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Launches and Orbital Operations


Tyneside, UK
2021 May 11
Tuesday, Day 131

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Orbital elements based on amateur observations

Satellite observers' discussion group

1959 - Launches to Orbit and Beyond

Listed are launches, irrespective of outcome, that were irretrievably committed to flight towards orbit or intended to accelerate the payload to escape velocity.

Launch times are in UTC and are from the launching agency or estimated by 'walking back' along the ground track to the launch site. Most orbit data and decay information comes SpaceTrack but it often contains errors and inconsistencies (eg - incorrect re-entry dates) that need to be corrected from other sources.

To fill the gaps where elements are not formally published, usually because they have a classification of "Secret", some orbits are based on amateur observations using visual and radio techniques. Such data is published near-daily by Mike McCants, and the source observations along with observers' derived orbits can often be found in the web-based Seesat-L discussion group. Occasionally, early orbit data are published by satellite owners. In extreme cases, orbits are estimated from public data.

Apogee and perigee are measured against a spherical Earth situated at the focus of the orbital ellipse and with a radius of 6378.145 km. Care should be exercised when comparing with other published orbits because they may have been derived using a different model.

Web sites may link to specific launches by pointing to the page URL followed by the three digit launch number, eg - http://www.zarya.info/Diaries/Launches/Launches.php?year=1959#001


1959-001
Vostok-L 8K72
Baikonur Cosmodrome
1959 Jan 2, 16:41
Luna 1 (E-1 №4)
1959 μ 1
112
in space
Instrumented lunar spacecraft with instruments to measure radiation charged particles, micrometeoroids and cosmic rays in interplanetary space Launched onto direct ascent trajectory aimed at hitting the Moon. A small error in its trajectory meant it missed the Moon by about 9500 km and entered heliocentric orbit with a fifteen month period. The catalogue entry is out of sequence because it was allocated retrospectively when the system was firmed-up to include missions on escape trajectory. It was catalogued retrospectively late-1960.
Heliocentric orbit


1959-002
Vanguard SLV-4
Cape Canaveral
1959 Feb 17, 15:55
Vanguard II
1959 α 1
11
in space
Scientific satellite to study the Earth's cloud cover.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Jun 19, 18:2483150.16515643309125.7632.8858


1959-003
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Feb 28, 21:49
Discoverer 1 (Corona)
1959 β 1
13
Re-entered - 1959 Mar 3
Life 3 days
Prototype US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. Uncertain that it actually reached orbit but it was nevertheless catalogued on the basis of reported reception of radio signals from what was assumed to be a tumbling satellite..

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )


1959-004
Juno II
Cape Canaveral
1959 Mar 3, 05:10
Pioneer 4
1959 ν 1
113
in space
Lunar flyby spacecraft that then went into heliocentric orbit. The payload included radiation monitoring sensors and a lunar photography experiment. It passed within 60,000 km of the Moon's surface but not close enough to trigger the camera. It was catalogued retrospectively late-1960, hence the out-of-sequence number.
Heliocentric orbit


1959-005
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Apr 13, 21:18
Discoverer 2 (Corona/KH-1)
1959 γ 1
14
Re-entered - 1959 Apr 26
Life 13 days
Prototype US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. Retrieval of film was unsuccessful - the re-entry vehicle was lost when the timer controlling retro-fire malfunctioned and it overshot the recovery area near Hawaii. Though to have landed near Spitzbergen, Norway but never found.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Apr 13, 21:2666700.007923934590.3689.91155


1959-F01 - failed to reach orbit
Vanguard SLV-5
Cape Canaveral
1959 Apr 14, 02:49
Vanguard
Scientific satellite to study electrical currents in the Earth's magnetic field and upper air density. Second stage separation was at the wrong attitude so the vehicle was deliberately destroyed.


1959-F02 - failed to reach orbit
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Jun 3, 20:09
Discoverer 3 (CoronaCorona/KH-1)
Prototype US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. First and second stages of the launch vehicle both fired but the satellite probably did not reach orbit.


1959-F06 - failed to reach orbit
Vostok-L 8K72
Baikonur Cosmodrome
1959 Jun 18, 08:08
Luna (E-1 №5)
Instrumented lunar spacecraft on direct ascent trajectory aimed at hitting the Moon. Failure of the launch vehicle inertial guidance system 153 seconds after lift-off led to the rocket being deliberately destroyed


1959-F03 - failed to reach orbit
Vanguard SLV-6
Cape Canaveral
1959 Jun 22, 20:16
Vanguard
Scientific satellite to study solar radiation, radiation reflected from the Earth and long-wave radiation originating from the Earth. Second stage of the launch vehicle exploded.


1959-F04 - failed to reach orbit
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Jun 25, 22:47
Discoverer 4 (Corona 9001/KH-1)
Test of planned US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. First and second stages of the launch vehicle both fired but the satellite probably did not gain sufficient velocity to reach orbit.


1959-F05 - failed to reach orbit
Juno II
Cape Canaveral
1959 Jul 16, 17:37
Explorer (S-1)
Scientific satellite with a cluster of instruments to measure micrometeroroid impacts, radiation and cosmic rays. Two materials experiments were to measure the satellite's temperature and erosion of a solar cell mounted on its surface. Launch vehicle control lost 5s after lift-off. Destroyed by Range Safety.


