments inside Explorer.
Explorer weighed 18 lbs., which compared with a weight of 1,200-lbs. for Sputnik 2, which also carried a live dog to orbit. However, Van Allen's science package inside Explorer discovered a previously-unknown radiation belt around our planet. It was named the Van Allen Belt and was recognized as the greatest science contribution of the International Geophysical Year (1958).
Learn more about the launch of America's first satellite:
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