National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Aeronautics and Astronautics Chronology, 1955-1957

SOURCE: Eugene M. Emme, comp., Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915-1960 (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1961), pp. 77-88.


January 10: U.S.S.R. scientists stated that launching of an earth satellite was possible in the near future, according to Radio Moscow.

January 17: First launching of a test model towed by a rocket vehicle with a flexible towline, by Langley Laboratory's PARD at Wallops Island, Va.

January 22: Existence of ICBM program announced by DOD.

February 4: ONR Viking No. 12 research rocket attained altitude of 144 miles from White Sands.

February 14: Killian Committee (Technological Capabilities Panel) recommended concurrent development of IRBM of 1,500-mile range with ICBM effort.

February 26: First known survivor of supersonic ejection of a pilot, a North American test pilot ejected from an aircraft at Mach 1.05.

March 1: Trevor Gardner became the first Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Development.

March 6: USAF Chief of Staff, Nathan F. Twining, reported that ICBM's were receiving priority in the AF program because of known Soviet progress. Navaho, Snark, and Atlas programs accelerated.

March 8: First USAF unit of F-84 jet fighters formed which were capable of being launched and recovered by B-36 mother planes, the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron at Great Falls AFB.

March 14: U.S. National Committee for IGY completed feasibility study and endorsed earth satellite project in report to National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

---: DOD officials announced that guided-missile spending would reach $518 million in fiscal year 1955 and $674 million in fiscal year 1956.

March 25: Chance Vought XF8U-1, Navy jet fighter, exceeded the speed of sound on its first flight, at Edwards AFB.

During March: Feasibility of F-1 rocket engine developing a million pounds of thrust in a single chamber established at Rocketdyne.

April 6: Launched from a B-36, an air-to-air guided missile with an atomic warhead was exploded 6 miles above Yucca Flats, Nev.

April 15: Soviet newspaper, Vechernaya Moskva, announced that an interdepartmental commission for interplanetary communication had been created to develop an earth satellite, which would improve weather forecasting by taking photographs. This commission had been established late in 1954.

April 21: First launcing of USAF Aerobee-Hi sounding rocket (AF-55) attained height of 123 miles with a payload of 196 pounds.

April 26: Moscow Radio reported U.S.S.R. planned to explore moon with tank remotely controlled by radio, foresaw trips by man in 1 to 2 years, and reported formation of scientific team to devise satellite able to circle earth.

May 2: USAF approved Western Development Division proposals to inaugurate a second ICBM airframe, which became the Titan ICBM (SM-68).

May 6: Detailed earth satellite program developed by the U.S. National Committee for IGY, forwarded by the National Academy of Sciences to the National Science Foundation for governmental consideration.

May 10: GE XJ-79 turbojet engine first flown in B-45 testbed, later powered the B-58 and F-104.

May 19: Under the Second Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1956, the National Science Foundation received an appropriation of "$27 million, to remain available until June 30, 1960," for the National Academy of Sciences' U.S.-IGY program.

May 20: Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government (Hoover Commission) reported to Congress that the NACA "has a splendid record in its leadership of the Nation's aeronautical research. It justifies continued confidence and support."

May 23-24: Project Orbiter Conference was held at Redstone Arsenal and at Cape Canaveral.

May 29: U.S.S.R. reported that research was being conducted on hydrogen fusion as a means of propulsion for space applications.

During May: Basic study on interference lift completed by Antonio Ferri, Joseph H. Clarke, and Anthony Casaccio of Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.

June 1: First experimental use at NACA Lewis Laboratory of a "boot-strap" rocket-exhaust powered ejector to permit rocket testing at simulated high-altitude conditions without complicated and expensive exhausting facilities.

June 11: Delivery and flight test of experimental all-magnesium F-80C aircraft, built to test weight and strength of magnesium alloys, at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

June 24: First Nike-Deacon sounding rocket launched at Wallops Island in cooperative USAF-NACA program of upper air density measurements.

June 29: First successful firing of Nike B, at WSPG.

June 30: The Independent Offices Appropriation Act 1956, appropriated "$10 million to remain available until June 30, 1960," for the U.S.-IGY program.

July 1: USAF research program on weightlessness in flight reactivated at SAM under direction of Dr. S. J. Gerathewohl, which conducted flight experiments until the spring of 1958.

July 8: First test run was held on the Supersonic Military Air Research Track (SMART), a 12,000-foot track for rocket-propelled sleds at Hurricane, Utah.

July 14: Martin P6M Seamaster, swept-wing powered with four J-71 engines, made first flight, initially demonstrating great promise for minelaying and reconnaissance missions.

July 18: First of Aeromedical Laboratory's 2-million-cubic-foot plastic balloons manufactured by Winzen Research, launched at Fleming Field, Minn., attained an altitude of over 120,000 feet; the second launced on the next day attained a record altitude of 126,000 feet.

July 20: NB-36H aircraft housing an atomic reactor made its first flight; the reactor was not activated.

July 29: President endorsed USNC-IGY earth satellite proposal and the White House announced that the "The President has approved plans by this country for going ahead with the launching of small, unmanned, earth-circling satellites as part of the U.S. participation in the International Geophysical Year which takes place between July 1957 and December 1958." Scientific responsibility was assumed by the National Academy of Sciences, fiscal responsibility by the National Science Foundation, and responsibility for logistic and technical support by the Department of Defense.

July 30: U.S.S.R. announced that it planned to launch an earth satellite.

