Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Agena B (no. 2 / Atlas D no. 117 / Agena B no. 6002)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States, launch complex 12
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Spacecraft Mass: 306.18 kg
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/
Like its predecessor, Ranger 2 was designed to operate in a highly elliptical Earth orbit that would take it into deep space beyond the Moon. Mission planners expected
that during five months of operation, they could verify both the technical design of the vehicle and conduct key scientific experiments to study the space environment over a
prolonged period. Since the Block I Rangers (Ranger 1 and 2) carried no rocket engine, they could not alter their trajectories.
On this attempt, Ranger 2, like its predecessor, failed to leave low-Earth orbit. This time, the Agena B stage failed to fire. In its low orbit, Ranger 2 lost its solar orientation and then eventually lost power; it reentered Earth's atmosphere on 19 November 1961.
The most probable cause of the failure was inoperation of the roll-control gyroscope on the Agena B guidance system. As a result, the stage had used up all attitude-control propellant for its first orbit insertion burn. At the time of the second burn, without proper attitude, the engine failed to fire.