1959-006
Thor Able III
Cape Canaveral
1959 Aug 7, 14:24
Explorer 6 (S-2)
1959 δ 1
15
Re-entered - 1961 Jun 30
Life 693 days
Satellite designed to study trapped radiation around the Earth, galactic cosmic rays, geomagnetism, radio propagation in the upper atmosphere, and the flux of micrometeorites. It also tested a scanning imager designed for photographing the Earth's cloud cover, and transmitted the first pictures of Earth from orbit. Solar panels failed to deploy fully.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Aug 08, 15:50277390.760925442467766.2846.9536


1959-007
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Aug 13, 19:00
Discoverer 5 (Corona 9002/KH-1)
1959 ε 1
18
Re-entered - 1959 Sep 28
Life 46 days
Test of planned US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. Incorrect retro-rocket alignment caused the re-enty vehicle to enter a higher orbit rather than re-entering. Re-entry date shown is for satellite main body, the re-entry vehicle remained in orbit for a few more days.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Aug 14, 08:3368520.037721573294.0780.00155


1959-F07 - failed to reach orbit
Juno II
Cape Canaveral
1959 Aug 15, 00:31
Explorer (Beacon 2)
High visibility balloon of 3.5m diameter to be used as a visual target for air density measurement and serve as a radar target. Lost as result of the launch vehicle depleting its propellant with insufficient velocity to reach orbit.


1959-008
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Aug 19, 19:24
Discoverer 6 (Corona 9003/KH-1)
1959 ζ 1
19
Re-entered - 1959 Oct 20
Life 62 days
Test of planned US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. Re-entry veicle not tracked after anticipated retro-fire and was not recovered.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Aug 20, 10:4369050.046320884695.1884.00140


1959-009
Vostok-L 8K72
Baikonur Cosmodrome
1959 Sep 12, 06:39
Luna 2 (E-1 №6)
1959 ξ 1
114
Re-entered - 1959 Sep 13
Life 1 day
Instrumented lunar spacecraft with instruments to measure radiation charged particles, micrometeoroids and cosmic rays in interplanetary space Launched onto direct ascent trajectory aimed at hitting the Moon. Destroyed on successful Lunar impact 1959 September 13 at 21:02:24 UTC. The catalogue entry is out of sequence because it was allocated retrospectively when the system was firmed-up to include missions on escape trajectory. It was catalogued late-1960


1959-F08 - failed to reach orbit
Thor Able II
Cape Canaveral
1959 Sep 17, 14:34
Transit 1A
First generation, experimental navigation satellite, lost when the launch vehicle third stage failed.


1959-010
Vanguard TV-4BU
Cape Canaveral
1959 Sep 18, 05:20
Vanguard III
1959 η 1
20
in space
Scientific satellite with a magnetometer and x-ray sensors.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Sep 18, 04:4885170.19005203757130.3733.34134


1959-011
Vostok-L 8K72
Baikonur Cosmodrome
1959 Oct 4, 00:43
Luna 3 (E-2A)
1959 θ 1
21
Re-entered - 1960 Apr 20
Life 199 days
Lunar spacecraft equipped with imaging system on direct ascent trajectory. Starting Nov 7 at 03:30 UTC, over a period of 40 minutes, it took 29 photographs of the hidden side of the Moon from an altitude of 65,200 km. Film was developed automatically aboard the spacecraft and then scanned to allow radio transmission of the images.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Oct 05, 02:192566270.973250049999821563.2255.0045


1959-012
Juno II
Cape Canaveral
1959 Oct 13, 15:30
Explorer 7 (S-1A)
1959 ι 1
22
in space
Scientific satellite with a cluster of instruments to measure micrometeroroid impacts, radiation and cosmic rays. Two materials experiments measured the satellite's temperature and erosion of a solar cell mounted on its surface.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Oct 17, 03:4972030.03685601090101.4050.2767


1959-013
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Nov 7, 20:28
Discoverer 7 (Corona 9004/KH-1)
1959 κ 1
24
Re-entered - 1959 Nov 26
Life 19 days
Test of planned US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. Re-entry capsule separation mechanism became disabled so re-entry attempt was not possible and the whole vehicle eventually re-entered naturally through air drag.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Nov 08, 19:3268680.048215982194.4181.64162


1959-014
Thor Agena A
Vandenberg AFB
1959 Nov 20, 19:25
Discoverer 8 (Corona 9005/KH-1)
1959 λ 1
25
Re-entered - 1960 Mar 8
Life 109 days
Test of planned US film recovery reconnaissance satellite. Orbit was more eccentric than anticipated. The stabilisation system for re-entry did not cope adequately with the incorrect orbit and the re-entry vehicle was lost when it overshot the Hawaii landing zone.

epoch (UTC)         
s-m axis
( km )
ecc    perigee
( km )
apogee
( km )
period
( min )
incl 
( ° )
ω  
( ° )
1959 Nov 20, 20:3273030.10051911659103.5180.60156


1959-F09 - failed to reach orbit
Atlas-Able
Cape Canaveral
1959 Nov 26, 07:26
Pioneer 3 (Pioneer P-1)
Lunar orbiter equipped with an imaging sytem, a micrometeoroid detector and a magnetometer. It was lost when the launch vehicle payload shroud detached after 46 seconds and the second stage was disbled as a result of wind buffeting. Impacted downrange after the first stage completed its firing. Pioneer P-3 was originally built as Pioneer P-1 but that launch vehicle was destroyed on the pad by an explosion 1959 Sep 24. At the time Pioneer P-1 was not attached to the rocket.


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