THE ADDITION to the American satellite effort of the Army team-the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, and its partner, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena-called for a series of high-level decisions in Washington. Some dealt with the scheduling of launches. This was an involved maneuver since both the Vanguard and Army teams would be using the same Cape Canaveral range. They would also be using much the same tracking, telemetry and orbit-computation systems, namely those that the Vanguard electronics experts had developed for their project, supplemented by microlock, a tracking and telemetry network that the Army had been using with its missiles since 1953. Because of these overlaps, sufficient time had to elapse between shots for AFMTC to prepare the requisite range support and for the units in charge of the electronics services to put their equipment in order. Complex as these arrangements were, most of them had been worked out by the end of 1957. By this time the Department of Defense had authorized the Army team to make two "earnest tries" to orbit a small cylinder-shaped satellite to be known as "Explorer," and the Naval Research Laboratory had transferred to the Army a scientific experiment that it had originally assembled for one of the Vanguard satellites. 1 Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were modifying this instrumentation for use in the Army payload, and the Army's four-stage Jupiter C missile had reached Cape Canaveral, where a field crew was readying it for erection on the firing table at launch complex 26A, one of the Redstone pads at AFMTC. In addition, the Army had selected 29 January 1958 for its initial launch attempt, with the understanding that the Vanguard team would try to put up another of its vehicles earlier that month.2

During the period covered by these developments, Dan Mazur and his field crew had pushed ahead with the Vanguard program. The TV-3 disaster on 6 December 1957 found a backup vehicle, TV-3BU, ready to leave the hangar. Its erection at launch complex 18A, however, had to await repairs to the Vanguard firing structure. Some of its components had been severely damaged by the explosion. By working around the clock, the crew completed the necessary repairs sooner than had been anticipated. Even so, most of December had passed before all three stages of TV-3BU could be placed on the firing stand and the long and complex prelaunch operations begin. On 23 January the first attempt to put up the vehicle failed when heavy rains shorted some of the ground instrumentation cables during launch countdown. The next three days saw three more countdowns, two of them almost completed-and three more scrubs. Finally, on 26 January, the Vanguard crew removed a damaged second-stage engine, ordered a replacement, and announced that it would make no further efforts to launch TV-3BU until 3 February. 3

Since AFMTC could provide range support for only one shot at a time, this left the Army team with a discouragingly short period-less than a week-in which to make its first launch attempt. Fortunately its preflight preparations at Cape Canaveral were not excessively demanding. The Jupiter C had undergone several flight tests. Moreover, such static tests as the forthcoming attempt necessitated had been taken care of at Redstone Arsenal before the missile moved east. The major activities at the pad consisted of checking out the hazardous solid-propellant upper stages of the vehicle and of making sure that when the tub containing these rockets started to spin on top of the elongated Redstone booster, it would do so smoothly and without destructive vibration. Well in advance of the scheduled launch date, these procedures had been concluded, and preparations for the flight test itself were moving at a satisfactory rate.

Advance publicity was restrained and the launch date was withheld from the press until twenty-four hours prior to the anticipated firing. This policy reflected the determination of General Medaris, the ABMA commander, to protect the Army team as much as possible from the misleadingly optimistic type of attention that the press had heaped on Project Vanguard prior to the TV-3 explosion. Summoned to Washington in late 1957 and again in early 1958 to testify at the Johnson Senate subcommittee hearings on American missile and satellite programs, the general ducked the questions of reporters looking for more specific information. The Senate subcommittee itself gave him no problems on this score. When the matter of the Army's launch schedule came up, Cyrus Vance of the investigating staff informed Medaris that "I am not going to ask you about the date." Medaris' reply was "I am thankful for that, Sir." Appearing before the subcommittee on three occasions, the striking-looking ABMA chief was a colorful and articulate witness and both the senators and their staff handled him with a gentleness that must have made John Hagen, the beleaguered Vanguard director, sigh with envy.4

On 29 January, launch day, the Explorer vehicle, its satellite and its field crew were ready, but disturbing reports were coming in from the AFMTC meteorologists. On the surface the weather was fine. Instrumented-balloon soundings, however, had revealed the presence high above the Cape of a jet stream, a swiftly-moving river of air, almost certain to destroy the missile. Heeding a teletyped advisory from his structural analysis engineers at Redstone Arsenal, Medaris decided to play it safe. Next morning's weather reading was slightly more encouraging. At noon he authorized the crew to begin an eight-hour countdown, only to call it off a few hours later following a report that the jet stream was again menacing.

