Like Ranger 1, Ranger 2 was intended to test new technologies that would take humankind to the Moon and other planets. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Launch Date November 18, 1961 | 08:12 UT
Launch Site Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA | Launch Complex 12 ​
Destination Vicinity of Earth's Moon
Type Orbiter
Status Unsuccessful
Nation United States
Alternate Names P-33, 1961-032A, 00173


Like Ranger 1, Ranger 2 was intended to test new technologies that would take humankind to the Moon and other planets. It was also designed to study particles and fields as it traveled through space in a highly elliptical Earth orbit.


Like its predecessor, Ranger 2 ended up stuck in low-Earth orbit due to a malfunction in its booster rocket. It burned up in Earth's atmosphere a day later.

In Depth

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 Nov. 19, 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.


Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Agena B (no. 2 / Atlas D no. 117 / Agena B no. 6002)

Spacecraft Mass: 675 pounds (306.18 kilograms)

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. electrostatic analyzer for solar plasma
  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

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: Ranger 2

Ranger Program Fact Sheet

Selected References

Siddiqi, Asif A. Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, NASA, 2002.

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