Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Able (no. 2 / Atlas D no. 80)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States, launch complex 12
Spacecraft Mass: 175.5 kg
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) high-energy radiation counter; 2) ionization chamber; 3) Geiger-Mueller tube; 4) low-energy radiation counter; 5) two magnetometers; 6) scintillation spectrometer; 7) micrometeoroid detector; 8) plasma probe and 9) Sun scanner
Spacecraft Dimensions: 1.4 m diameter
Total Cost: $9 - 10 million
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24, by Asif A. Siddiqi
National Space Science Data Center, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/
This probe, Able VA, had a slightly different instrument complement from that of its predecessor Able IVB (launched in November 1959), but it had similar mission goals.
Able VA was to enter lunar orbit about 62.5 hours after launch with parameters of 4,000 x 2,250 kilometers in a period of 10 hours. During the launch, although the first stage performed without problems, the Able second stage ignited abnormally and shut down early because of an oxidizer system failure. The third stage never fired, and the probe burned up in Earth's atmosphere 17 minutes after launch.
Although the mission was a failure, ground controllers fired Able VA's onboard
liquid propellant hydrazine rocket engine -- the first time that an onboard motor was fired
on a space vehicle. Later, on 15 November 1960, NASA announced that two objects from the Able VA payload had been found in Transvaal, South Africa.