During July-October: Instrumented Loki I and Deacon rockets were successfully balloon launched (Rockoons) from shipboard off the coast of Greenland in cosmic-ray studies by State University of Iowa research group. Army Ordnance supplied JPL-developed Loki rockets and ONR sponsored the project.

August 2: L. I. Sedov, chairman of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences Interdepartmental Commission on Interplanetary Communications, announced Soviet intention to launch artificial satellites during the IGY, at the Sixth International Congress on Astronautics at Copenhagen, the first IAF meeting attended by Soviet representatives.

August 8: X-1A exploded just prior to time of drop from "mother" B-29, NACA pilot Joseph A. Walker was saved and X-1A was jettisoned.

August 16: First successful demonstration of Rockair technique (resarch rocket launched from aircraft) by ONR and University of Maryland team, a 2.75-inch FFAR rocket fired from a Navy F2H-2 aircraft to an altitude of approximately 180,000 feet. Rockair technique first suggested by Herman Oberth (1929) and others.

---: Army Hawk missile first fired, at WSPG.

August 2: Col. Horace A. Hanes established a supersonic speed record for straightaway flight at 822.135 mph in a F-100 Super Sabre, at Edwards AFB.

August 24: Research and development Policy Council (DOD) unanimously recommended that the time-risk factor in the scientific satellite program be brought to the attention of the Secretary of the Defense for determination as to whether a Redstone backup program was indicated.

August 26: First use of balloon target in missile testing at Holloman AFB.

September 8: President approved assignment of highest national priority to ICBM research and development program.

September 9: DOD Advisory Group known as Stewart Committee recommended that proposed Navy satellite program utilizing Viking and Aerobee-Hi rockets for satellite development proceed, with Chairman Homer J. Stewart submitting a dissenting minority report. The DOD Policy Council endorsed the majority recommendation. Designated Project Vanguard, this tri-service program was placed under Navy management and DOD monitorship. Objectives of Project Vanguard were: to develop and procure a satellite-launching vehicle; to place at least one satellite in orbit around the earth during IGY; to accomplish one scientific experiment; and to track flight to demonstrate the satellite actually attained orbit.

September 30: X-15 research airplane development contract let to North American Aviation.

During fall: Capt. Grover J. D. Schock of USAF Aeromedical Laboratory conducted subgravity flight program (Task 78501) with F-94C aircraft at Wright-Patterson AFB.

October 2: National Academy of Sciences' IGY Committee established Technical Panel for the Earth Satellite Program, with Richard W. Porter as Chairman, to plan the scientific aspects of the program, including the selection of experiments, the establishment of optical tracking stations, and the handling of international and interdisciplinary relations.

October 7: Prime contract for Project Vanguard awarded the Martin Co.

October 15: Douglas A4D Skyhawk set a new closed-course speed record of 695.163 mph.

During October: First solar-powered telephone call made by customer of regular Bell System service. During this year, fully transistorized radios and phonographs were first placed on the market.

November 1: U.S.S. Boston, first guided-missile cruiser, was placed in commission at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

November 1-3: NACA Conference on Aerodynamics of High-Speed Aircraft at Langley, at which Yernon J. Rossow presented paper on "Examples of Favorable Interference Effects on the Lift-Drag Characteristics of Aerodynamic Shapes at Supersonic Speeds."

November 2: First air-launched, multistage, solid-rocket-propelled vehicle flown to a Mach number greater than 8 by NACA Lewis Laboratory.

November 2: The Atomic Energy Commission approved, on the basis of a statement of interest by the Department of Defense, the proposed plans of the Los Alamos Scientific and the Radiation Laboratories of the University of California, for the study and development of nuclear power for rocket propulsion.

November 8: Secretary of Defense approved Jupiter and Thor IRBM programs, the first based on experience gained by Redstone Arsenal team from V-2 and Redstone, the latter on experience gained from Atlas program.

November 8-14: Department of Defense and the Air Force established special streamlined administrative program and approved procedures (Gillette Procedures) to prevent delays in ICBM and IRBM programs.

November 17: Navy created Special Projects Office under Vice Adm. W. F. Raborn to develop ship-launched missile weapon systems.

November 18: Air Force took action to insure earliest possible initial operational capability with ICBM and IRBM.

---: First powered flight of Bell X-2 (No. 1) by Lt. Col. Frank Everest (USAF), powered by First throttlable rocket engine, the Curtiss Wright XLR25-CW-1, and Mach 0.99 was reached.

November 22: Republic F-105A exceeded the speed of sound in its initial flight at Edwards AFB.

During November: Naval Research Laboratory first transmitted transcontinental communication by means of reflecting teletype messages on the moon, from Washington, D.C., to San Diego, Calif., a technique repeated on August 12, 1960, using the ECHO I satellite for two-way reflected message transmission.

December 1: President Eisenhower assigned highest priority to ICBM and Thor and Jupiter IRBM programs.

December 7: First flight of XC-123D aircraft with boundary-layer control system in partial operation.

December 8: XJ-79-GE-3 turbojet engine first powered an aircraft, an XF4-D, the engine which became the primary powerplant of the B-58 and F-104.

December 15: First powered flight of the Bell X-1E, Joseph A. Walker, NACA test pilot, at Edwards AFB (after preliminary glide flight by Walker on December 12).

