Following the successful suborbital missions of Allan Shepard and Gus Grissom, NASA believed the Mercury capsule was ready for an orbital mission. But, there was a problem, the Redstone booster did not have the power to place the Mercury capsule into orbit. The Atlas booster had the power to put the capsule in orbit but not the confidence of NASA. By September of 1961 Four launches of the mercury-atlas had been made with only a 50 percent success rate…
The launch vehicle for the Luna E-1 series was a modified R7 named Vostok. The Vostok had three stages. The first and second stage were the standard R-7 which we covered in Episode 9. A 5.1 meter long by 2.4 meter diameter third stage was added to the top of the R-7. The third stage weighed 1472 kg and was capable of delivering 54.5 kiloNewtons or 12,252 lbs of thrust. This was the probes booster stage that gave it enough speed to escape Earth’s gravity.
At approximately 12:48 a.m. EST, the first listening stations began reporting that they had received radio signals from the “Explorer” satellite. The first station to confirm the signals was the San Gabriel Valley Amateur Radio Club near Pasadena, California. However, ABMA officials were waiting for confirmation from the Goldstone radio tracking station in Earthquake Valley, California. Finally, 1 hour and 57 minutes after launch the confirmation was finally relayed to ABMA officials in the form of the simple phrase, “Goldstone has the bird!”
“We had absolute confidence in Comrade Korolev. We believed him when he told us that his rocket would not only fly, but that is would travel 7000 kilometers. When he expounded or defended his ideas, you could see passion burning in his eyes, and his reports were always models of clarity. He had unlimited energy and determination, and he was a brilliant organizer.” Nikita Khruschev