At this point-Thursday evening, 30 January-time was running out for the Army team. Project Vanguard's next flight test of TV-3BU was still tentatively set for 3 February, and word from ICY headquarters in Washington was that the electronics units would need three days of preparation for it. The Army must either put up its vehicle on the following day-3l January-or hold off until the Vanguard team had completed its scheduled attempt. Medaris and his crew could only wait and hope. Next morning's 7 o'clock weather reading, as interpreted by the structural analysis engineers, was just favorable enough. "Things look good," it read. "The jet stream has moved off to the north, and by evening should be down to 100 knots." To Medaris that "still sounded like a lot of wind, but it meant the difference between a strain that we knew the missile could stand and one that was dangerous." In a now-or-never spirit, the ABMA commander set in motion another eight-hour countdown, prayerfully heading, as on the day before, for a firing at 10:30 that evening.

Beginning at 1:30 p.m., the countdown encountered no serious hitches. Late in the afternoon there was a half-hour hold to complete a number of operations that had fallen behind schedule, seemingly because crew members were still suffering from exhaustion after the exertions of the day before. Later they made up for the lost time. At 9:45 p.m., with the countdown exactly on schedule, there was a second hold when someone spotted a hydrogen-peroxide leakage in the tail of the missile. Workmen drained the line and stopped the leak. When at 10 p.m. the countdown resumed, it was only 15 minutes behind. At T-12 seconds-X-12, in Army terminology-the motors started to spin the top stages of the vehicle, technicians in the control room of the Redstone blockhouse transferred power from the ground power supplies to onboard sources, and at 10:48 p.m. the Jupiter C lifted off. It rose smoothly from its firing stand. A complex rocket, however, can fail even after a perfect start. There were jittery moments for the crew members while they awaited assurance that the upper stages had fired. For its later satellite-bearing missiles, ABMA would contrive an onboard system capable of igniting the upper stages automatically. No such system flew with the first Explorer missile because the ABMA scientists and engineers had not yet contrived a dependable one. Instead they had developed a method for ground-command firing the second stage at almost the precise second the missile reached its absolute apex following liftoff. This was done from the Redstone hangar. There, at an exactly and swiftly calculated moment, approximately 404 seconds after launch, a scientist pushed a button to fire the second stage. A simple timer then controlled the ignition of the third and fourth stages, operating so as to allow the full thrust of each to be applied before the next one fired.


Explorer I, first United States satellite, was launched by ABMA
on 31 January 1958.


The orbiting of the slim satellite was acclaimed by (left to right)
Wernher von Braun of ABMA, James Van Allen of the State University
of Iowa, and William Pickering of Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Word that the upper stages had fired in response to ground command marked the start of still another period of nervous waiting and wondering. Was the satellite in orbit? Tracking stations on the West Coast would have to answer that. One or more of them would be the first to pick up the radio signal showing that the payload had circled the globe. General Medaris has described with understandable feeling the moment when "someone came up and shoved a piece of paper in my hands on which were these magic words: Goldstone has the bird." This meant that at 12:51 a.m., 1 February 1958-one hour and fifty-three minutes after liftoff-a newly installed tracking station in California had picked up the satellite "on its first trip back around over the United States." The big headlines in that morning's newspapers invoked an all but audible sigh of relief across the country. The challenge of the Russian Sputniks had been met. America's first artificial satellite, Explorer I, was orbiting the earth.