December 20: Secretary of Defense Wilson reported that fiscal year 1957 would have a record $1 billion for development and production of guided missiles, over the $750 million in fiscal year 1956. He also predicted an ICBM with a nuclear warhead within the next 5 years.

December 27: First prototype of Asp (atmospheric sounding projectile) sounding rocket, capable of payloads up to 80 pounds, launched successfully at NAMTC at Point Mugu, Calif.

During December: First flight of Ryan X-13, VTOL jet, at Edwards AFB.

During 1955: NACA Lewis Laboratory presented ARDC with results of air-breathing nuclear propulsion systems for manned applications, leading to AEC-AF Pluto project, and also initiated comparison of nuclear rocket with chemical systems for ICBM, a concept of use to Rover program.

---: Laboratory device for simulating reentry of satellites into the earth's atmosphere were first suggested by NACA Ames Laboratory scientist Eggers (Report No. RM-A55115).

---: Transistorized automatic pilot developed for USAF by Bendix Aviation.

---: Concept of nuclear reactor facility at Plum Brook proposed by NACA Lewis Research Center, construction of which was completed in 1961.

---: Army Ordnance ordered Jet Propulsion Laboratory to undertake research and development of Sergeant solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile.

During 1955-56: NACA developed materials research for high-temperature jets and other structures at hypersonic speeds under direction of Robert R. Gilruth, which confirmed Redstone Arsenal's contention that ablation was sound heat protection method for reentry of nose cones and capsules.

During 1955-58: NACA laboratories completed basic aeronautical research supporting feasibility of B-70 supersonic bomber.


January 6: President Eisenhower in his state-of-the-Union message noted the increasing importance of long-range missiles and nuclear-powered aircraft. $1.275 billion was scheduled for fiscal year 1957 production of guided missiles, with an additional $1.43 billion for military research and development.

January 10: First U.S.-built complete liquid-rocket engine having a thrust in excess of 400,000 pounds was fired for the first time at Santa Susana, Calif.

January 13: USAF Northrop Snark launched from Cape Canaveral on 2,000-mile flight.

January 20: ICBM Scientific Advisory Committee to the Air Force was transferred to the Office of the Secretary of Defense to assure common interchange of technical information on all missile programs.

January 26-27: Symposium on "The Scientific Uses of Earth Satellites" held at the University of Michigan under sponsorship of the Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panel, James A. Van Allen of the State University of Iowa, Chairman.

February 1: Army activated the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala., to weaponize the Redstone and to develop the Jupiter IRBM.

Early 1956: Production of the J47 turbojet engine completed by GE, notable powerplant of B-47, F86D (also E, F, K, and L models), and FJ-2.

March 5: A. J. Eggers and C. A. Syvertson submitted concept for "interference lift," often referred to as "compression lift," which contributed important input for Mach 3 configurations ("Aircraft Configurations Developing High Lift-Drag Ratios at High Supersonic Speeds," NACA RM-A55105).

March 14: The first Jupiter A launching, by ABMA at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

March 20: Ballistic Missile Committee, Office of the Secretary of Defense, approved Navy program for development of solid-propellant, ship-based ballistic missiles.

March 27: Secretary of Defense created Office of Special Assistant for Guided Missiles to establish more centralized controls and assist in the coordination of Army, Navy, and Air Force missile programs, including the developoment of earth satellite vehicles for the IGY. E. V. Murphree named to head this office.

March 28: Airman D. F. Smith remained in a sealed space cabin simulator for 24 hours at USAF's SAM.

During March: Army-Navy Ballistic Missile Committee authorized missile test launch ships, missile submarine development program, and precision navigation system for launch vehicles.

April 3: Navy program to procure guided missiles would jump from $126 million in fiscal year 1955, $238 million in fiscal year 1956, $353 million in fiscal year 1957, according to Navy Secretary Thomas.

April 23: Army informed the OSD that a Jupiter missile could be fired in an effort to orbit a small satellite in January 1957.

April 26: Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia decommissioned, marking the passing of a name prominent in naval aviation since World War I. Naval Air Engineering Facility was established in its place to do research, engineering design, development, and limited manufacturing of devices for launching and recovering aircraft and guided missiles.

April 30: A House subcommittee heard that guided missiles, which accounted for 20.3 percent of the AF's fiscal year 1957 budget might climb to 35 percent by 1959.

During April: Dr. John von Neumann was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award for anticipating the importance of the high-speed computer in nuclear development programs and in the general advancement of science.

May 3: Plans were disclosed by the AF and Convair for a $41 million guided-missile facility at Sorento, Calif., for work on Atlas.

May 8: Aerobee-Hi sounding rocket reached an altitude of 116.5 miles from WSPG.

May 18: Development of a high-altitude research rocket, known as the Asp, for Navy's BuShips was announced.

May 19: National Science Foundation received an appropriation of $27 million to remain available until June 30, 1960, for the IGY, under the Second Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1956.

May 21: First known airborne H-bomb dropped from B-52 at approximately 50,000 feet, and exploded over the Bikini atol in the Pacific.

During May: Air Force initiated a program to support the AEC's Project ROVER through application studies, propellant and materials research, and nonnuclear engine component development. Both programs were placed under a single staff in the AEC.

June 20: First Cajun research rocket successfully launched at NACA Wallops Island, Va.

June 22: Japanese Meterological Observatory announced that the U.S.S.R. had exploded a missile-borne H-weapon at a 22-mile altitude.

