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NOTSNIK: The First Air-Launched Satellite Attempts

25 Jul 2018, 12:45 UTC
NOTSNIK: The First Air-Launched Satellite Attempts
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At the dawn of the Space Age, the United State space program looked very different from today’s and was dominated by the Department of Defense. And like the other branches of the US military during this time, the Navy’s “space program” actually consisted of several, largely independent space projects run by different internal bureaus and laboratories. While the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) ran the Vanguard program under the watchful gaze of the public (see “Vanguard 1: The Little Satellite that Could”), the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) at China Lake, California (today known as Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake) was secretly conducting an independent military satellite program whose existence was not acknowledged until 1994.
NOTS , under the direction of the Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd), had been responsible for the development rocket-based weapons for the Navy since its inception in 1943. During the years leading up to the Space Age, engineers and scientists at NOTS were already busy performing research on suborbital and satellite ocean surveillance systems. With the launch of Sputnik (see “Sputnik: The Launch of the Space Age”), a NOTS team proposed an all-solid-fuel launch vehicle based on the motors in the Army’s Sergeant missile. However, ...

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