The Vanguard field crew's plans for making its next launch attempt on 3 February 1958, were a trifle optimistic. It was two days later before TV-3BU was ready to go, and again the Martin Company vice president's "prevailing mathematics of trial and error" (i.e., seven attempts to launch a satellite were likely to yield three failures) proved potentially valid.6 The Vanguard team's fifth launch attempt turned out to be its second failure. This time, however, there was no spectacular explosion on the pad. The first-stage engine-the component involved in the TV-3 explosion-worked well. After a perfectly nominal start, the vehicle rose gently from its stand, but at about 1,500 feet altitude, after fifty-seven seconds of normal flight, a malfunction occurred in the control system. Subsequent investigation showed that spurious electrical signals had created motions of the first-stage engine in the pitch plane. These in turn developed dynamic structural loads, coupled with a rapid pitch-down that superimposed air loads of about the same magnitude. As a result, the vehicle broke up at the aft end of the second stage. It would appear that the "prevailing mathematics of trial and error" were no respecter of satellite-launching teams, for a month later the Army suffered its first failure. On 5 March the second Explorer missile lifted off well, but the fourth stage failed to ignite and the satellite, Explorer II, fell into the Atlantic. The Army team had now completed the two "earnest tries" originally authorized. Within hours after the failure of the second one, however, the Department of Defense dispatched orders for Medaris and his crew to prepare for flight a duplicate Jupiter C that ABMA had shipped to Cape Canaveral, just in case, and preparations for a third try had been inaugurated.7

It was now Project Vanguard's turn again. The vehicle this time was TV-4 identical with TV-3 and TV-3BU save for minor modifications that the manufacturers had made as the result of the lessons learned from the unsuccessful efforts to launch a satellite with the two earlier vehicles. The Army's failure to orbit its second Explorer was dispiriting to the members of the Vanguard field crew. If an old and tested rocket like Jupiter C could fail, they saw little reason to be sanguine about their relatively untried and far more sensitive and complicated bird. For TV-4 and all subsequent vehicles, the project managers instituted a change in the launching procedure. Instead of trying to run off the countdown on one day, they divided it into two phases, with the first one on T- l day-the day before scheduled liftoff -and the second and longer phase on launch-day itself. Scientific considerations were a factor in the decision to introduce this procedure. Some of the experiments scheduled for future Vanguard satellites were unlikely to function effectively unless their carriers achieved orbit within specified hours of the day. The two-phase countdown, extending over two days, would make it easier for the crew to get the launch vehicle up within a time period limited by these considerations.

During the opening weeks of March, erratic weather and recurring mechanical and electronic problems aggravated a general, if rarely expressed, fear that TV-4 would go the way of its two immediate predecessors. Three canceled countdowns were the vehicle's record when on 16 March the crew embarked on the first phase of what was to be the final launch operation. This phase of the countdown moved to its conclusion without incident, and at four o'clock the next morning, St. Patrick's Day, the second phase began. At 6:50 a.m. there was a short hold: more electronic problems. At almost literally the last second, there was another and even shorter hold, or more exactly, a "stretch-out," when calculations showed that if the countdown concluded at that moment, Explorer I would be passing overhead just as TV-4 arched into the heavens. Passage of the Army satellite at that time, according to the electronics men, might interfere with the signals from the Vanguard payload. "An unprecedented event," Kurt Stehling would later call this moment: "I must confess that never in my earlier life did I expect to see the day when one would have to wait until satellite traffic in the sky was cleared for the launching of another orbiter." 8