June 29: An Aerobee-Hi rocket manufactured by Aerojet General Corp. attained an altitude of 163 miles in a launching from White Sands, N. Mex.

July 6: First Nike-Cajun research rocket successfully fired at Wallops Island, a cooperative NACA-University of Michigan project, attaining an altitude of 425,000 feet.

July 14: Navy Sidewinder missile first deployed with Sixth Fleet in Mediterranean and to the Seventh Fleet in August.

July 23: Lt. Col. Frank K. Everest (USAF) flew the Bell X-2 rocket-powered research plane at a record speed of just over 1,900 mph and to an altitude of 75,000 feet, at Edwards AFB, Calif.

Mid-1956: USAF X-17 flight test program started at Cape Canaveral to study reentry problems by simulating reentry velocities and conditions with three-stage solid-fuel Lockheed X-17. A total of 26 X-17 flights were conducted until March 1957.

August 8: Largest U.S. test stand for rocket motors was completed at Redstone Arsenal, slated for Jupiter IRBM.

August 10: Lt. Comdrs. Malcolm Ross (USNR) and L. Lewis (USN) made first stratospheric manned flight on polyethylene balloon, reached 40,000 feet in an open gondola. Flight was part of ONR Project Strato-Lab.

August 21: Speed record for U.S. combat aircraft of 1,015 mph set by F8U-1 Crusader flown by Comdr. R. W. Winslow (USN) over the Mojave Desert.

August 23: U.S. Army helicopter, the H-21, made the first transcontinental nonstop flight for helicopters, 2,610 miles from San Diego, Calif., to Washington, D.C., in 31 hours 40 minutes.

August 24: NACA Langley's PARD launched the world's first five-stage solid-fuel rocket to a speed in excess of Mach 15, from Wallops Island, Va.

August 27: First static firing of Thor rocket engine at AFFTC, Edwards AFB.

September 2: At the National Aircraft Show, Oklahoma City, an H-13, USA helicopter, set an endurance record in the air of 57 hours 40 minutes.

September 7: Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe (USAF) set new unofficial altitude record for manned flight at Edwards AFB, Calif., piloting a Bell X-2 rocket-powered aircraft to a height of 126,200 feet.

---: University of Minnesota launched ONR Mylar plastic balloon from Minneapolis, establishing unofficial world altitude record of 145,000 feet for an unmanned balloon.

September 10-15: Scientists from 40 nations, including the United States and U.S.S.R., at a meeting in Barcelona of the Special Committee for the IGY (CSAGI), approved resolutions calling for, among other things, countries having satellite programs to use tracking and telemetering radio systems compatible with those that have been announced at the current CSAGI meeting, and to release technical information on tracking equipment and scheduling and planning information essential to preparation for and execution of optical and radio observations.

September 20: First Jupiter C (a three-stage ABMA-JPL Redstone missile) was launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla., attained an altitude of 680 miles and traveled 3,300 miles downrange.

September 21: First flight test of a Terrapin sounding rocket at Wallops Island, which consisted of a Deacon and T55 rocket and carried a payload of 8 pounds to 400,000-feet altitude.

September 26: H. Froehlich and K. Long of General Mills flew ONR Strato-Lab balloon to new altitude record for an open-basket gondola of 42,000 feet.

September 27: After having been launched from a B-50 bomber over the Mojave Desert in California, Capt. Milburn G. Apt (USAF), flying an X-2 rocket-powered plane on its 13th powered flight, set a record speed of 2,094 mph, or Mach 3.196. In the course of the flight the aircraft crashed and the pilot was killed.

During September: Sperry Gyroscope delivered first experimental inertial navigation system to the Navy, for fleet missile submarines.

October 2: Full-scale test version of the Snark guided missile (XSM62) successfully recovered for the first time after a flight from Cape Canaveral.

During October: NACA scientists initiated examination of the need for a follow-on manned-rocket research vehicle to the X-15, following ARDC inquiries concerning a boost-glide vehicle.

November 8: Lt. Comdr. M. L. Lewis (USN) and Malcom D. Ross established a world altitude record in a plastic STRATOLAB balloon by ascending to a height of 76,000 feet, taking off near Rapid City, S. Dak., and landing 175 miles away near Kennedy, Nebr., thus breaking the record of 72,394 feet set in 1935 by O. A. Anderson and A. W. Stevens.

November 11: Initial flight of Convair B-58 delta-winged Hustler, the first supersonic bomber, made at Fort Worth, Tex. B-58 incorporated the NACA "wasp waist" or "coke bottle" shape.

November 13: North American F-107 reached Mach 2 in flights at Edwards AFB, Calif.

November 15: NRL Aerobee-Hi sounding research rocket successfully fired at Fort Churchill, Canada, in a series of upper atmosphere research flights.

November 16: Department of Defense transferred northern portion of Camp Cooke, Calif. (now Vandenberg AFB), to the Air Force to be used as first ICBM base.

November 26: Secretary of Defense Wilson issued a memorandum to the Armed Forces Policy Council fixing the areas of jurisdiction of the three U.S. armed services in developing missiles of various ranges, and giving the USAF operational jurisdiction over long-range missiles, Army over missiles up to 200-mile range and for "point defense," and Navy for ship-based missiles.

November 28: Ryan X-13 Vertijet completed the world's first jet vertical take-off transition flight, Peter F. Giraud of Ryan as pilot.

November 30: Martin TM-61 Matador, a jet-propelled missile, completed final test flight and became USAF's first tactical missile.

