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Ranger 01
Ranger 1 Mission to Our Solar System Ranger 1 Mission to Earth's Moon

Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Agena B (no. 1 / Atlas D no. 111 / Agena B no. 6001)
Launch Site: ETR / launch complex 12
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Spacecraft Mass: 306.18 kg
Spacecraft Instruments:
1) electrostatic analyzer
2) photoconductive particle detectors
3) Rubidium vapor magnetometer
4) triple-coincidence cosmic-ray telescope
5) cosmic-ray integrating ionization chamber
6) x-ray scintillation detectors
7) micrometeoroid dust particle detectors
8) Lyman alpha scanning telescope
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24

Ranger 1 was the first in a series of standardized spacecraft designed to roughland simple instrumented capsules on the surface of the Moon and take photos of the lunar surface during its descent to the Moon.

The spacecraft consisted of a tubular central body connected to a hexagonal base containing basic equipment required for control and communications. Power was provided by solar cells and a silver-zinc battery.

Ranger 1's specific mission was to test performance of the new technologies intended for operational Ranger flights and to study the nature of particles and fields in interplanetary space.

Its intended orbit was 60,000 x 1.1 million km. Ranger 1 was the first American spacecraft to use a parking orbit around Earth prior to its deep space mission.

In this case, the Agena B upper stage cut off almost immediately after its ignition for translunar injection (instead of firing for 90 seconds). The probe remained stranded in low-Earth orbit (501 x 168 km), and telemetry ceased by 27 August 1961, when the main battery went dead. The spacecraft reentered Earth's atmosphere three days later.

The cause of the Agena failure was traced to a malfunctioning switch that had prematurely choked the flow of the red fuming nitric acid to the rocket engine.

Editor's Note: This mission profile was adapted from an originally published mission profile in Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24.


Key Dates
23 Aug 1961:  Launch (10:04 UT)
27 Aug 1961:  Telemetry Lost
Status: Unsuccessful
Fast Facts
Ranger 01 Facts Although Ranger 1 and 2 were key parts of America's lunar exploration efforts, they were not sent to the Moon.

Plans instead called for the first two Rangers to be placed in highly elliptical Earth orbits that would carry them into deep space beyond the Moon.

Neither Ranger 1 nor Ranger 2 were successful.
People Spotlight
Al Hibbs Al Hibbs
Al Hibbs decided as a five-year-old that he wanted to go to the Moon. He did qualify as an astronaut, but his legacy is in robotic exploration. Read More...
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Last Updated: 10 Dec 2010