The seventeenth of March 1958, was a beautiful day. At 7:15:41 a.m. after a nervewrackingly reluctant start that came close to carrying the launch stand itself into the air, TV-4 rose into a brilliantly sunny sky flecked with small white clouds. Now began the post-launch countdown. At the open-air communications center that the crew had improvised a thousand yards or so northwest of the blockhouse, Paul Walsh was again on the telephone to John Hagen in Washington. At approximately T + l second he was shouting into the receiver, "There she goes, John ...the flame is wonderful. Engine is burning smoothly." At T + 150 seconds, he was telling the project director, "John, the second stage is separated." And at T+490 seconds, triumphantly, "John, the third stage has separated." There was reason now to believe that the payload was in orbit, but already long-deferred plans for victory celebrations remained in abeyance while, "like expectant fathers," everybody involved waited for confirmation from the Minitrack station at San Diego, California. In Washington, about 9:30 a.m., there was a clatter on the teletype linking the NRL control room with the California station. "We have got no signal yet," San Diego reported. Then: "Stand by, we may have it." The NRL operator tapped out a return message: "Give us the word ASAP [as soon as possible]." San Diego came back immediately: "This is it. We have 108.03 … also 108.00 [the two radio frequencies of the satellite]…Good signal … no doubt … congratulations…" In his cubicle of an office John Hagen put in a phone call to Alan Waterman, Director of the National Science Foundation. "It is in orbit," Hagan said. "You can inform the President," The little sphere that would be known as Vanguard I was circling the globe every 107.9 minutes-apogee, 2,466 miles; perigee, 404 miles; expected lifetime of satellite and its trailing third-stage casing, about 2,000 years. It goes without saying that, in the eyes of the public, the members of the Army team remained the heroes of the space age; it was they who had put up America's first satellite. But the Project Vanguard people had the satisfaction of knowing that in record time-only two years, six months, and eight days-they had developed from scratch a complete high-performance three-stage launching vehicle, a highly accurate worldwide satellite-tracking system, and an adequate launching facility and range instrumentation; more to the point, they had accomplished their mission, which was to put one satellite in orbit during the International Geophysical Year.9

By the time Vanguard I went into orbit, several changes had occurred in the administrative framework of the country's space effort, and an even more significant change was in the offing. The appearance of the Russian Sputniks in fall 1957 engendered a widespread clamor that the United States embark on a vastly expanded space program. Throughout the remainder of the year and into 1958, considerable discussion dealt with the question of who should operate this undertaking: one or more of the military services, some existing civilian agency such as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics or the Atomic Energy Commission, or a new organization, separate from existing governmental units? If a new organization, should its managers be military officers or civilians or both? Scientific opinion, emanating chiefly from the National Academy of Sciences and the American Rocket Society, favored a new agency under civilian aegis. A miscellany of bills, introduced in Congress during the first month of 1958, ran the gamut of possibilities. President Eisenhower proceeded slowly. Jolted by the intensity of public reaction to the Soviet space triumphs, he originated the office of Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, filling the position with James R. Killian, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Killian's duties were purely advisory, but the creation of his office foreshadowed the administrative changes to come.

TV-4 after sucessful launch rising above lainch pad

TV-4 was launched 17 March 1958, pulling Vanguard I into orbit.

photo of 6.4inch satellite

The 3 1/2-pound, 6.4-inch satellite.

control room operators  preparing for launch

People on the ground sweat it out:
top in the blockhouse before launch, ..

personnel at the lauch site gather to watch the rocket climb into space

.. at the site watching the drama of the launch, ..

ground personnel monitoring the launch

.. at the site waiting to hear whether orbit had been achieved.

Vanguard control room

Vanguard control room at NRL, showing the teleprinters for
receiving data from the Minitrack stations.

While Congress and the Executive wrestled with the problem, Defense Secretary McElroy instituted first one and then a second reorganization of those elements of his department directly involved in the space effort. In November 1957, be named William Holaday, his special assistant for guided missiles, to the position of Director of Guided Missiles, with enlarged powers where both the missile and space programs were concerned. A few months later Congress passed a law authorizing the Defense Secretary to "engage in advanced research projects," and McElroy set up within the DoD a separate unit to be known as Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) - Holaday transferred his responsibilities to ARPA, and under the direction of Roy Johnson, a vice president of the General Electric Company, the new unit funded and supervised the country's space projects for a few months. That this arrangement was to be a temporary one became apparent soon after its inception. ARPA achieved formal status in early February 1958, but by that date the prevailing opinion in Congress and at the White House was that America's nonmilitary space program should be handled by a special civilian body set up outside the Department of Defense. In a message to Congress on 2 April, President Eisenhower proposed the of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency with the proviso that the functions of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics be absorbed into this new agency. In July, Congress passed and the President signed the necessary legislation, and on l October 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration began life, with Thomas Keith Glennan, president since 1947 of the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, as its first administrator.

