What was Surveyor Model SD-1?

NASA's Surveyor Model SD-1 was a test flight to rehearse for a U.S. mission to the Moon. An engine shutdown early causing the spacecraft to fall back to the launch pad and explode.

Nation United States of America (USA)
Objective(s) Highly Elliptical Orbit
Spacecraft SD-1
Spacecraft Mass 2,097 pounds (951 kilograms)
Mission Design and Management NASA / JPL
Launch Vehicle Atlas Centaur (AC-5 / Atlas C no. 156D / Centaur C)
Launch Date and Time March 2, 1965 / 13:25 UT
Launch Site Cape Canaveral, Fla. / Launch Complex 36A
Scientific Instruments None

Key Dates

March 2, 1965: Launch

March 2, 1965: Spacecraft destroyed

In Depth: Surveyor Model SD-1

This mission was designed to rehearse a complete Atlas Centaur 5 upper stage burn in support of NASA's Surveyor lunar lander program. During an actual mission, the Centaur would boost its payload on a direct ascent trajectory to the Moon.

On this test flight, NASA planned to deliver the payload, a non-functioning model known as SD-1, into an orbit of about 104 x 575,800 miles (167 x 926,625 kilometers) that simulated a lunar transfer trajectory.

Less than 2 seconds after liftoff at 13:25 UT March 2, 1965, a faulty valve that incorrectly closed caused both Atlas main engines to shut down. As a result, the booster fell back onto the pad and exploded.

Key Source

Siddiqi, Asif A. Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958-2016. NASA History Program Office, 2018.

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