January 31, 1958
On this day in 1958, the first United States satellite roared into orbit on the back of a rocket developed in Alabama. The Jupiter C was designed and built by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, housed in Huntsville. Led by Wernher von Braun, the team at Redstone Arsenal was funded by the military, as NASA had yet to be formed. The Jupiter rockets stayed in service for several years, and were the initial launch stage for the Mercury missions that carried the first Americans into space.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
Rocket scientists William Pickering, left, James Van Allen, center, and Wernher von Braun celebrate the launching of Explorer I satellite by a Jupiter-C rocket in January 1958. Explorer I was the first U.S. satellite in Earth orbit and the Jupiter C rocket was developed at Army Ballistic Missile Agency (now Marshall Space Flight Center) in Huntsville. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, NASA)
A NASA chart comparing the Redstone, Jupiter C and Mercury R rockets developed by Wernher von Braun’s Ordnance Guided Missile Center (later Army Ballistic Missile Agency) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville during the 1950s. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, NASA)
Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone rocket (missile) test stand, Huntsville. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
The Explorer I Earth satellite launches at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 31, 1958. The mission was fired by a Jupiter C rocket, which was developed at Army Ballistic Missile Agency (now Marshall Space Flight Center) in Huntsville. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, NASA)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.