Under ARPA and later under NASA, the Army team continued to participate in the satellite effort throughout both the IGY and the one-year extension of it known as the International Geophysical Cooperation (IGC). During this two-and-a-half-year period, the Army made nine attempts to launch a satellite, with four successes, an impressive percentage given the state of the art at the time. The Jupiter C put up Explorers I, III, and IV. A more sophisticated version of the Army missile, the Juno II, was the launching vehicle for Explorer VII, a 91.5-pound satellite established in orbit on 13 October 1959, about a month and a half before the conclusion of the IGY-IGC. 11

Project Vanguard became a part of NASA on its inception. One of the NASA Administrator's first official acts, however, was to delegate management of the project back to the Naval Research Laboratory. In actuality, therefore, no significant administrative change took place, and the members of the Vanguard field crew continued to put up their vehicles in accordance with the one-a-month schedule established shortly before the launching of Sputnik I. The success of TV-4 in March left them with a spare vehicle on their hands since the Martin Company had assembled and the hangar crew had checked out a backup vehicle, TV-4BU, against the possibility of failure. In accordance with a suggestion from the IGY committee, TV-4BU went back to GLM so that technicians at the Maryland plant could remove some of the test instrumentation and convert it into an SLV-a production satellite-launching, or mission, vehicle-for use in a later flight. Field preparations for the next scheduled launching proceeded in an atmosphere of some tension. Although the vehicle involved, TV-5, was only a test vehicle, its mission was to try to orbit the first fully instrumented Vanguard satellite, a 20-inch, 21.5-pound sphere. By the first week of April the first stage of TV-5 was on the firing stand at launch complex 18A, but the pad managers postponed erection of the upper stages because of facts brought out in a motion picture of the TV-4 launch. The film revealed that at the liftoff of that vehicle, the hydraulic disconnects had not separated smoothly. The belief was general that the pull-away stand that the Martin Company was in the process of completing would take care of this potentially troublesome situation. Unfortunately the new movable firing structure would not be ready for some time. For the scheduled flight test of TV-5, the only course open to the crew was to make some modifications in the old stationary structure and hope for the best. 12

Once again hope exceeded accomplishment. Launched at 9:53 pm., 28 April 1958, the last of the Vanguard test vehicles lifted off without difficulty, but its intricately devised payload never reached orbit. Flight was normal through second-stage burnout. The second-stage sequence, however, did not complete itself electrically. Its failure to do so prevented arming of the coasting flight control system with the result that the third stage was unable to separate and fire. Three more failures followed. After a successful liftoff, the first mission vehicle, SLV-l, encountered trouble at second-stage burnout. At that point a disturbance in the control system had the effect of launching the third stage at an angle of approximately sixty-three degrees to the horizontal, thus precluding an orbit. SLV-2 also lifted off satisfactorily, but the second-stage propulsion shut down after eight seconds of burning. This action reduced the velocity of the vehicle to the point where the third stage could not fire. Launched in September 1958, SLV-3 had the advantage of the new movable firing structure. During the liftoff period, flight was normal or better than normal, but the performance of the second stage was below the anticipated minimum. The burned-out third stage and the payload reached an altitude of nearly 265 miles, but the velocity was about 250 feet per second short of the 25,000 required to orbit.13

sketch of Vanguard's 20inch satellite photo of technician working on the 20inch satellite

Sketch and photograph of the first of the "operational"
twenty-inch Vanguard satellites. It was launched by TV-5,
28 April 1958, but failed to achieve orbit because the third stage did not fire.

