The world’s oldest satellite is still in space and it is functioning well! Sounds hard to believe but it is true. Among the 23,000 objects orbiting the space, the Vanguard 1 satellite launched by the US on MARCH 17, 1958 is still operational and sends back signals.
The US navy was tasked with developing and launching a satellite as soon as possible when, out of nowhere, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik on 4th October 1957. The launch of Sputnik came as a shock to the nations because they feared the possibility of being hit with a missile anytime.
The Eisenhower White House put the navy in tremendous pressure to launch a satellite as early as they could afford to. So the Naval Research laboratory (NRL) conceived the Vanguard 1 as the first satellite program of America. “It was not a space race, America had their intended purpose clear in mind” says NRL historian Angelina Callahan.
After initial failures, the Vanguard 1 took flight via a 3 stage rocket system named the Vanguard delivery system. The launch was successful and soon, the tiny spacecraft fitted with solar cells began transmitting radio signals back to the earth.
The Vanguard 1 is the base for a lot of futuristic technologies like navigation, mapping, missile trajectory and others. It mapped out how the earth bulges out at the equator. Moreover, the satellite helped calculation of ICBM Inter Continental Ballistic Missile paths.
The Vanguard 1 rocket system provided the basis for setting up one of the world’s best launch systems the Delta launch vehicle. Also the satellite system helps in tracking active and decayed orbits over the years to further help space exploration and research.