During November: Following Navy withdrawal from the Jupiter IRBM program, separate Army and Navy Ballistic Missile Committees were established under chairmanship of respective service secretaries. Navy withdrawal based on interest in solid-propellant Polaris as ship-based IRBM.

During November: Rocket test stand capable of testing engines to 1 million pounds thrust activated at Edwards AFB, which became operational in March 1957.

December 8: First test rocket in the IGY-U.S. satellite program, a one-stage NRL Viking, attained an altitude of 126 miles and a speed of 4,000 mph. Viking No. 13 carried a "minitrack" radio transmitter which was ejected at 50 miles and tracked.

December 11-18: Twenty-four Wasp research and develoment chaff and parachute rockets, used to obtain wind soundings to 160,000 feet, were fired by Naval Ordnance Missile Test Facility at WSPG.

December 17: Navy Special Projects Office authorized Lockheed to proceed with Polaris development, having withdrawn from the Jupiter program earlier.

December 21: Maj. Arnold I. Beck (USAF) "soared" to a simulated altitude of 198,770 feet, the highest on record, in an Air Research and Development Command altitude chamber at Dayton, Ohio.

---: First launching of a Nike-Recruit research vehicle at NACA's Wallops Island, which reached speed of 7,600 feet per second at 13,000-feet altitude for a record dynamic pressure of 45,700 pounds per square foot.

---: The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission initiated a development program at the request of the Department of Defense to provide nuclear-electric power sources for use in Air Force satellites. The projects are designated the SNAP (Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power) program. Both reactor and radioisotope heat sources were specified as approaches.

During 1956: Research on tungsten nuclear rocket propulsion systems initiated by NACA Lewis Laboratory, and other feasible systems for practical nuclear rocket systems, such as 1958 concept of coaxial jet gaseous reactor, followed.

---: SAM and the Aeromedial Field Laboratory at Holloman carried out studies of subgravity conditions in swimming pool experiments.

---: NACA Lewis Reserach Laboratory completed research and development on new concepts of ramjet engine performance at altitude, increasing performance of Navaho engine experimentally approximately 40 percent and also contributing to Bomarc engine.

---: Field-effect transistor and the spacistor, which extended power and high-frequency capabilities of transistors were developed.

---: Pilotless Aircraft Research Division (PARD) of NACA Langley Aeronautical Laboratory completed solid-propellant, rocket-design studies leading to an improved Deacon rocket motor called the Cajun.

---: SAM's Department of Microbiology began micro-organism behavior studies in a "Mars Chamber," with a simulated Martian environment.

---: NACA Langley's Structures Research Division initated electric arc-powered jets work, using DC and AC current and liquid nitrogen, liquid air and aqueous air jets. On December 19, first successful use of AC arc jet using gaseous air was performed. Twenty-four arc tunnels were subsequently developed and extensively used on many materials and structures research problems associated with reentry of bodies into the atmosphere.


January 10: President Eisenhower in his State-of-the-Union message declared that "we are willing to enter any reliable agreement which would mutually control the outer space missile and satellite development."

---: Department of Defense assigned highest priority to ICBM/IRBM contracts and purchase orders.

January 16-18: Three of five B-52 jet bombers completed first nonstop jet flight around the world in 45 hours 20 minutes.

January 25: First attempted test flight of USAF Thor IRBM, only 13 months after first production contracts were signed, failed to launch.

During January: First of Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers placed in operational service in SAC, Castle AFB, Calif.

February 7: First of a series of two-stage test vehicles (RM-10) to make heat transfer studies at high speed in free flight, was launched from NACA's Pilotless Aircraft Reserach Station at Wallops Island, Va. Vehicle was developed by PARD of Langley Laboratory.

February 14: NACA established "Round Three" Steering Committee to study feasiblity of a hypersonic boost-glide research airplane. "Round Three" was considered as the third major flight research program which started with the X-series of rocket-propelled supersonic research airplanes, and which considered the X-15 research airplane as the second major program. The boost-glide program eventually became known as DynaSoar.

February 18: Guggenheim Foundation granted $250,000 to Harvard University's Aviation Health and Safety Center.

February 20: U.S. National Committee for the IGY submitted report of its Technical Panel on the Earth Satellite Program to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, which outlined a post-IGY space research program.

March 4-15: Navy nonrigid airship ZPB-2 completed nonstop round-trip Atlantic crossing, simultaneously establishing new world endurance record for unrefueled flight of 264 hours and 14 minutes, Comdr. J. R. Hunt commanding.

March 10: Ion engine research begun at NACA Lewis Laboratory.

March 11: Speed record for a transcontinental passenger flight was established when a Boeing 707 jet transport, with 42 passengers and a crew of 10, flew 2,335 miles from Seattle to Washington in 3 hours and 48 minutes.

March 18: As a result of guidance from the Secretary of Defense as to desired level of effort, the Atomic Energy Commission reduced its program on nuclear rocket propulsion to a single laboratory effort, phasing out work at the University of California Radiation Laboratory and concentrating AEC development efforts at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.

During March: NACA issued Research Memorandum entitled, "Preliminary Measurements of Atmospheric Turbulence at High Altitudes as Determined from Acceleration Measurements on Lockheed U-2 Airplane."

---: Feasibility research study instituted by USAF on the Midas early-warning satellite.

April 8: McDonnel F-101B Voodoo, powered by improved J-57 engine, made first flight.