To the Martin Company men responsible for the reliability of the vehicle, none of these failures was a total loss. In every case they obtained sufficient telemetered and filmed data to spot what appeared to be the pertinent deficiencies and to make corrections. Indeed the care with which these follow-up procedures were carried out was one of the causes for the program's overall success. For the purpose of correcting deficiencies, the Martin design groups responsible for the various Vanguard subsystems kept in daily communication with their field counterparts by telephone and via direct teletype. In addition, they made constant use of a more formal channel for liaison and reliability follow-up form known as the "Discrepancy and Trouble Report," on which all malfunctions and actual or potential problem areas were recorded. At the plant the design men screened copies of these for problems requiring immediate action. Consisting of members from the engineering, manufacturing, quality, and procurement departments, a group called the Corrective Action Team met periodically to review each discrepancy report and to initiate corrective action or to verify action already taken as a result of the informal liaison maintained between shop and field. The Martin design groups learned as much, if not more, from success as they did from failure. One of the project's most successful flights, that of TV-4, for example, engendered more remedial action than any other single flight.

Thanks to Martin's intensive follow-up activity, Vanguard's fourth mission vehicle was considerably better than its predecessors. Launched on 17 February 1959, SLV-4 succeeded in establishing in orbit the 20-inch, 23.7-pound satellite now known as Vanguard II. Not that SLV-4 was a completely satisfactory vehicle in the eyes of its conscientious progenitors. Its payload, Vanguard II, exhibited an undesirable tumble rate. Telemetered data indicated that this had occurred because, following separation of the payload from the third stage, remnants of solid propellant remained in the rocket. When these ignited, they overtook and "nudged" the satellite, creating the undesirable tumble rate. Concluding that the trouble arose as the result of interference between the spring and a sharp shoulder on the separation device, GLM technicians placed in the separation hardware a thin metal sleeve. Their objective was to prevent binding in the succeeding mission vehicles, but although the identical problem did not present itself again SLV-5 and SLV-6 failed. SLV-5 was unable to orbit a 13-inch magnetometer and an expandable aluminum sphere because pitch-attitude control of the second stage was lost during first-stage separation. The resulting tumbling motion in the pitch plane aborted the flight. SLV-6 was unable to orbit a 20-inch, 23.8-pound payload because a restriction in the propellant tank pressurant lines created a rapid decay of tank pressures immediately after second-stage ignition, followed by bursting of the pressurizing gas tank. 14

Vanguard's second stage rocket being fitted into place

SLV-1 was the first of the "operational" Vanguard
launch vehicles. The second stage, the "brains" of the vehicle,
being hoisted into place.

third stage rocket engine is lowered into place

The third stage being lowered the stack.

May 27th launch

The launch on 27 May 1958, which failed at second-stage burnout.

The flight testing of SLV-6 on 22 June 1959 reduced Project Vanguard's arsenal to only two vehicles. One of these, TV-2BU-a left-over backup vehicle-was no longer usable. Set aside for exhibition purposes, TV-2BU stands today in rocket alley, between the Air and Space Museum and the Arts and Industries Building of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The other remaining vehicle was TV-4BU, the left-over backup test vehicle that the Martin Company had converted to mission status. The first two stages of this vehicle, as converted, reflected all the modifications that GLM had made in the Vanguard mission vehicles to correct deficiencies discovered in flight. In addition it was equipped with a new third stage. The top stage of all previous Vanguard vehicles had been the solid-propellant rocket motor designed and fabricated by the Grand Central Rocket Company. Grand Central's rocket consisted of a steel cylinder with a very thin-0.030-inch-skin, a hemispherical forward dome, and an aft dome fairing into a steel exit nozzle. At the center of the forward dome a shaft acted as the forward spin axis and supported the satellite. For TV-4BU the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory had built and tested a new solid-propellant third stage. Its shape was similar to the Grand Central rocket, but both its case and nozzle were made of glass-reinforced plastic. Theoretically, according to project engineers, as a satellite-launcher TV-4BU was as perfect as a vehicle of its thrust and configuration could be, and hopes were high at Cape Canaveral when in September 1959 preparations began for what was to be the Vanguard crew's final launch attempt. On the eighteenth of that month theory became reality. TV-4BU sent into orbit the fully instrumented 52.25-pound satellite now known as Vanguard III, along with its 42.3-pound third-stage motor case. The vehicle performed almost exactly as predicted. Thorough analysis of the flight brought forth no recommendations for change. In only fourteen launch attempts, the members of Project Vanguard had created an "operational" vehicle, capable of putting a 100-pound payload into orbit with a perigee of 180 miles.

To appreciate more comprehensively the significance of this accomplishment calls for a glance at the work of the public information officers the PIOs-assigned to the project. In charge of this activity throughout most of the program was Larry G. Hastings, who prior to joining Vanguard in the fall of 1957 had been with the Public Appearances Branch of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. A tall and generously proportioned man, Hastings' amiable manner and round face curtained a tough and agile mentality. Assisting him was Mike Harloff, who came to Vanguard in May 1955, from the Headquarters of the Civil Air Patrol at Bolling Air Force Base.

ground personnel working on the 'moveable' launch platform

SLV-3 was launched 26 September 1958, from the new
movable firing structure. The velocity of the third stage fell
short of orbital velocity.

Professionally both men were well seasoned, but a decade later both would admit in Hastings' words, that "Vanguard produced situations for which we could find no precedents in our experience." In the beginning, the two PIOs developed information procedures as they went along. "A project official might give us a ring," Harloff has recalled. "'Fellows, 'he'd say, 'here's a new problem. How do we handle it? ' We had to come up with an answer, so we'd say 'Handle it this way' or 'Handle it that way.' Then and there the 'this way' or 'that way' became public relations policy."

Many problems were bound to arise from the schizophrenic nature of the program. On the one hand Vanguard was a part of the International Geophysical Year. As such its operations and its scientific findings were, so to speak, public property. On the other hand national security required that some elements of the undertaking, notably the components of the launching vehicle, be withheld from unauthorized scrutiny. In their effort to preserve the fragile line between what could be told the public and what could not, the information officers had the able guidance of James J. Bagley, head of the Security Review Branch of NRL and his assistant, H. W. "Ott" Ottenstroer. For each launch at Cape Canaveral, the Vanguard Project set up a crude communications control center for Project officers and the PIOs in and alongside a wooden shack- "of outhouse dimensions," according to Harloff, and some 1,200 feet from the Vanguard pad, well within the danger zone. Here they took turns manning the phone over which they relayed information for dissemination to reporters covering the event both at the Cape and at the NRL news center in Washington. On these occasions, patient and understanding Jim Bagley was on hand. Every now and then the NRL security expert would tap the shoulder of the PIO at the phone, a signal that the information he might be about to relay for use by the reporters might trespass on classified domain.

Even had Project Vanguard been free of security elements, its scientific status would have been a source of friction to the news media at times. Since Vanguard was a research and development program, its hoped-for accomplishments could not be reliably forecast. "To ask us when we are going to put up our next satellite," director Hagen once remarked, "is at this point somewhat like asking medical researchers when they are going to find a cure for cancer." Like all experimenters, the Vanguard people could not say for certain what they were going to do until they did it. Obviously the policy of refusing to make public their unstable launch dates in advance was amply justified in those early days of the space age. It was scarcely calculated, however, to make life easy for Hastings and Harloff, one of whose jobs was to cope with the gripes of some reporters, plagued by deadlines and editors hungry for "hard news" about the just-dawned space age.

Vanguard rocket on the launch pad Vanguard rocket blasting off
distinguished guests watching the liftoff

Vanguard II was put into orbit by SLV-4 on 17 February 1959.
Shown are the satellite in position, the launch, and "birdwatchers":
left, Robert Schlechter, head of the Martin Co. field crew; center,
Captain Peter Horn, Director of NRL; and, far right, Richard Porter
of GE and Daniel Mazur.

photo of the vanguard in orbit

This photo of Vanguard II in orbit was taken by the Smithsonian's
Baker-Nunn camera emplaced at the combined radio and optical
tracking station at Woomera, Australia.