April 11: U.S.-IGY scientific satellite equipment, including a radio transmitter and instruments for measuring temperature, pressure, cosmic rays, and meteoric dust encounters, was tested above earth for the first time, as a rocket containing this equipment was fired by the Navy to a 126-mile altitude.

---: The Ryan X-13, a jet research plane capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, flown successfully through the complete flight sequence at Edwards AFB, Calif.

April 19: Douglas Thor IRBM (XSM-75) was launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla., destroyed by range safety officer.

April 23: Details of X-15 rocket research airplane were publicly revealed for the first time.

April 24: Lockheed X-17 research rocket reached 9,000 mph at Patrick AFB, Fla.

April 30: Aerobee-Hi No. 41 fired at White Sands reached speed of 4,900 mph and an altitude of 193 miles.

---: Naval Aviation Medical Center at Pensacola was commissioned, combining the clinical, training, and research functions of the Naval School of Aviation Medicine and the Pensacola Naval Hospital.

During April: Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panel was renamed the Rocket and Satellite Research Panel. Its chairman was James A. Van Allen of the State university of Iowa.

---: A. Dollfus flew from Paris, France, on a cluster of 100 weather balloons to an altitude of 42,000 feet.

May 1: Vanguard Test Vehicle (TV-1), a modified Martin Viking first-stage and Vanguard solid-propellant third-stage Grand Central Rocket as second-stage, launched with instrumented nose cone to an altitude of 121 miles and met all test objectives.

May 6: William M. Holaday was named as Special Assistant for Guided Missiles, Department of Defense.

May 16: Bomarc IM-99 ordered into production, a pilotless interceptor, which attained speeds near Mach 2 and was planned for long-range area defense.

May 31: Army Jupiter IRBM was fired 1,500 miles, limit of its designed range, and to an altitude of 250-300 miles, the first successful launching of an IRBM.

June 2: Capt. Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr. (USAF), remained aloft in plastic MAN HIGH I balloon over Minnesota for hours 34 minutes, being above 92,000 feet for 2 hours and reaching 96,000 feet maximum altitude. This was first solo balloon flight into the stratosphere.

June 10: NACA made "Round Three" presentation on a boost-glide research airplane to ARDC.

June 11: First test flight of prototype WS-107A Atlas was detonated by command signal at 5,000 feet following a failure in the booster fuel system.

June 15: Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the International Mars Committee held a symposium on "Problems Common to Astronomy and Biology," at Flagstaff, Ariz.

June 27: The Goose (SM-73) became the first plastic airframe missile to fly, and reportedly the first missile to complete countdown, launch, and flight on the first attempt.

June 28: First phase of Project Far Side was completed, with the lifting by the world's largest balloon of a load of over a ton of military equipment and instruments to a height of more than 104,000 feet.

June 30: Program to gather daily weather data over the Pacific, North America, and the Atlantic with use of transonde balloons was inaugurated with the release of first balloon from NAS Iwakuni, Japan. Preset to float at 30,000 feet, balloons carried instruments which reported pressure and temperature every 2 hours in a 5- to 8-day flight terminating short of the European coast.

July 1: Aerobee upper air research rocket developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins, and first fired on September 25, 1947, completed 165 successful firings to date.

---: International Geophysical Year began. The scientists of 67 nations were to participate in a cooperative, world-wide scientific program which would last for 18 months and would be coordinated internationally by CSAGI of the International Council of Scientific Unions.

July 10: Convair B-58 Hustler publicly unveiled for the first time.

July 11: Navaho ramjet intercontinental missile program canceled by Air Force.

July 16: Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader set Los Angeles to New york speed record with an average speed of 760 mph, Maj. John Glenn, Jr. (USMC), as pilot. 3 hrs 22 min 50.05 sec NYT, 7/17/57, citing NA Assoc.

July 19: USAF fired first air-to-air nuclear warhead rocket, the Douglas MB-1 Genie, from an F-89J over Yucca Flat, Nev., during Operation Plumbob. Genie had been placed in weapon inventory of Air Defense Command in January 1957.

July 24: Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, extending from Alaska's northwest coast eastward to Baffin Island, became operational.

---: Falcon GAR-2A, heat-seeking infrared missile, tested successfully.

During July: Examination of a satellite launch vehicle using solid fuel upper stages to achieve payload orbit with as simple a booster as possible initiated by NACA Langley, the beginning of the conception of Scout.

During July-August: NACA Ames Laboratory's Al Eggers worked out semi-ballistic design of manned reentry spacecraft.

August 6: First measurements of the terrestrial magnetic fields in the auroral zone, made by L. Cahill and J. A. Van Allen in firing of SUI Rockoon No. 59.

August 7: Army-JPL Jupiter-C fired a scale-model nose cone 1,200 miles down range from AMR with a summit altitude of 600 miles. Recovery the next day of aerodynamic nose cone using ablation, resolved reentry heating problem for Jupiter missile. Nose cone was shown to the Nation on TV by President Eisenhower on November 7.

August 18: Paul E. Bikle established world glider speed record of 55.02 mph over 300 km triangular course, in a Schweizer SGS 123E sailplane, from El Mirage, Calif.

August 19: STRATOSCOPE I, an unmanned balloon-telescope system, launched by General Mills under Navy contract for Princeton University astronomers, which produced first "clear" photos of the sun from 80,000 feet using a 12-inch telescope.

August 19-20: Airborne for 32 hours in MAN HIGH II flight, Maj. David G. Simons, USAF, established a manned-balloon altitude record of 101,516 feet, ascending at Crosby, Minn., and landing at Elm Lake, S. Dak.

August 26: Soviet Union successfully launched a "super longdistance intercontinental multistage ballistic rocket ...a few days ago," according to Tass, Soviet News Agency.

August 28: Supplemental Appropriation Act, 1958, appropriated $34,200,000 for the U.S. scientific satellite "to be derived by transfer from such annual appropriations available to the Department of Defense as may be determined by the Secretary of Defense, to remain available until expended."

August 30: Department of Defense announced that four to six Soviet ICMB test took place in the spring of 1957.

---: USAF accepted first C-133A turboprop transport.

During August: Estimated operational capability date for Atlas changed from March 1959 to June 1959.

September 3: NACA "Study of the Feasibility of a Hypersonic Research Airplane" ("Round Three") was submitted to the Air Force.

---: Navy XKDT-1, solid-propellant, rocket-powered drone, made its first flight from F3H aircraft over NAMTC, Point Mugu, Calif.

September 13: 1st Missile Division of USAF activated under ARDC at Cooke AFB, Calif.

September 20: Complete USAF Thor IRBM first successfully launched from Cape Canaveral.

September 26-November 9: Thirty-six Rockoons (balloon-launched rockets) were launched from Navy icebreaker, U.S.S. Glacier, in Atlantic, Pacific, and Antartic areas ranging from 75 N. to 72 S. latitude, as part of the U.S.-IGY scientific program headed by James A. Van Allen and Lawrence J. Cahill of the State University of Iowa (SUI). These were the first known upper atmosphere rocket soundings in the Antartctic area.

September 30-October 5: Scientists from 12 countries, including the United States and U.S.S.R., attended International Rocket and Satellite Conference held at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., under the sponsorship of CSAGI.

During October: Project Vanguard world-wide tracking system (minitrack) became operational.

October 4: SPUTNIK I, the first man-made earth satellite, launched by U.S.S.R. and remained in orbit until January 4, 1958.

---: The National Rocket Club was organized in Washington, D.C.

October 6: Eighth IAF Congress began at Barcelona, Spain.

October 9: President Eisenhower in a White House press release congratulated the Soviet scientists on SPUTNIK I. He gave a brief history of the development of the U.S.-IGY satellite program and pointed to the separation of Project Vanguard from work on ballistic missiles.

October 11: Thor missile launched at Cape Canaveral, the second tested, achieved its designed 1,500-mile range.

October 14: USAF and NACA reviewed preliminary studies dating from 1954 on a boost-glide research vehicle to follow the X-15; all studies were combined into a single plan which was accepted by the Air Force and later designated as Dyna-Soar.

---: American Rocket Society presented to President Eisenhower a program for outer space development which proposed establishment of an Astronautical Research and Development Agency similar to NACA and AEC with responsibility for all space projects except those directly related to the military defense.

October 16: USAF successfully launched pellets at a speed faster than 33,000 mph (some 8,000 mph faster than the velocity necessary to escape from the earth) by an Aerobee rocket to a height of 35 miles; the nose section then ascended to a height of 54 miles where shaped charges blasted the pellets into space.

October 18: Lt. Comdrs. Malcolm Ross (USNR) and L. Lewis (USN) ascended to unofficial two-man altitude record of 85,700 feet in STRATO-LAB HIGH II balloon.

October 18-20: NACA "Round Three" Steering Committee met at Ames Laboratory.

October 22: Army Jupiter (IRBM) missile successfully fired at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

---: Four-stage rocket fired from a balloon at 100,000 feet above Eniwetok, in Operation Far Side, penetrated at least 2,700 miles into outer space.

October 23: IGY Vanguard prototype (TV-2) with simulated second and third stage successfully met test objectives, by reaching 109-mile altitude and 4,250 mph.

October 24: Thor long-range flight test successful from AMR, impacting 2,645 miles downrange.

October 26: SPUTNIK I ceased transmissions.

October 31: Snark intercontinental missile launched from Cape Canaveral first flew 5,000 miles, to a target near Ascension Island.

During October: Aerospace Medical Center's SAM continued experimental studies with space-cabin simulator with 20 Strategic Air Command volunteers, each man completing the full-scale run of 7 or 8 days of confinement in the cabin simulator.

November 3: SPUTNIK II, the world's second manmade satellite, launched by U.S.S.R. and remained in orbit until April 13, 1958, carrying a dog named "Laika." It was the first vehicle to carry a living organism into orbit.

November 7: President Eisenhower in major address on science and security announced that scientists had solved the problem of ballistic missile reentry and showed the nose cone of an Army Jupiter-C missile which was intact after a flight through space. He announced the creation of the office of Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and the appointment of James R. Killian, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to the new post.

November 8: Secretary of Defense McElroy directed the Department of the Army to launch a scientific satellite with the modified Jupiter-C test rocket. The satellite, carrying instruments selected by the National Academy of Sciences, would be a part of this country's contribution to the IGY. William M. Holaday, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Guided Missiles, was given authority for coordinating this ABMA-JPL project with the overall U.S.-IGY satellite program.

November 10: SPUTNIK II ceased transmissions.

November 11: KC-135 tanker flown 6,350 miles from Westover AFB, Mass., to Buenos Aires, in 13 hours 2 minutes, by Gen. Curtis LeMay, a world record for nonstop nonrefueled jet flight.