A painful example of the tensions inherent in this situation is found in one of the misunderstandings that arose following the explosion of TV-3 in December 1957. At that time, one reporter seems to have made substantial effort to set the record straight. Writing in England's Manchester Guardian,
16 Alistair Cooke pointed out that true to their established practice, the Vanguard people had NOT announced the "great event" in advance. The premature release of the scheduled launch date of TV-3 was the result of a "leak," and NOT an announcement. Lyndon Johnson, the then Democratic leader of the Senate, clearly reflected worldwide feelings when he was quoted by Cooke as saying, "I shrink a little inside of me when the United States announces a great event and it blows up in our face. Why don't they perfect the satellite and announce it after it is in the sky?"

Vanguard III blasting off

Launch of Vanguard III on 18 September 1959 by TV-4BU,
ending Project Vanguard's flight program.

sketch of the Vanguard1 satellite sketch of the Vanguard 2 satellite sketch of the Vanguard 3 satellite

Sketches of the three successful Vanguard satellites.

A source of unending irritation to the Vanguard team, and the PIOs in particular was the practice of some scientists not connected with the project to talk freely when approached for comment on Vanguard. Since they seldom, if ever, had access to the full picture of what was going on, their remarks were often misleading and sometimes unbelievably bizarre. To counter this stream of incorrect speculation, the information officers evolved techniques designed to eliminate error and to discourage speculation by placing correct, unclassified information in the hands of reporters as rapidly as circumstances permitted. To this end they prepared a simple, yet specific information plan for each launch for use by NRL and DoD personnel. This contained instructions as to what project official should be phoned for what type of data. In addition, they prepared in advance for issuance to newsmen a series of so-called "contingency statements." One such statement, for example, began with the words, "The Vanguard, rocket was launched at today. (seconds) (minutes) after launch it (exploded) (fell back) (achieved orbit)," etc. Another statement was designed to take care of delays in meeting a scheduled launch date, this statement containing a blank space in which to record the reasons. After a launch or a postponement, when a reporter called in, he was quickly provided accurate information, based upon the appropriate contingency statement.

After the explosion of TV-3, the job of rebuilding the shattered public image of Project Vanguard was one long uphill climb. The orbiting of Vanguard I on l7 March 1958, of Vanguard II on l7 February 1959, and of Vanguard III on the following 18 September-even together, these successes failed to blot from the public's consciousness the picture of TV-3 bursting into raging flame on its launch pad. On the eve of TV-4BU, the launch that successfully resulted in Vanguard III, one reporter filed a story, the lead of which opened with these words: "Another ill-fated Vanguard stands poised on its pad at Cape Canaveral." Chancing to meet the author of this piece shortly after its publication, Hastings lost his customary geniality and heatedly said, "You must have knowledge that none of us on the Project have, and since you seem to have this advance information that the launch will fail, I think you have a duty as a citizen and taxpayer to call Washington and advise them that this launch should be scrubbed." So taken aback was the reporter that his only reaction was a feeble, "Say, you're mad about this, aren't you?"

During the life span of the project, the public relations officers undoubtedly had much to be "mad" about. "Our main problem," Hastings has commented, "was the fact that Vanguard had the unique position in those early days of the space age of being a public, or basically unclassified project. Vanguard was the only 'open project,' so it bore the brunt of the national displeasure with early space failures." 17

Under these circumstances, the Vanguard public information officers could only do their best, from day to day, to tell the true story as it developed, taking what satisfaction they could from the knowledge that just as the Vanguard scientists and engineers were pioneering space-age hardware and procedures, they were also among the pioneers in space-age public relations.

Following the launching of TV-4BU in the fall of 1959, America's first purely scientific satellite program came to an end. In the language of officialdom it was "phased out" with practically all the NRL members of the project assuming positions with the various research and development programs of NASA. In the minds of those who were with the project more or less from start to finish, it remains vividly alive to this day. Its annual dinners on the seventeenth of March, anniversary of the launching of Vanguard I, draw in the neighborhood of a hundred of the team members, as well as veteran reporters who had sympathized with their efforts, to swap cherished reminiscences and to replay old Vanguard jokes. Dan Mazur speaks for all of them when he says that "for the great majority of us old Vanguard hands, putting up those rockets was never a job. It was a way of life."18

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