November 13: President Eisenhower, in a speech on future security, proposed adoption of a formula for decisions on undertaking space projects, which would include the following criteria: "If the project is designed solely for scientific purposes, its size and its cost must be tailored to the scientific job it is going to do. If the project has some ultimate defense value, its urgency for this purpose is to be judged in comparison with the probable value of competing defense projects."

---: 1,000-mile, Navy Regulus II fired in first launch with rocket boosters at Edwards AFB, and returned to base by control aircraft after a 48-minute flight.

November 15: William M. Holaday, special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, was named Director of Guided Missiles by Secretary of Defense McElroy. Under terms of the Defense Department directive: "The Director of Guided Missiles will direct all activities in the DOD relating to research, development, engineering, production, and procurement of guided missiles."

November 19: An ANP (Aircraft, Nuclear Powered) project, an integrated AEC-DOD atomic aircraft project within the AEC, was announced, with Maj Gen. Donald Keirn (USAF) as its head.

November 21: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics authorized establishment of a special committee on space technology, headed by H. Guyford Stever. This committee would both supervise and help formulate a space research program and would be assisted by specialized subcommittees.

November 22: First hydrogen-fluorine rocket engine successfully operated at NACA Lewis Laboratory, demonstrating a 40-percent performance improvement over other propellant combinations.

November 25: USAF awarded contract for a surveillance satellite to Lockheed.

---: The Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Armed Services began extensive hearings on the Nation's satellite and missile programs.

November 27: Thor and Jupiter IRBM's ordered into production for ultimate deployment by the USAF.

During November: NACA 1957 Flight Propulsion Conference at Cleveland was review of analysis of space missions, nuclear propulsion systems, chemical propulsion systems, electrical propulsion systems, auxiliary power systems, and propellants.

---: First Baker-Nunn precision optical satellite tracking camera installed at White Sands, N. Mex., the first of 12 such optical tracking installations as a part of the IGY under the supervision of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

---: Development of satellite launch vehicle focused upon all solid fuel systems at NACA Langley, a major step in the origin of Scout.

December 4: The American Rocket Society's proposal for an Astronautical Research and Development Agency, which was presented to President Eisenhower on October 14, 1957, was announced.

December 6: IGY Vanguard (TV-3), the first with three live stages, failed to launch a test satellite.

December 9: Secretary McElroy ordered acceleration of the Polaris program.

December 13: The Air Force order of December 10 creating a Directorate of Astronautics under Brig. Gen. Homer A. Boushey was suspended by Secretary William H. Douglas, as creation of such a group before establishment of the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency was considered premature.

December 17: First successful test firing of USAF Atlas ICBM, the missile landing in the target area after a flight of some 500 miles, on the 54th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight.

December 18: First full-scale production of electricity for commercial use by civilian nuclear power station, at Shippingport, Pa.

December 19: A Thor missile, the eighth tested and the fourth successfully, completed the first fully-guided Thor IRBM flight using an all-inertial guidance system.

December 23: USAF awarded B-70 Mach 3 bomber development contract to North American Aviation.

December 28: World altitude record of 30,335 feet for helicopters set by Capt. J. E. Bowman (USA) in a Cessna YH41 Seneca at Wichita, Kans.

During December: Maxime Faget of NACA Langley proposed ballistic shape of Mercury capsule, while A. Eggers of Ames and E. S. Love and J. V. Becker of Langley proposed glider configurations of manned spacecraft later incorporated in Dyna-Soar and Apollo studies.

During 1957: NACA Technical Note, "A Comparative Analysis of Long-Range Hypervelocity Vehicles," by Ames scientists Eggers, Allen, and Neice prepared and issued. It was considered a landmark in the development of scientific thought on manned reentry.

---: Experiments at USAF School of Aviation Medicine showed that soil bacteria could not only survive but also multiply under certain simulated Martian atmospheric conditions.

---: NACA Lewis Laboratory completed major phases of pioneering research on high-energy turbojet and ramjet fuels including boron. This research included flight test in piloted aircraft and air-launched free flight models. Theoretical performance and experimental thrust chamber injector experiments were also performed at NACA Lewis, aiding in design of X-15 rocket engine.

---: Single-spool J93 turbojet engine placed under the intensive development at General Electric. The J79 turbojet, the first high-compression variable-stator engine built in United States by GE, powered most Mach 2 U.S. aircraft, including the F-104, B-58, F11F-1F, F4H, and A3J, as well as the Regulus II missile.

---: First operation by the NACA Lewis Laboratory of a 20,000-pound thrust hydrogen-oxygen rocket engine completely self-cooled by the liquid hydrogen, which led to Centaur engine development.

---: The NACA proposed and led in the development of the Polaris reentry body based on the work done at Langley Laboratory, 1952-56.

---: State University of Iowa completed balloon-launched rocket (Rockoon) research at high latitudes begun in 1952. James A. Van Allen reported that principal scientific measurements attained included: first latitude survey of total cosmic-ray intensity at high altitude and high latitude; survey of latitude variation of heavy nuclei in primary cosmic radiation; discovery of X-radiation associated with aurorae; first arctic measurements of atmospheric density, pressure, and temperature at high altitudes; measurement of ultraviolet and soft X-radiation during solar flares; first measurements of terrestrial magnetic fields at high altitudes in the auroral zone.

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Last Updated: January 27, 2005